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Mathematics as a Science of Patterns$
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Michael D. Resnik

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198250142

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198250142.001.0001

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Mathematical Objects as Positions in Patterns

Mathematical Objects as Positions in Patterns

(p.201) 10 Mathematical Objects as Positions in Patterns
Mathematics as a Science of Patterns

Michael D. Resnik (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

It is usual to regard mathematical objects as entities that can be identified, characterized, and known in isolation. In this chapter, I propose a contrasting view according to which mathematical entities are structureless points or positions in structures (patterns) that are not distinguishable or identifiable outside the structure. By analysing the various relations that can hold between patterns, like congruence, equivalence, mutual occurrence, I also account for the incompleteness of mathematical objects, for mathematics turns out to be a conglomeration of theories, each dealing with its own structure and each forgoing identities leading outside its structure. My suggestion that mathematical objects are positions in structures or patterns is not intended as an ontological reduction, but rather as a way of viewing mathematical objects and theories that put the phenomena of multiple reductions and ontological and referential relativity in a clearer light.

Keywords:   congruence, equivalence, identity, incompleteness, mathematical object, occurrence, patterns, positions, reduction, relativity, structures

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