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Subjectivity and Math

Numbers are imagined abstractions. The ancient philosopher Pythagoras was confused and associated numbers with real things outside our heads. Plato followed suit. With theological certitude, Pythagoras held that the number 1 embodied reason, 2 was female, 3 was male, 5 (2+3) was marriage, and 6 (marriage plus 1) was creation. It was and is nonsense.

We use numbers to count things outside our head and to measure. If someone counts three people walking by, the significance of this number "three" is subjective, significant only to the person doing the counting.

Working our imaginations, numbers can be arrayed in various ways, in units of ten (10, 20, 30) or dozens, et cetera. This is because as abstractions they aren't attached to anything physical. Numbers can be put on both sides of an equal sign: 2+3=5. We can create an equation with an unknown, such as 2x = 18, with x as the unknown. Playing with consistency we can divide both sides of the equation by 2, producing x = 9. This is algebra. Equations are redundant arrangements. Equations add nothing to the world outside of our head. But, through simplification, working with equations helps us understand what we are measuring.

A good gambler doesn't give value to numbers like some do when considering where to place his bet at the roulette table. The roulette wheel is not supposed to have a memory. In our own world of measurement the ball has a 50 percent chance of landing on red rather than black. If the ball lands on red, the chance that it will land on red again in our world of measurement is still 50 percent. A good gambler doesn't confuse his world of measurement with matters outside his head with the idea that "Hey, I'm now due for a win." Nor does he give a value to any arrangement of numbers in finding a magic number to bet at the roulette table. In other words, he does not project a concrete value to a number outside his subjectivity. As a horseplayer he is not going to bet the 7 horse because it's the 7th day of the 7th month and the 7th race of the day.

Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.