Extreme Science: Mathematics as the Science of Relations as such

In Bonnie Gold & Roger A. Simons (eds.), Proof and Other Dilemmas: Mathematics and Philosophy. Mathematical Association of America. pp. 245 (2008)
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Abstract

This paper sets mathematics among the sciences, despite not being empirical, because it studies relations of various sorts, like the sciences. Each empirical science studies the relations among objects, which relations determining which science. The mathematical science studies relations as such, regardless of what those relations may be or be among, how relations themselves are related. This places it at the extreme among the sciences with no objects of its own (A Subject with no Object, by J.P. Burgess and G. Rosen). Examples are discussed. The historical development of written mathematics from algorithms on clay tablets to theorems with proofs is said to show that application of algorithms to specific problems and theorems to scientific objects is like allegorical interpretation. Mathematics fits into the modern scientific context because the sciences, beginning with Galileo, have been constructed in imitation of mathematics. Viewing mathematics this way does not solve any ontological problems, but it does show how mathematics avoids them. Epistemological problems, insuperable for object realism, are simplified. For example, we have access to relations among any objects that we can consider objectively, first physical objects and then mathematical objects of greater and greater abstraction.

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