I asked a question over on math.SE and as part of an exchange someone said:
Morally the function is csc φ in the limit for the reason you mention.
...a pretty funny thing to say. I asked them about it and they said that,
It is a figure of speech sometimes used in mathematics and physics
and that one interpretation might be
What follows may be wrong in detail, or not contain enough detail, but it gives the right intuition.
Does anyone know about how this started, or have any other understanding of what it means? Are there any parallels elsewhere?
Even if used figuratively it betrays something quite strong about one's philosophical attitude, or that of one's community. For this reason I am quite interested in this turn of phrase. Does it reflect a lack of seriousness or respect for moral questions, or does it simply acknowledge that mathematical and social realities are different?
Anything that can help me understand would be appreciated.
To be clear, I would like to know if it has an implication regarding the value of moral reasoning. If it has the implication that moral reasoning is less rigorous, then it is certainly a possibility. Please do not take my question as an assertion of what it does mean.
Although some might find asking this outside the community in which it is used a little strange, there is one reason, and one excuse for this:
- The word is probably used elsewhere in a similar way.
- There's probably some mathematicians here.
A coincidental discovery: There is such a thing as a moral graph, which seemingly has a rather esoteric etymology.