I have posed a series of thought-experiments in the main math stack. They may be considered philosophy, but I have only been a high-school/secondary-school teacher and for me it is a practical matter, not an abstruse or particularly sophisticated investigation. Thought-experiments are the only way I can consider making progress in the direction of thought I am exploring.

Is the main stack or this meta appropriate for this particular exploration of mathematics?

  • $\begingroup$ ah... I've just seen that the few reputation points I mustered from my initial query (winning me a massive 14 points) has bombed as a result of my series of thought-experiments (currently 1 and dropping fast)... $\endgroup$ – happyseaurchin Nov 14 '11 at 2:25
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    $\begingroup$ Reputation cannot go below 1. $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Nov 14 '11 at 2:27
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    $\begingroup$ The notion of "thought experiment" that I am familiar with does not match the queries you have posted. (To me, a 'thought experiment' describes discussions like Schrodinger's cat experiment or Einstein's "weigh a photon" attempt). Asking "what is the verb in '2+3=5'?" or "where does the mental activity reside in '2+3=5'?" (which I confess reads like nonsense to me, but then I'm not a native speaker) do not conform to my notion of "thought experiment". What do you mean by "thought experiment"? $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin Nov 14 '11 at 2:33
  • $\begingroup$ you are thinking of thought-experiment in physics, @ArturoMagidin, whereas i thought this was a place to examine mathematics... neither am i interested in philosophy -- too many words :) $\endgroup$ – happyseaurchin Nov 14 '11 at 2:37
  • $\begingroup$ @happyseaurchin: I am thinking of "thought-experiments" in the only way in which I am familiar. Your questions simply do not match that idea, and that is why I am asking what it is you consider a "mathematics thought experiment". Again: asking for "what is the verb in '2+3=5'?" does not seem like philosophy, mathematics, or "thought-experiments" to me, it sounds like linguistics and grammar. Asking about "where does the mental activity reside" does not make sense to me at all (the obvious answer is "in my brain", but somehow, I suspect that's not the answer you are looking for...) $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin Nov 14 '11 at 2:40
  • $\begingroup$ i don't think the question is based on "language"... i ask the question, and i get a variety of answers: most think it is centred around the "+", mostly because the suggestion of 3 objects and physically adding another 2 objects, as we learnt as children... some people think it is at the "=", and i think this indicates a different way of thinking that is not related to objects... though programmers often chose the "=" sign because it is operational, in that let x=x+1... but i am not particularly interested in programming either :) $\endgroup$ – happyseaurchin Nov 14 '11 at 2:41
  • $\begingroup$ @happyseaurchin: Equations are abbreviations for statements. There was a time when all of math was discussed "discursively"; equations are simply a way of writing that discourse in a compact, convenient, and useful way. You say "I get a variety of answers"; who are you asking? And do they understand your question? Because I for one am becoming bewildered as to just what it is you are driving at or searching for. $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin Nov 14 '11 at 2:44
  • $\begingroup$ @happyseaurchin Also note that thought experiments are performed in one's head and are not psychological experiments. They are different matters altogether. $\endgroup$ – analysisj Nov 14 '11 at 3:17
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    $\begingroup$ On chat, Bill the Lizard pointed to this related meta.SO thread and asked if the mods could weigh in on that. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Nov 14 '11 at 3:21
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    $\begingroup$ I have to say that I find the description a bit self-serving. I did not see any attempt at "explaining the methodology [he has] been using"... (unless that refers to the vague "I ask the question, I get a variety of answers"). Though I was wondering about the suspension myself somewhat. $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin Nov 14 '11 at 3:31
  • $\begingroup$ @t.b. the main things I would say have already been well-said by Shog9 (over at Meta.SO) and Arturo (here). If the OP wants more specific clarifications, he should contact the Moderators either by e-mail or by responding to the private Moderation Message that Qiaochu sent him over the weekend. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Nov 14 '11 at 15:42

Meta is for discussion of topics related to the main site. A perusal of the questions posted here will quickly show you that Meta is not the place to engage in discussions about mathematics, whether they are technical, philosophical, semantical, pedagogical, or any other kind.

So, to answer your last question, Meta is not the appropriate venue for any exploration of mathematics; in particular, it is not the appropriate venue for the exploration of mathematics that you are attempting. See the very first of the Frequently Asked Questions, which is "What kind of questions can I ask here?"

As to the main site, the parallel Frequently Asked Question does not include the type of activity that you seem to want to engage in; to wit, performing your "thought experiments" here. (I am guessing that when you said "I ask the question and I get a variety of answers" that is your description of what a "mathematics thought-experiment is", so that you are looking to ask a question and get a variety of answers). Which seems to be the reason your questions have been down-voted and closed; they are off-topic. If you want to discuss how to ask questions that may be relevant to both your intention and the site, then meta is definitely the place to do it

Note, however, that a wide-ranging, open-ended discussion about mathematics is often not appropriate to either the main or the meta sites. If your intention is to engage in open-ended discussions about the 'new direction in mathematics' (as your meta.SO question called it) that you have opened up, then the main site is probably not the place to do it, either, because the main site is not a Discussion forum.


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