A Quote by J. E. Littlewood on business, experience, idealism, practice, schools, theory, and world

We come finally, however, to the relation of the ideal theory to real world, or "real" probability. If he is consistent a man of the mathematical school washes his hands of applications. To someone who wants them he would say that the ideal system runs parallel to the usual theory: "If this is what you want, try it: it is not my business to justify application of the system; that can only be done by philosophizing; I am a mathematician". In practice he is apt to say: "try this; if it works that will justify it". But now he is not merely philosophizing; he is committing the characteristic fallacy. Inductive experience that the system works is not evidence.

J. E. Littlewood (1885 - 1977)

Source: A Mathematician's Miscellany, Methuen Co. Ltd, 1953.

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