618 VIII. ON THE STRUCTURE OF MATHEMATICS |
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numerical, establishing a specific, mostly asymmetrical, relation and have no direction, as for instance, mass, density, temperature, energy, electrical charge, population, mortality,. These quantities which do not involve direction are called scalar quantities.
Such quantities as velocity, acceleration, electric current, stresses, flow of heat or fluids . , which involve not only magnitude but also a definite direction, are called vector quantities, and have given rise to a special calculus called the vector calculus.
The invention of the vector calculus was a most revolutionary and beneficial structural and methodological step. It was originated independently by Hamilton and Grassmann. The benefits of this method are manifold, but we are interested mainly in but two of them. The first is that vector equations are simpler and fewer in number than co-ordinate equations. The second, and most important, is that the language of vectors is independent of choice of axes, and of frames of reference. It is naturally invariant for any transformations of axes. If axes are needed we can easily and simply introduce them, but we always have means to discriminate between intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics. The modern tensor calculus which made the general theory of Einstein possible is simply an extension of the vector calculus.
The above methodological and structural remarks are of fundamental semantic importance to us in all our affairs. Human life and affairs are never free from linguistic issues. Their role is similar to that of
mathematics, that is to say, a form of representation gives us not only the characteristics which are intrinsic in our subject, but also introduces extrinsic characteristics which do not belong to the subject of our analysis but are due to the particular language we use and its structure. The analysis of these linguistic issues is much belated and extremely difficult because of the structural complexity of our language. These issues were discovered first in mathematics because of its clear-cut structural simplicity; and it is important that we should be aware of such new and unexpected fundamental semantic problems. We will not enlarge upon this phase of the problem here, except to mention that the whole of the present work, which uses a different language, of a different structure, already shows the usefulness of the new method. Sometimes we discover new characteristics, and sometimes we are led to emphasize characteristics which are known but have not yet been sufficiently analysed.To carry our linguistic analogy further, we may take, for instance, the statement, 'knowledge is useful'. We could translate this statement into any other language and it would preserve its meaning. But if we make the statement, 'knowledge is a word which has six consonants and three vowels', such a statement may be false when translated into another language. Mathematics, being a language, has difficulties similar to ordinary language, but in mathematics it is often much more difficult to separate from other statements those which are purely about the language used. The so-called tensor calculus attempts to perform this last task. |
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