If Barbie thinks math class is tough, what could she possibly think about math as a class of metaphorical thought? Cognitive scientists George Lakoff and Rafael Nuñez explore that theme in great depth in Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being. This book is not for the faint of heart or those with an aversion to heavy abstraction--Lakoff and Nuñez pull no punches in their analysis of mathematical thinking. Their basic premise, that all of mathematics is derived from the metaphors we use to maneuver in the world around us, is easy enough to grasp, but following the reasoning requires a willingness to approach complex mathematical and linguistic concepts--a combination that is sure to alienate a fair number of readers.
Those willing to brave its rigors will find Where Mathematics Comes From rewarding and profoundly thought-provoking. The heart of the book wrestles with the important concept of infinity and tries to explain how our limited experience in a seemingly finite world can lead to such a crazy idea. The authors know their math and their cognitive theory. While those who want their abstractions to reflect the real world rather than merely the insides of their skulls will have trouble reading while rolling their eyes, most readers will take to the new conception of mathematical thinking as a satisfying, if challenging, solution. --Rob Lightner
Renowned linguist George Lakoff pairs with psychologist Rafael Nuñez in the first book to provide a serious study of the cognitive science of mathematical ideas.
This book is about mathematical ideas, about what mathematics means-and why. Abstract ideas, for the most part, arise via conceptual metaphor-metaphorical ideas projecting from the way we function in the everyday physical world. Where Mathematics Comes From argues that conceptual metaphor plays a central role in mathematical ideas within the cognitive unconscious-from arithmetic and algebra to sets and logic to infinity in all of its forms.
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