20th-century Mathematician Quotes
I think that I have always had a basic liking for the natural numbers. To me they are the one real thing. We can conceive of a chemistry that is different from ours, or a biology, but we cannot conceive of a different mathematics of numbers. What is proved about numbers will be a fact in any universe.
Mathematics, springing from the soil of basic human experience with numbers and data and space and motion, builds up a far-flung architectural structure composed of theorems which reveal insights into the reasons behind appearances and of concepts which relate totally disparate concrete ideas.
I disagree with Adler, who wrote (in the New Yorker) that there is no point in being a mathematician unless you can be a great mathematician. That's nonsense. Mathematics is like a Gothic cathedral. If you can build a little part of it, it is there - forever - in some sense. At least I have the illusion that it is so.
The dictum that everything that people do is "cultural" licenses the idea that every cultural critic can meaningfully analyze even the most intricate accomplishments of art and science... It is distinctly weird to listen to pronouncements on the nature of mathematics from the lips of someone who cannot tell you what a complex number is!