Download e-book for kindle: Mathematics in Western Culture (Galaxy Books) by Morris Kline

Ancient Classical

By Morris Kline

This e-book offers a remarkably wonderful account of the impacts arithmetic has exerted at the improvement of philosophy, the actual sciences, faith, and the humanities in Western existence.

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But such unquestionable premises are not necessarily available. No one, unfortunately, has been able to vouchsafe the premises from which a cure for cancer could be deduced. For practical purposes, moreover, the certainty deduction grants is sometimes superfluous. A high degree of probability may suffice. For centuries the Egyptians used mathematical formulas drawn from experience. Had they waited for deductive proof the pyramids at Giza would not be squatting in the desert today. Each of these various ways of obtaining knowledge, then, has its advantages and disadvantages.

This appreciation of number as an abstract idea, abstract in the sense that it does not have to relate to particular physical objects, was one of the major advances in the history of thought. Each of us in his own schooling goes through a similar intellectual process of divorcing numbers from physical objects. Primitive civilizations also invented the four elementary operations of arithmetic, that is, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. That these operations did not come readily to man can be learned even from a study of contemporary backward peoples.

Preceding the use of astronomy and of mathematics for navigation and calendar reckoning there must have been centuries during which men filled with instinctive wonder and awe of nature, men with irrepressible philosophical drives, patiently observed the movement of the sun, moon, and stars. These seers, obsessed by the mystery of nature, overcame the handicaps of lack of instruments and woefully inadequate mathematics to distill from their observations the patterns the heavenly bodies describe.

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