What is a number?
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08-09-2016, 04:20 PM
RE: What is a number?
(04-09-2016 11:56 AM)Rufus Wrote:  
(21-08-2016 04:34 PM)Reltzik Wrote:  What's our motivation for examining this issue? Please tell me, why would we care about this?
Fair question. I think the motivation for this question lies in wanting to understand the nature of reality. For if we find a category of things that are part of reality from one perspective but not from another, this might hold clues about the nature of reality itself. So what is the relation between numbers and reality? Yes, we can invent numbers and such and explain them as a construct of human imagination, but that is just one side of the coin. Numbers are not only a passive byproduct of reality. For numbers and more generally math and logic also is used to explain reality rather succesfully. And that, I think is the real enigma. As Eugene Wigner once put it: the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences. It might point to a reality in which information (and not particles, waves or fields) is the basic component of reality. So to ask the question is motivated by the same thing that's drinving scientific understanding, not just by semantics.


I like your mention of 'perspective'. Ludwig Wittgenstein did a good job of analysing and defining the boundaries of language. What he did not do is reduce all experience to language, although many materialists thought he did.

I remember a British physicist deciding not to write his planned book 'A Theory of Everything". Very wise. Thumbsup

There is a limit to philosophical reductions, by definition, and the question of 'number' is not immune to this, however tempting.

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