Tim blackburn

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Are numbers real? And if not, what does that say about the world around us?

Does a number appear in nature? Would a number appear outside anywhere that man has not been? Or is it just something to legitamize the world around us?

  • Mar 25 2011: Numbers are concepts and as such they are real. They exist and function on a conceptual level, no more no less. That's not to say they don't have very real and far reaching implications and applications that extend beyond the conceptual and into the tangible world of things suspended in space and time.

    Numbers don't exist in the same way a rock does (or doesn't) exist. They exist in the realm of ideas. The nature of their existence is an enigma for sure (as is the nature of all existence.) However, not understanding the nature of a phenomenon is not grounds for denying it its validity. Numbers exist because I can count them in my head , even if they only exist as something I can count in my head. That would become the nature of their existence. That's my layman's take on this question and I welcome being corrected by anyone who knows better, or could further enlighten me.
  • Mar 23 2011: Quantities exist beyond man, but the concept of numbers is similar to the concept of language. We use numbers and formulas to describe what we observe so that we can communicate those observations to others.

    To me, your question can be equated to asking if apples exist in nature. Clearly the object that we describe as an apple exists in nature, but the term we assign to the object is just made up by humanity to communicate the concept of an apple to our comrades. Similarly, the number 2 is used to describe a specific quantity of something. That quantity of something would exist without man, but the number 2 wouldn't.

    When you move toward formulas, an example might be pi r^2, which we understand to be the surface area of a circle. The circle has a surface area whether we describe it or not, so what is being represented continues to exist beyond us, but the communication mechanism we use to describe it doesn't.

    Math can be even more complex than simple formulas that we use to describe something we observe. Discrete math and pure mathematics (studying entirely abstract concepts) isn't used to describe something we actually observe. It's used to theorize based on fundamental mathematical concepts which have been proven sound. So we're able to then describe something using math that we haven't yet, or can't observe. That something is believed to exist because the math backs it and the math has been proven sound. So even the abstract concepts that we describe using math would still exist without us, assuming we're right, of course.

    In short, numbers are a communication tool used to describe what we observe and what we theorize to be true. They're just representations of real "things", just like words.
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    Mar 21 2011: You have gotten 0 comments

    Well one;-)

    Yes numbers are real!

    Numerically,

    Peter