Richard Feynman om mathematics

7 Nov, 2018 at 20:18 | Posted in Economics, Theory of Science & Methodology | 1 Comment

In a comment on one of yours truly’s posts last week, Jorge Buzaglo wrote this truly interesting comment:

Nobel prize winner Richard Feynman on the use of mathematics:

Mathematicians, or people who have very mathematical minds, are often led astray when “studying” economics because they lose sight of the economics. They say: ‘Look, these equations … are all there is to economics; it is admitted by the economists that there is nothing which is not contained in the equations.

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The equations are complicated, but after all they are only mathematical equations and if I understand them mathematically inside out, I will understand the economics inside out.’ Only it doesn’t work that way. Mathematicians who study economics with that point of view — and there have been many of them — usually make little contribution to economics and, in fact, little to mathematics. They fail because the actual economic situations in the real world are so complicated that it is necessary to have a much broader understanding of the equations.

I have replaced the word “physics” (and similar) by the word “economics” (and similar) in this quote from Page 2-1 in: R. Feynman, R. Leighton and M. Sands, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Volume II, Addison-Wesley Publishing, Reading, 1964,

1 Comment

  1. Quantum mechanics uses linear algebra to relax classical physics constraints … so too does finance use linear algebra and other broader mathematical tools to relax traditional economic assumptions of budget constraints, transitivity of preference relations, etc. The upshot is that as a photon can be A and not-A, a financial portfolio can be perfectly hedged and make money no matter what. Goldman Sachs made money throughout the most recent panic …


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