What are some papers or talks on the philosophy of mathematics which contains some statements about the unnecessary and unreasonable application of mathematics in other areas of science?

I found one paper as follows page 515, the last paragraph(before the discussion)


I search for some more references.Your answer is very appreciated.

Edit: Our question is a particular case of the following post. However our post is motivated by a philosophical paper of Bishop, a paper which we cited it in this our post but it is not cited in the following post

Examples of theorems misapplied to non-mathematical contexts


2 Answers 2


One of the earliest contributions along this line is from Goethe, Über Mathematik und deren Mißbrauch (1826). When describing the abuse (Mißbrauch) in the applications of mathematics to the natural world, in particular the perception of color, Goethe laments that: "Mathematicians are like Frenchmen; if one speaks to them they translate it into their own language, and then it will be very soon something entirely different." Still, Goethe stresses that "I have heard myself accused of being an opponent, an enemy of mathematics, which no one can value more highly than I, for it accomplishes the very thing whose achievement has been denied me."

  • $\begingroup$ . . . for 45 minutes and nobody understood a word that he said . . . $\endgroup$ Jun 25, 2016 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ Alice’s Restaurant? $\endgroup$ Jun 25, 2016 at 21:30
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Although I have a lot of difficulty reading German (all the more when it's written in Gothic script), I was unable to locate in that text the quote "Die Mathematiker sind eine Art Franzosen; redet man zu ihnen, so übersetzen sie es in ihre Sprache, und dann ist es alsobald ganz etwas anders." Is there a page number you can point me to? $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble
    Jun 27, 2016 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ (In Maximen und Reflexionen, page 266 here: books.google.com/…) $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble
    Jun 27, 2016 at 14:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ToddTrimble --- I stand corrected, it's definitely a Goethe quote, but not from the "Mißbrauch" text. $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2016 at 15:28

It's a not a paper or a talk, but a book, but I think it's thematically fitting: Gödel's Theorem: An Incomplete Guide to Its Use and Abuse by Torkel Franzén.

Here's a quote from the review http://www.ams.org/notices/200703/rev-raatikainen.pdf

Apparently no mathematical theorem has aroused as much interest outside mathematics as Kurt Gödel’s celebrated incompleteness result published in 1931. It is invoked not only by mathematicians, logicians, and philosophers but also by physicists, theologians, literary critics, archi- tects, and others. Some eminent physicists have interpreted it as showing that “the theory of everything” demanded by other physicists is impossible to achieve. It is sometimes claimed to prove the existence of God or of free will, the necessary incompleteness of the Bible or of the U.S. Constitution, or the impossibility of genuine knowledge in mathematics—just to mention a few of the many alleged applications.


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