Lakoff on mathematics as metaphor

George Lakoff was puzzled by some of what his math professors at MIT taught him.

For example, if the real line is made up of points, how can it be continuous? Either the points touch, in which case, having no dimension, they must be identical, or they don’t touch, in which case there must be empty space between them.

Or again: What is the empty set the set of?

Fortunately, he remained puzzled, and the result is a fascinating theory of mathematics as structural metaphor, embodied in his book Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being, and in a superb talk he just gave at the Marschak Colloquium.

Only a select few of us got to hear the lecture (if eighty is a select few), but you can read the book.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: