In the interest of transparency and the purposes of full disclosure, I want to start by admitting this post was written in reaction to a comment made by a reader. This reader told me that a word can have a ‘mathematical‘ definition, but that, ‘in the real world,’ that definition does not apply. I reject this line of reasoning as totally fallacious, and here’s why it matters.
First, to tell me that a word may have a ‘mathematical‘ definition that does not apply ‘in the real world‘ is — literally — to tell me that 2+2=4 ‘mathematically,’ but no ‘in the real world.’ But is this true? If, ‘in the real world,’ I give you 2 of something, then hand you 2 more of the exact same thing, how many of that thing do you now have? You have 4! No matter how many ways we parse this equation, if You have 2 and add an additional 2 of the identical item, you have 4 of that item. This is true mathematically as well as ‘in the real world.’ But why?
2+2=4 is true not because of the words or symbols we use to describe what we are actually talking about, but because of the nature and function of what we are discussing. You see, it is not the word or symbol that defines a thing, but the form and function of that thing. An animal is not a dog because we call it a dog, but because it meets the necessary characteristics of the canine family. Physically, it is going to have four legs, a tail, two ears, usually fur, will pant, sniff buts, bark, scratch, sniff, howl, etc… You see what I mean? The same applies to numbers. 2 of something is 2 — period! If you add more or take some away, you no longer have 2. It does not matter what you call it or how you describe it, you either have 2 or you do not. This is the definition: not the word, but the form. In this case, the form is 1 more than 1 and 1 less than 3; or, in other words, 2 is 2 — period! Likewise, if I have 2 and I add 2 more, I have 4 because 4 is 4 — period! Even if I change the word or the symbol I use to discus a thing, that does not change the nature of that thing. Whether I say ‘cat‘ or ‘gato,’ I am still talking about a member of the feline family. And whether I use ‘2‘ or ‘II,’ I still mean two. This is because it is the nature of a thing and not the word or symbol that defines that thing. But let’s not leave it here. Let’s look at this yet another way.
Are you, you ‘mathematically‘ but not ‘in the real world?‘ I do not mean that as a joke. Do you change when you are in ‘the real world,’ or are you still the same person you have always been? You see, there are people who would tell you that, ‘in the real world,’ you sometimes have to ‘be‘ somebody you are not and that this means ‘in the real world,’ who you are is different from who you are ‘mathematically.’ Now, on the surface, this might sound reasonable, but is it? Do circumstances really change the essence of who you are? If you are inclined to accept such a claim, then let me ask you several questions. Answer them honestly, then we’ll see whether or not you still agree.
Suppose the ‘in the real world‘ version of you buys a winning lottery ticket. Then, when the ‘mathematical‘ you tries to cash it in, the State takes it away, saying that it does not belong to the ‘mathematical‘ you, but to that version of you that was ‘in the real world.’ Would you accept that State’s argument?
Now suppose you are mugged ‘in the real world,’ but when the police catch the guy you identify as your attacker, they say they cannot charge him because you are accusing the ‘mathematical‘ him, but the person who actually attacked you was another version of him ‘in the real world.’ Are you going to accept that this is justice?
I have one last question for you. Suppose you are married. You walk in on your spouse cheating on you. When your spouse tells you that it was not them but another version of them ‘in the real world,’ how well is that going to fly with you?
Now, be honest, do you see the problem with a ‘mathematical‘ you and a ‘real world‘ you? I hope so, because it is a lie: there cannot be a ‘mathematical‘ you and a ‘real world‘ you. There is just you. The truth is simple: those who claim that a thing changes ‘in the real world’ are merely seeking to avoid something. usually, they are seeking to avoid the conclusions or consequences which naturally follow from acknowledging that something. In the case of my three questions, it would be the State seeking to avoid paying you what it owes you, the police seeking to avoid trying and holding the mugger accountable for his actions and your spouse seeking to avoid the consequences of cheating.
But there is one last thing about ‘mathematical‘ vs ‘real world‘ definitions we need to consider. Sine when is ‘mathematical‘ not a part of ‘the real world?’ If 2+2=4 is only true in some make-believe world of ‘mathematical,’ then you had better not stay in your home for fear it may collapse, or get in your car for fear it may swerve into on-coming traffic or get in an airplane for fear it will fall out of the sky. All of these things and more depend on the fact that 2+2=4 ‘in the real world.’ But, if 2+2 means something different in ‘the real world,’ then we can’t trust anything that depends on 2+2=4. So, to believe that 2+2=4 in the ‘mathematical‘ world but not ‘in the real world‘ is an absurdity used by designing people seeking to deceive you for their own agenda. They are just looking to avoid the consequences that naturally follow an admission that a thing is what it is — period!
What’s that? You say that this is true for simple logic, but not for more complex logic and that that is what you mean by ‘the real world:’ that things are more complex than I am making them seem? Yes, you are correct. I forgot. Algebra, trigonometry and calculus all depend on 2+2 equaling something else than 4. I mean, higher math is not based on the fundamentals of mathematics, so why would I have ever assumed that ‘higher logic‘ depends on something as simple as a definition? I mean, it’s not like all logic is based on definitions or anything like that, so, yes, I guess you are correct: ‘higher logic‘ erases the meaning of words. What? What was that you just said? I’m sorry, I don’t understand you. Your words have lost all meaning. I guess you must be ‘in the real world.’
[EDITORIAL: Yes, the sarcasm is intentional, and I am unapologetic for it because I have no use for anyone who has actually convinced themselves that a definition changes just because we do not understand the complexity of whatever form a thing has taken. Our own ignorance is no excuse for dismissing the very foundations of reason. We’d be far better served to try to understand instead of brushing aside what we do not understand or do not want to face. After all, everything in this universe is dependent upon things remaining the same. If gravity changed ‘in the real world,’ what would become of the universe then? Or the strong and weak magnetic forces were to reverse. What then? All of Natural Law depends on things remaining the same, so no, I have no use for people who argue that the form or function of a thing can change simply because we do not recognize, understand or want to deal with its implications.]
[NOTE: I no longer think of my voice as anything special. There was a time when I believed I had something important to say, but not so much these days. I write now because I feel driven to do so. Something inside me will not let me rest until I post the pages you just read. I’d just as soon not bother anymore. It all seems like no one is listening and I do more harm than good. So I have come to trust that whatever it is driving me has all this under control. Personally, I believe it is God, but others may not. All I ask is that, if anything I write helps you, or you think it might help others in any way, please, share this page. Re-blog it, share it on FB or send the link to your friends. So long as you feel it will do more good than harm, then please, use this page however you wish. Thank you.]