The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics - R.W. Hamming

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2022-01-23 23:30:12

Prologue. It is evident from the title that this is a philosophical discussion. I shall not apologize for the philosophy, though I am well aware that most scientists, engineers, and mathematicians have little regard for it; instead, I shall give this short prologue to justify the approach.

Man, so far as we know, has always wondered about himself, the world around him, and what life is all about. We have many myths from the past that tell how and why God, or the gods, made man and the universe. These I shall call theological explanations. They have one principal characteristic in common - there is little point in asking why things are the way they are, since we are given mainly a description of the creation as the gods chose to do it.

Philosophy started when man began to wonder about the world outside of this theological framework. An early example is the description by the philosophers that the world is made of earth, fire, water, and air. No doubt they were told at the time that the gods made things that way and to stop worrying about it.

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