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Beyond Mathematics: von Neumann’s Scientific Activity in the 1940s and 1950s

Part of the Science Networks. Historical Studies book series (SNHS, volume 38)

Abstract

A typical feature of twentieth century culture was the development of the social sciences. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the study of social life, including the study of economic relations, was considered as essentially part of the so-called “moral and political sciences”. This label emphasized the distinctly historical nature of these disciplines, which distinguished them from the natural sciences: nature is governed by laws, unlike history. In the twentieth century another idea spread, which had already taken shape in the preceding century in several research trends, but had been strongly opposed, namely, that the study of associated life phenomena must be embodied in a human and social sciences system: thus, economics, political science, sociology, psychology, anthropology would take their place side by side with the natural sciences in view of a gradual unification of concepts and methods. This led to the birth of a new category of scholars, the “social scientists”, who, towards the middle of the century, were now present in relatively large numbers side by side with scientists and men and women of letters.124 They felt called upon to offer their scholarship in practical contexts such as the management of national economies, activities analysis, the conduct of social groups, and the support of individuals in organizations (industries, schools, military units). In other words, the aim was to develop “soft” technologies in the sphere of human and social problems that were based on solid rational knowledge, like the “hard” technologies that largely exploited the knowledge acquired in the natural sciences.

Keywords

Game Theory Weather Forecast Vacuum Tube Axiomatic Approach Economic Equilibrium 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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