Katastroofiteooria matemaatikas - meenutuskilde retseptsioonist Eestis

Memoirs of the reception of catastrophe theory in mathematics in Estonia


  • Peeter Müürsepp Tallinn University of Technology, Department of Law




The French mathematician and philosopher René Thom worked out
catastrophe theory in the late 1960s, early 1970s. Thom was born
and raised in Montbéliard, the same town in the south-eastern part
of France that was also the birthplace of Georges Frédéric Parrot, the
first Rector of the reopened University of Tartu in 1802. Catastrophe
theory was an important innovation in mathematics, enabling
to formalize nonlinear processes not accessible to mathematics thus
far. This attracted a lot of attention in the circles of mathematicians
the world over, Estonia included. Maido Rahula worked the most
with catastrophe theory among Estonian mathematicians. It is remarkable,
however, that philosophers of science took an even deeper
interest in catastrophe theory compared to mathematicians in Estonia.
The author of the paper learned about catastrophe theory from
Lembit Valt who is the founder of the school of philosophy and methodology
of science in Estonia. Valt suggested that the author analyse
catastrophe theory and its applications from the philosophical point
of view. He explored the subject both in his Master’s and PhD theses
as well as in several research papers. Perhaps the most intriguing
attempt to apply catastrophe theory was by Martin Zwick in order to
formalize the laws of Hegelian-Marxist dialectics. The author of the
paper has analysed this approach and agrees with Zwick that philosophical
dialectics is still too subtle an approach for the language of
mathematics, catastrophe theory included.


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