Monday, October 15, 2012

Debating Pythagoreanism

Here is a video debate:
Pythagoras thought he had discovered the key to universe: mathematics. Was Pythagoras right? Should we see mathematics as the ultimate character of the world or is this a limited vision?
As Peter Woit points out:
An interesting debate, but maybe they should have had some mathematicians involved…
Physicist Lee Smolin accepts Pythagoreanism, but rejects Max Tegmark's Mathematical universe hypothesis. He implies that most people agree with him.

My FQXi essay expresses a contrary view.

The video server was buggy, so I could only watch part of it. The arguments seemed weak to me.

To give an idea of the philosophical ideas of the speakers, here is Peter Hacker:
Peter Hacker is one of the most powerful contemporary exponents of the linguistic-therapeutic approach to philosophy pioneered by Ludwig Wittgenstein. In this approach, the words and concepts used by the language community are taken as given, and the role of philosophy is to resolve or dissolve philosophical problems by giving an overview of the uses of these words and the structural relationships between these concepts. Philosophical inquiry is therefore very different from scientific inquiry, and Hacker maintains accordingly that there is a sharp dividing line between the two: "Philosophy is not a contribution to human knowledge, but to human understanding"
And Hilary Lawson:
Lawson's theory 'Closure' proposes that the human condition is to find ourselves on the cusp of openness and closure. The world is open and we, along with other living organisms, are able to apprehend and make sense of it through the process of closure. The theory, described by Don Cupitt as the first attempt to offer a non-realist metaphysics[10] shifts the focus of philosophy away from language and towards an exploration of the relationship between openness and closure. An important element of the theory of closure is its own self-referential character.
I am sure these guys do not have anything serious to say about math or science.


  1. "The world is open and we, along with other living organisms, are able to apprehend and make sense of it through the process of closure."

    This sentence would make more sense if it ended with the word "it", although it would be trivial. Pundits do this all the time - they add worthless complexity to simple, or even trivial ideas.

  2. I love your post! I actually do believe that fundamentally, reality is comprised of information, and that information at its atomic, most base state is binary. To the extent that binary information is a type of very basal mathematics, yes, I do think that the universe, you know, the World, is comprised of "mathematics." But this is very broad, and ultimately, math is philosophy, and math is just as much a part of logic as it is geometry or even number lines. Given that one can build literally anything with this framework, I'd say no it's not a limited vision, it's guided both by will through a world of freedom, and you need these both to make philosophical progress. Either way, I really enjoyed the post, and I think Pythagoras is quite an interesting topic of conversation and historical figure, I'm basically trying to resurrect his worldview through my blog. Slow going!

    Loved the post, keep it up!

    - Carl