CHAPTER XXXII |
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ON THE SEMANTICS OF THE DIFFERENTIAL CALCULUS
The principle of gaining knowledge of the external world from the behaviour of its infinitesimal parts is the mainspring of the theory of knowledge in infinitesimal physics as in Riemann's geometry, and, indeed, the mainspring of all the eminent work of Riemann, in particular, that dealing with the theory of complex function. (547) _ Hermann weylThe conception of tensors is possible owing to the circumstance that the transition from one co-ordinate system to another expresses itself as a
linear transformation in the differentials. One here uses the exceedingly fruitful mathematical device of making a problem "linear" by reverting to infinitely small quantities. (547) Hermann weylSection A- Introductory.In the first draft of this book written in 1928, the following pages preceded
Part VII. In a final revision in 1932, it seemed advisable to transfer pages which to laymen look 'mathematical', to the end of the volume, because the majority of even intelligent readers have a sort of 'inferiority complex' about anything 'mathematical'.The patient reader knows by now, I hope, that on neurological grounds,
he must for the sake of sanity, be able to translate the dynamic into the static, and the static into the dynamic; and also that he must know at least about the modern structure of 'space', 'time', 'matter'. These conditions seem essential for sanity, and so I bad no choice but to give the minimum of a structural and semantic outline, and to acquaint the reader with the existence of modern scientific problems and vocabularies. It is not my aim to teach the reader mathematics or modern physics. I must limit myself to structural and semantic issues, for there are excellent elementary books which will give him the necessary informations.The following pages should in no way intimidate the intelligent reader. Elementary structural statements and definitions are given in simple language, followed by illustrations to render their meanings more understandable. The pages are less technical than they look, as each example is carried through in the most elementary way in all of its details, so as to make easy reading. A real difficulty for some readers may come from the semantic blockage created by the use of apparently strange, and, to them, unknown terms, or from a feeling of fright or abhorrence of anything mathematical, due to deplorably faulty introduction to some branch of mathematics at the hands of some teacher innocent of the broader epistemological aspects of science. I am acquainted with scientists of very considerable mathematical gifts, who have had to overcome this phobia of mathematics. Once
the word 'mathematics' was mentioned to them, they became 'mentally' paralysed. An 'emotional' fright seized them and it took some months to overcome this undesirable childish s.r. I use the subject of mathematics as an illustration of this difficulty, because I want to contrast the comparative simplicity of mathematical notions573 |
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