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CATEGORIES:HPS Philosophy Workshop
SUMMARY:Nicolas Bourbaki and the concept of mathematical s
tructure - Leo Corry (Tel-Aviv University)
DTSTART;TZID=Europe/London:20120208T130000
DTEND;TZID=Europe/London:20120208T140000
UID:TALK35482AThttp://talks.cam.ac.uk
URL:http://talks.cam.ac.uk/talk/index/35482
DESCRIPTION:The concept of structure is one of the most pervas
ive ideas of twentieth century mathematics\, and i
t is associated more than with anyone else\, with
the name of Nicolas Bourbaki. This was the pseudon
ym adopted by a group of (mostly French) leading m
athematicians that undertook the collective writin
g of a treatise meant to present the entire pictur
e of mathematics\ncentered on the idea of structur
e. This treatise had a tremendous impact on mathem
atical research and teaching all around the world
at least between 1945 and the 1970s. The idea of s
tructure as associated with Bourbaki also had impo
rtant echoes in fields like the philosophy of math
ematics (structuralism)\, developmental psycholog
y (Piaget)\, social anthropology\n(Levi-Strauss) a
nd mathematical education (the New Math).\n\nIn my
talk I examine the origins and development of Bou
rbaki's idea of structure. I will show that this i
dea had two totally different and separate aspects
that have typically been conflated in misleading
ways. One is a general approach to the practice o
f mathematics\, which was only implicit in their w
ork\, and which is where Bourbaki's influence had
its greatest effect. The second one was a formal m
athematical concept that was meant to underlie all
of their conception and to provide an overall uni
formity to their treatment of the various mathemat
ical disciplines. This was a rather unsuccessful i
dea devoid of any consequences on what Bourbaki di
d\, on what other mathematicians could do\, of wha
t happened in mathematics in any other way\, but a
t the same time it was the main source of their\na
lleged importance for the philosophy of mathematic
s or outside mathematics.
LOCATION:Seminar Room 1\, Department of History and Philoso
phy of Science
CONTACT:
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