Science and an African Logic

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University of Chicago Press, Dec 15, 2001 - Philosophy - 277 pages
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Does 2 + 2 = 4? Ask almost anyone and they will unequivocally answer yes. A basic equation such as this seems the very definition of certainty, but is it?

In this captivating book, Helen Verran addresses precisely that question by looking at how science, mathematics, and logic come to life in Yoruba primary schools. Drawing on her experience as a teacher in Nigeria, Verran describes how she went from the radical conclusion that logic and math are culturally relative, to determining what Westerners find so disconcerting about Yoruba logic, to a new understanding of all generalizing logic. She reveals that in contrast to the one-to-many model found in Western number systems, Yoruba thinking operates by figuring things as wholes and their parts. Quantity is not absolute but always relational. Certainty is derived not from abstract logic, but from cultural practices and associations.

A powerful story of how one woman's investigation in this everday situation led to extraordinary conclusions about the nature of numbers, generalization, and certainty, this book will be a signal contribution to philosophy, anthropology of science, and education.
 

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Contents

Disconcertment
1
Toward Generative Critique
21
A Comparative Study of Yoruba and English Number Systems
51
Decomposing Displays of Numbers
71
Toward Telling the Social Lives of Numbers
92
Learning to Apply Numbers to Nature
123
Decomposing Generalizing as Finding Abstract Objects
143
Toward Generalization as Transition
156
Two Consistent Logics of Numbering
177
Decomposing PredicatingDesignating as Representing
206
Embodied Certainty and PredicatingDesignating
220
Notes
239
References
265
Index
275

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Page 268 - primitive' meant to say here? Presumably that this sort of behaviour is pre-linguistic: that a languagegame is based on it, that it is the prototype of a way of thinking and not the result of thought.

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About the author (2001)

Helen Verran taught at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, between 1979 and 1986. She is currently a senior lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Melbourne.

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