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Empress vs. Spider-Man: Margaret Cavendish on pure and applied mathematics

  • Alison PetermanEmail author
S.I. : Use & Abuse of Maths

Abstract

The empress of Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World dismisses pure mathematicians as a waste of her time, and declares of the applied mathematicians that “there [is] neither Truth nor Justice in their Profession”. In Cavendish’s theoretical work, she defends the Empress’ judgments. In this paper, I discuss Cavendish’s arguments against pure and applied mathematics. In Sect. 3, I develop an interpretation of some relevant parts of Cavendish’s metaphysics and epistemology, focusing on her anti-abstractionism and what I call her ’assimilation’ view of knowledge. In Sects. 4 and 5, I use this to develop Cavendish’s critiques of pure and applied mathematics, respectively. These critiques center on the claims that mathematics purports to describe non-beings, that nature is infinitely and irreducibly complex, and, perhaps most originally, that mathematical thinking (like other formal methods in philosophy) deforms the subject of representation, not just the object.

Keywords

Margaret Cavendish Anti-mathematics Mathematics Natural philosophy Spidermen 

References

Works by Cavendish

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of RochesterRochesterUSA

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