the contextual life

thoughts without borders

bertrand russell is my math teacher

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Principles of Mathematics (Routledge Classics)i was a complete slacker in high school… i was distracted, bored, angsty, and whatever else kept me from caring about arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and calculus. it turns out, i never learned math. i can barely multiply and just the other day, i learned, or relearned something long forgotten, that when you multiply two negatives, you get a positive. i’m still trying to wrap my head around that one.

given all this it might seem odd that i am now reading Betrand Russell’s 500 page book, Principles of Mathematics. i blame Badiou, who i have spoken of before on this blog. basically, Badiou claims that all thinkers worthy of being called philosophers must know math. since reading – or attempting to read – Badiou, i have felt strangely inadequate when it comes to understanding the world around me – and an unusual disatisfaction with the usual political philosophy books that i’ve accumulated over the past year or two.

Betrand Russell claims, according to the back of his book, that math and logic are identical and what is commonly thought of as math is just a bunch of deductions from logical premises. i’m willing to entertain the idea but it’s becoming pretty clear pretty fast that it’s going to take a bit of effort on my part to decipher how Russell plans to prove this. it’s a whole lot of vocabulary i’ve never had to grapple with before and so what will follow is my attempt to decode the language of math and logic to see if Russell makes any sense.

in the meantime, if you’re like me and need to start with – or should start with – the basics, The New York Times Opinionator blog has started a great series on math that does just this. Steven Strogatz, a professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University has started  a weekly series that breaks down math for the common high school slacker. his first post can be read here: from fish to infinity.
and the subsequent posts are here: rock groups, and the enemy of my enemy.


Written by Gabrielle

February 17, 2010 at 6:38 am

Posted in books

Tagged with , , ,

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