Cover image for The Evolution of Mathematics: A Rhetorical Approach By G. Mitchell Reyes

The Evolution of Mathematics

A Rhetorical Approach

G. Mitchell Reyes

COMING IN NOVEMBER

$109.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-09401-4
Coming in November

208 pages
6" × 9"
2022

RSA Series in Transdisciplinary Rhetoric

The Evolution of Mathematics

A Rhetorical Approach

G. Mitchell Reyes

“Reyes’s knowledge of and engagement with mathematics are breathtaking in scope. The Evolution of Mathematics is rhetorically engaging as it winds its way through the rabbit hole of mathematical philosophy, history, and technological innovation. Mathematicians will learn about the stakes of their invention and translation practices while rhetoricians will find yet another plane within which rhetoric functions and can be engaged and assessed.”

 

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There is a growing awareness among researchers in the humanities and social sciences of the rhetorical force of mathematical discourse—whether in regard to gerrymandering, facial recognition technologies, or racial biases in algorithmic automation. This book proposes a novel way to engage with and understand mathematics via a theoretical framework that highlights how math transforms the social-material world.

In this study, G. Mitchell Reyes applies contemporary rhetorical analysis to mathematical discourse, calling into question the commonly held view that math equals truth. Examining mathematics in historical context, Reyes traces its development from Plato’s teaching about abstract numbers to Euclidian geometry and the emergence of calculus and infinitesimals, imaginary numbers, and algorithms. This history reveals that mathematical innovation has always relied on rhetorical practices of making meaning, such as analogy, metaphor, and invention. Far from expressing truth hidden deep in reality, mathematics is dynamic and evolving, shaping reality and our experience of it.

By bringing mathematics back down to the material-social world, Reyes makes it possible for scholars of the rhetoric and sociology of science, technology, and math to collaborate with mathematicians themselves in order to better understand our material world and public culture.

“Reyes’s knowledge of and engagement with mathematics are breathtaking in scope. The Evolution of Mathematics is rhetorically engaging as it winds its way through the rabbit hole of mathematical philosophy, history, and technological innovation. Mathematicians will learn about the stakes of their invention and translation practices while rhetoricians will find yet another plane within which rhetoric functions and can be engaged and assessed.”

G. Mitchell Reyes is Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies at Lewis and Clark College. He is coeditor of Global Memoryscapes: Contesting Remembrance in a Transnational Age and Arguing with Numbers: The Intersections of Rhetoric and Mathematics, the latter also published by Penn State University Press.