To John Mead from Don regarding Math
Jan 24, 1994 11:00 PM
by Donald DeGracia
To John (and Eldon):
I couldn't help but get in on this one about the nature of math. This
is a tricky issue trying to figure out what math is, and why it works
in describing reality.
To say that math is culturally independent though is a tough call to
support. if this is the case, then why have not all cultures developed
mathematics like we have?
I think we cannot discuss math as a phenomena in isolation from the
cultures that developed (relatively) advanced mathematical theories.
There is always a specific metaphysic behind any culture, and such a
metaphysic will color what ever social products the culture produces.
When we discuss the trans-cultureal reality of math, we must be careful
to ascertain the metaphysical orientation behind our culture's
extrodinay development of mathematical art.
For example, John, you say:
<Mathematics are truly independent of culture, space, and time.>
However, I am presently reading an excellent sociology book (ref upon
request) that shows quite convincingly that space and time are cultural
products. That is, concepts of space and time are subject to the
concept of *cultural relativism*. Space and time do not exist except
as a specific cultural formulation. Seeing this from the sociological
view (which is quite convincing) deflates your arguement that math,
space and time are objective realities that exist independent from a
cultural framework. Any concept, by sheer psychological necessity, must
exist in a cultural framework.
It is actually within this type of sociological framework that we can
attempt to explain why some cultures have developed sophisticated
notions of time and space, why other cultures have not, and why some
cultures have refined these notions into the language of math.
<The physical reality is too impure to maintain its form (i.e. it is
maya). The Math does not work (in a predictive sense within reality)
because the Physical is only a mere/crude imitation of the exact
John, I hate to say it, but I definitely agree more with Eldon on
this one <g>!
Mathematics are merely symbolic representations of Nature. Nature is
the fundamental factor. Our symbolic representations of Nature exists
*within* Nature. They are less than Nature in a sense. They may
reflect more or less accurately the behaviors and structures of Nature.
But it is not Nature that is flawed when there is a descrepancy between
our thinking (i.e. math) and Nature. It is our thinking that is flawed.
Mathematical ideas are simplistic distillations of certain facets of
Nature, and as such, as Eldon points out, they only have a limited
range of usefulness.
Again, its kind of scary to say, but Eldon's comments are pretty
self-consistent. My own thinking parralles his very much regarding
matter space, etc. Again, my point of departure though is not occult
theory (as I suspect Eldon's is) but from that of sociology and
history. Mathematics is only one aspect of our culture and must be seen
in that light. Furthermore, our culture is only one among many, and
being that I accept the basic idea of cultural relativism, our culture
and its by-products get no special presidence in my mind over other
cultures. You must be careful in superimposing your values over a
I was reading recently in a Seth book some ideas relevant here. Seth
points out how each culture expresses a certain way to concieve the
world, and the existence and history of that culture amounts to playing
the game, "how far can we go superimposing this conception of the world
upon the world". That is what we are dealing with, I believe, in our
culture with its science and mathematics. We are playing a game (so to
speak) called "How far can we go believing the physical universe is
seperate from the observer", "How far can we go believing that things
exist independently, objctively, from our consciousness".
So that's about it for now.
Best to you!
[Back to Top]
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application