Friday, August 23, 2019

Numbers & Numbers

- I suppose, someone like you, you never get lonely?
- Someone like me is someone always talking to people?
- Yes.
- Talking philosophy.
- Yes.
- After spending most of last night on YouTube watching lectures on physics and debates on philosophy, I can say categorically the result was falling into a state of sadness and loneliness.
- Why do you think that was? Because you were only watching, not yourself talking?
- Watching the right kind of conversation, like the one in the movie I mentioned last time we talked, Godard's Living Her Life,* between a philosopher and a young woman confusingly setting out on a life of prostitution, only intensifies the sense of there being something important to do with people.
- What was that?
- The philosophers and physicists of the debates and lectures communicated to me information and ideas. But we don't communicate, in the sense of get close to each other, through information and ideas.
- How then?
- One of the philosophy debates was on the problem of reality: do we see the real world, or only a world of our own making? We talked last time, and many times before, about how perception works: we learn to give things a name after repeated response to what we see has had a consistent effect on what we see, something like when we speak we try one word after another, and if we're lucky at the end we've completed a sentence that summarizes our experience with the world in some way. In order for this act of naming through repeated acts of perception to work, we have to start with a response to the world. That is, we have to have the sense equipment that puts us in relation to the world that is to some extent stable. To learn the name of a chair, my eyes must be able to receive consistent images that over time seeing and touching the chair allow me to know what a chair is. Those original perceptions are not names we've learned through experiment, but inborn possible relations to the world.
- And that inborn possibility of relation, not being of our making, is a real relation to the world, a relation to the real world.
- That's the argument. Now consider the situation we are in when, with our inborn relation to the world, we find ourselves looking at something we haven't yet got a name for. Our inborn relation allows us to have a series of perceptions as we move through and in response to a world which we don't yet know. Until we've developed a habit of perception that gives us a consistent sight and therefore name of the world, our perceptions are like numbers, without content but nevertheless real and building one upon another.
- The professors of philosophy and physics you watched communicated to you their perceptions, but their words didn't go deep into that realm of numbers. And watching the movie did? How?
- First, by feeling drawn to the young woman.
- Being drawn, an attraction felt, but not to be accounted for.
- Yes.
- You are in relation to the real world. Then?
- Presumably the philosopher in the movie feels the same. He communicates ideas not much different from those I heard in the debates last night, but they are being spoken in a way emptied of content, spoken like numbers because spoken not to identify the world but as mere instruments used to come to know this mysterious young woman.
- And you're back with the ancient Greeks who believed in the magic of numbers and that words could only be spoken in a world of illusion.
- Yes.
- The words of last night's debating and lecturing philosophers and physicists left you feeling lonely because they seemed to come out of a world of illusion and to leave you stranded there with no way out, unlike the way out with the woman of the movie of coming to know her, learn her name.
- Yes.
- Wouldn't the physicists with all their mathematics be surprised to hear they weren't good enough with numbers?
- There are numbers and there are numbers.

Further Reading:
Noam Chomsky & Mental Things
My Wife Who Throws Me Out
The Mathematics Of Consciousness
* Now Voyager