Philosophy Uncategorized

On Math and Convention versus Reality

Math is a convention of relativity more than a priori knowledge of things-in-themselves; what I mean is that, if I am seeing it correctly, our mathematical concepts are based on agreed upon conventions, not dropped into the universe out of nowhere to express universal truths. In music there is a concept called ‘perfect pitch’ where some people can tell pitch perfectly, which means that they can – if they know the translations between pitch and the number of vibrations – tell you the exact number of vibrations that produced a sound. I have been told that these people exist, and if they do it’s possible that there are intuitive mathematicians, but there is another musical concept that fits where our math comes from better: perfect relative pitch. With perfect relative pitch I can tell what a pitch is but only after being given a baseline pitch to compare it to. I think mathematics works the same way; the best mathematicians can work numbers with incredible accuracy, but first they must be given an agreed upon baseline to work from. In other words, a convention of relativity. E=mc2 (the theory of relativity) is, in a manner of speaking, a convention of relativity about the convention of relativity. As long as it fits with our mathematical conventions, it is accepted. If someone can demonstrate that it doesn’t agree with our conventions, though, it ceases to be accepted and gets tossed out on its can while the conventions remain.

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