Amir Alexander: On the Materiality of Mathematics 4

The Jesuit Doctors were right: materialist mathematics is dangerous. This is because since the time of Plato mathematics was celebrated precisely for being free of matter, and lording over it. Traditional mathematical arguments begin with simple assumptions and proceed step by step through strict logical deduction to a necessary conclusion. They pay no heed to physical circumstances or human desires, but follow their own inevitable road to unerring results. So conceived, mathematical results are not only True, but also Universal: by studying mathematics we learn necessary truths about the world itself. In this way pure mathematical reasoning rules corrupt and chaotic matter and orders it, just as the reasonable soul rules and orders the corrupt body. To the Jesuit fathers and to others through the centuries, mathematical reasoning stood for the triumph of reason, order, and hierarchy over irrationality, disorder, and egalitarianism.


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