TOO MUCH MATH?….In case you didn’t know, there’s a long running debate about the role of math in the field of economics that goes back at least several decades ? maybe even centuries. I’ll confess that I’ve never really understood it, since it seems obvious that (a) mathematical models are indeed very useful in a discipline systematically concerned with quantities and flows of money, and (b) mathematics can also be badly abused. But both those statements are true of lots of other fields too.

(After all, you can even describe physics without math if you want to ? Physics for Jocks it’s usually called ? but there’s a world of difference between d = ?at? and “the longer something falls the farther it drops.” Just ask Neil Armstrong.)

Of course, that’s hardly a very profound analysis, is it? So if you’d like to learn a bit more about this go read this essay by Daniel Davies over at Crooked Timber. And be sure to read all the comments too, which include an academic lit-crit smackdown and a discussion of “jargon” vs. “slang.” Entertaining stuff.

POSTSCRIPT: And a note to Chun and Ophelia: my mother wrote her masters thesis on the prose and poetry of Stephen Crane, which involved using random number tables to extract words from (duh) some of Stephen Crane’s prose and some of his poetry, and then comparing the types of words he used. That was in 1962, so there’s your “long-standing tradition of computational stylistics in literary criticism”!

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