C.K. RAJU. Cultural Foundations of Mathematics: The Nature of Mathematical Proof and the Transmission of the Calculus from India to Europe in the 16th c. CE [Book Review]
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Philosophia Mathematica 17 (3):378-381 (2009)
This book is part of a major project undertaken by the Centre for Studies in Civilizations , being one of a total of ninety-six planned volumes. The author is a statistician and computer scientist by training, who has concentrated on historical matters for the last ten years or so. The book has very ambitious aims, proposing an alternative philosophy of mathematics and a deviant history of the calculus. Throughout, there is an emphasis on the need to combine history and philosophy of mathematics, especially in order to evaluate properly the history of mathematics in India, in particular the history of the calculus.The pivotal goals of the book are to oppose the Eurocentric account of the history of science in general and mathematics in particular; to avoid the usual philosophical idea of the centrality of proof for mathematical knowledge, in favour of the traditional Indian notion of pramāṇa [validation] encompassing empirical elements and emphasizing calculation; to analyze the thousand-year-long development of infinite series in India, starting in the fifth century; and to show ‘how and why the calculus was imported into Europe’ from about 1500. The result is a picture in which inputs from the Indian subcontinent and epistemology are the driving forces of the history of mathematics, as people in the European subcontinent struggle to adopt new calculation techniques from the East in spite of Western philosophico-religious biases . Thus, a ‘first math war’ involved the algorismus de numero indorum, adopted for practical reasons, which forced Europeans to modify their epistemology of number and quantities. A ‘second math war’ revolved around infinite series and the calculus, since the background of Western epistemology created ‘spurious difficulties’ about infinities and infinitesimals, partially resolved with theories of real numbers. And a ‘third math war’ is …
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