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Wednesday 22 February 2012

Mathematics and Physics

Prof. Carlo Fonseka’s article on the nature of Mathematical Knowledge that appeared on 5th February 2012 in “The Sunday Island” prompted me to pen these words. We as students knew that (Pure) Mathematics consists of the set of propositions of the form p implies q, and in fact one of the questions set by my respected teacher late Prof. Douglas Amarasekera for the final examination in the year I sat (in 1967) was on this proposition, which I must say that I answered with delight. I do not know what exactly Prof. Amarasekera had told Prof. Carlo Fonseka on Mathematics and Logic but all that I have to say is that Mathematics cannot be reduced to Logic. Bertrand Russell who himself undertook the task of showing that Mathematics could be reduced to logic with his friend A . N. Whitehead failed in his attempt. Later with his incompleteness theorems Gödel showed that the celebrated Hilbert Programme also failed and since then we know that the formalist methods though used in Mathematics are strictly speaking do not hold water. Western Mathematics is another system of knowledge created by human beings mostly of the male variety just as much Vedic Mathematics is, which is different from the former, and interested readers on this matter may refer to articles by Prof. Raju, though he does not seem to have grasped the idea of culture dependence of knowledge systems created by human beings.

I am a fan neither of western Mathematics nor of western Physics, though I have a very limited knowledge in both, but could Prof. Carlo Fonseka or anybody else explain why western Mathematics "the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true", has been so effective in western Physics in which many people appear to think that they know what they are talking about.(12/02/06)

Nalin De Silva