[lit-ideas] Re: Benoit Mandelbrot


On 17-Oct-10, at 12:26 PM, Donal McEvoy wrote:
Important thinker whose work arguably has important philosophical implications - for example, on the relation between maths and physics and on information theory, whatever that is.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11560101

One wonders whether article and headlines were written by two different people; or whether the BBC wished to side-step - by straddling (interesting image, that) - the 'mathematics is a process of discovery of essential elements (Platonists read: 'Archetypal Forms') of reality' / 'mathematics is a creative enterprise (Wittgensteinians read: 'language game') of great value in the development of a (Instrumentalists add: 'workable') picture of reality' controversy.

In the sub-headline of the BBBC article (emphasis added): "Benoit Mandelbrot, who *discovered* mathematical shapes known as fractals, has died of cancer at the age of 85."

In the body of the article (again, emphasis added): "Mandelbrot, who had joint French and US nationality, *developed* fractals as a mathematical way of understanding the infinite complexity of nature."

I once asked a mathematician whether he thought he was discovering or constructing his methods and results. He was decidedly in the Platonist camp.

Chris Bruce,
Kiel, Germany
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