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Mathematics without ApologiesPortrait of a Problematic Vocation$
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Michael Harris

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691175836

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691175836.001.0001

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The Veil of Maya

The Veil of Maya

(p.321) Afterword The Veil of Maya
Mathematics without Apologies

Michael Harris

Princeton University Press

Scholarship seems to have failed to consider which metaphorical veil, or Schleier, Hilbert was inviting his listeners to lift, among the many on offer to an educated German in the late nineteenth century. Rather than assuming Hilbert sought to awaken the prurient inclinations of coming generations, it is safest to assume that he was thinking of the “veil of Isis” that Schiller introduced into German poetry, that Kant identified with the barrier separating human understanding from the Ding an sich, and that Schlegel enjoined his reader to tear. The piercing of this veil has enjoyed a long career as a metaphor for the pursuit of the scientific knowledge of nature. This chapter considers Mongré's essay “The Veil of Maya” [Der Schleier der Maja].

Keywords:   mathematicians, metaphorical veil, David Hilbert, Paul Mogré

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