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Topic: Attitudes to mathematics among successful research mathematicians
Replies: 4   Last Post: Mar 1, 2013 7:38 AM

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David Petry

Posts: 1,104
Registered: 12/8/04
Re: Attitudes to mathematics among successful research mathematicians
Posted: Feb 20, 2013 3:35 PM
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On Friday, February 15, 2013 4:14:11 PM UTC-8, Paul wrote:
> Hardy wrote this in A mathematician's apology
> "I do not remember having felt, as a boy, any passion for mathematics, and such notions as I may have had of the career of a mathematician were far from noble. I thought of mathematics in terms of examinations and scholarships: I wanted to beat other boys, and this seemed to be the way in which I could do so most decisively."
> I wonder if this type of attitude is prevalent among successful research mathematicians, even among the world's elite. Do all renowned mathematicians have a strong aesthetic sense of the beauty of mathematics or is the main motivation often that doing well at it allows people to believe that they're more intelligent than others?

It's notable that you have overlooked a third possibility. Mathematics provides a framework for reasoning about real world phenomena. And humans are instinctively curious creatures. They want to understand the world they live in. So a mathematician could easily believe that both beauty and the desire to be seen as more intelligent than others are entirely irrelevant to his motivations to do mathematics; he may be entirely motivated by his desire to participate in mankind's quest to understand the world we live in.

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