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Customer Review

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pragmatic Mathematics, 26 Sept. 2005
This review is from: Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
An introduction to mathematics could be just that; elementary arithmetic and geometry, or it could be an outline history or finally, it could introduce the philosophical aspects of the subject. Gowers does none of those, although he does touch on the history and philosophy of mathematics. This is really an introduction to higher mathematics, for readers who have reached what in Britain is GCSE standard, roughly eleventh grade in the US.
Philosophically, Gowers is a pragmatist. To him, problematic concepts like infinity and irrational numbers have meaning in as much as they are useful, and are true in as much as they give true results. As a European, Gowers credits Wittgenstein with these ideas. An American author would have credited William James. Gowers sidesteps rather than resolves philosophical problems, thus giving reassurance to mathematicians and irritation to philosophers.
The book is a random selection of topics rather than a continuous narrative, but succeeds because each topic is fascinating and the writing is clear throughout.
Under "Further Reading", Gowers includes his own website address, where you can find sections that did not make it into the book. What a good idea! The site is as full of good stuff as the book, and gives links to further sites that will give you as much mathematics as you will ever want.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 Apr 2011 19:15:33 BDT
"An American author would have credited William James"

More likely Charles Sanders Pierce
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