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Mathematica doesn't know what it's doing.

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  • Subject: [mg67146] Mathematica doesn't know what it's doing.
  • From: "Steven T. Hatton" <hattons at>
  • Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2006 04:54:15 -0400 (EDT)
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

I have come to the conclusion that part of my difficulty in getting
Mathematica to do what I want is because Mathematica doesn't know what it's
doing.  That is not to say that Mathematica is doing something wrong.  I am
speaking in the sense that Russell used when he said: "Thus [pure]
mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we
are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true."

For the most part, Mathematica is a-semantic.  That is to say, it is
strongly biased toward syntax.  This accounts for its strength as a
mathematics tool.  To a great extent, mathematics is about manipulating
symbols with algebraic uniformity.

In fields such as document processing, general purpose programming,
electronics, systems integration, and even differential geometry, where I
have more experience, semantics tend to dominate.

So what exactly is it that I am having trouble with?  A good example has
little to do with Mathematica, per se.  It has to do with document
preparation. I think in terms of book, part, chapter, section, subsection,
theorem, definition, axiom, example, paragraph, etc.  These are nested
concepts.  I want to write a theorem and have it contained in a TheoremBox. 
I know that Mathematica arranges some textual units hierarchically, but it
does this indirectly through the use of GroupBoxes.

It may well be that I could accomplish what I want through the creation of
style sheets.  There are many existing style sheets available, but they
seem to lack this semantic aspect of document organization.  There is a lot
more I could say on this topic, but before I continue, I would like to know
what others think about these matters.

If anybody knows of a good source which really explains the art of document
creation using Mathematica, I am very interested.

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