Idea analysis of algebraic groups: A critical comment on George Lakoff and Rafael núñez's where mathematics comes from

Philosophical Psychology 15 (2):185 – 195 (2002)
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Abstract

The study that George Lakoff and Rafael Núñez call "idea analysis" and begin in their recent book Where mathematics comes from is intended to dissect mathematical concepts into their metaphorical parts, where metaphor is used in the cognitive-science sense promoted by Lakoff and Mark Johnson in Metaphors we live by and subsequent works by each of them and together. Lakoff and Núñez's analysis of the (modern) algebraic concept of group is based on the attribution to contemporary mathematics of what will be widely recognizable by their name for it, the folk theory of essences. I argue that this philosophical basis for their analysis is spurious and supply an alternative analysis of the same concept within their "metaphorical" paradigm but without essences. This analysis, which I hope is more viable than theirs, is intended to support the general applicability of the paradigm by freeing it from outmoded philosophical baggage.

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