June 17, 2010

Writing 'what is mathematics'

When writing about 'what is mathematics' there always a decision to be made about how to express this.  Is it  'what is mathematics' or 'what mathematics is' ?

Although the first appears to be a question, it has the feel also of more than this.  Hence I like to use it in places where it sometimes jars.

Consider for example, the following sentence 

Because of the abstract nature of mathematics, people have different views about what is mathematics.

The second instance of the word 'mathematics' could be replaced by the word 'right', suggesting that mathematics could be an adjective in this sentence. 

Alternatively, second instance of the word 'mathematics' could be replaced by the phrase 'the right thing to do', suggesting that mathematicvs could describe an action in this sewntence. 

I like these ambiguities and I want to play with them in my writing.  But what sense does the reader make of what I write?  Does the sense of ambiguity that I see carry over to my reader?

I do not know.

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