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Do you think numbers exist?

Posted Nov 13, '12 at 11:15pm

SwordmasterQ

SwordmasterQ

23 posts

I personally have a platonic view of numbers, where they do exist, just not in space and time.

 

Posted Nov 14, '12 at 12:55am

Kasic

Kasic

5,572 posts

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by exist...

We can identify a "single" object and count it, but the number system which we use to do so is arbitrary as long as it's consistent within itself.

Breaking things down, even what we generally consider one of something is just trillions of other somethings.

There's no "existing" numbers though, as in you're not going to run into the particle 3.

 

Posted Nov 14, '12 at 3:45am

GhostOfHorror

GhostOfHorror

801 posts

They're real, yes?
We speak of them, we learn them, we use them in everyday life.

If numbers don't exist, that's like saying speech doesn't exist or something.

 

Posted Nov 14, '12 at 3:13pm

handlerfan

handlerfan

192 posts

I think that numbers are a creation of human intelligence, as is speech. Animals don't count.

 

Posted Nov 14, '12 at 3:56pm

MageGrayWolf

MageGrayWolf

9,673 posts

Knight

 

Posted Nov 14, '12 at 4:31pm

pangtongshu

pangtongshu

8,277 posts

To clear things up...there are 3 viewpoints on numbers...excuse me for not remembering the names of them

1) Numbers do not exist. At all.

2) Numbers exist in terms of being a representation of, say, the amount of something (runs into problems with -1^(1/2)..which equals i

3) Numbers do exist (albeit, in another "realm" or universe)..and if one was to go to that realm or universe they could, basically, hold them.

I am for the 2nd choice...they all have flaws/oddities (2nd one doesn't fit with imaginary numbers)..but it makes the most sense to me

 

Posted Nov 14, '12 at 5:42pm

HahiHa

HahiHa

5,006 posts

Knight

I agree with the second viewpoint pangtongshu listed. Numbers are words and symbols representing amounts, and are the basics of mathematics (which is why for me -1^(1/2) is not a number, it is a formula, so no problem with that). Much in a similar way, though not completely so, as letters.

 

Posted Nov 14, '12 at 9:48pm

SwordmasterQ

SwordmasterQ

23 posts

Thank you for explaining while I was away, pangtonshu, although it's not as simple as numbers just existing like normal objects in some distant galaxy. To really understand this, you have ask a lot of existensial questions. Take speech for example: Speech is sound. Sound is vibrations in the air that are picked up by your ears. These vibrations are translated into electrical and chemical signals that are transmitted to your brain. But, speech also starts in your brain as an electrochemical signal that is transmitted to the muscles in your throat, tongue, jaw and diaphram. You could say that speech exists in your mind. Or you could say that speech is just a simpler term for saying that the neurons are firing off in your brain so that you can communicate with fellow members of your species. Or you could say that speech doesn't exist, there are only the vibrations in the air and the nerve signals going through your brain and forcing your muscles to contract and relax.

 

Posted Nov 14, '12 at 10:07pm

SwordmasterQ

SwordmasterQ

23 posts

There are problems with all 3 of these standpoints. The first one, for example, is if numbers exist, where do they exist? We use numbers in our brains, so could they exist like speech? But, numbers would still exist even if we did not, they have so much to do with the universe. So, numbers do exist in space and time, but they dont?

There are also problems with the adjective view of numbers. 1 means 1 of something. 2+3 means you had 2 something, and you get 3. -2 means you owe someone 2 objects. But then, what do numbers like pi and the square root of -1 do? You can't have 1/0 something.

Then there's fictionalism's problems, the main one being "if it doesn't exist how do we use them?" I honestly have no idea how to answer this question, like I said I belive in the platonic philosophy where it exists at least as neurons firing in your brain.

 

Posted Nov 15, '12 at 11:57am

HahiHa

HahiHa

5,006 posts

Knight

Or you could say that speech doesn't exist, there are only the vibrations in the air and the nerve signals going through your brain and forcing your muscles to contract and relax.

Speech IS muscle activity, vibrations and neural signals. Although this is a very simplistic way to put it. The act of speaking was there before the concept and definition of 'speech', so you are kinda looking at it the wrong way imo. Same way with numbers, as already evidenced by Mage even many animals can count up to a certain number, or have an understanding of amounts, but they don't know what a number is, because WE defined 'one' as 'one'.

 
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