Re: [OPE] Marshall's rules for the use of methematics

From: Ian Wright <>
Date: Mon Jan 12 2009 - 11:46:07 EST

You get the same advice for the Cambridge Journal of Economics.

The passage has some good intent: try to communicate as clearly as
possible to the widest range of people. But fundamentally it is
philistine. On what grounds is there to suppose that Natural Language
is an adequate language to describe natural and social processes?

Many of the most important advances in scientific knowledge are
intimately bound-up with the innovation of new kinds of technical
languages (e.g., calculus, logic, computer simulations etc.)

Applied mathematicians generally use Natural Language as shorthand and
then use Mathematical Language to reason and communicate. Natural
Language simply lacks the concepts.

I hear an echo of Britain's landed aristocracy in this passage: the
disdain for the world of commerce, of numbers, of grubby tradesmen at
the back door with their talk of science.

Obviously I think that this is rotten advice!

And I suspect that many that promulgate this advice do not even follow
it. In other words, they go straight to the Natural Language without
doing the math and burning it.
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Received on Mon Jan 12 11:48:00 2009

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