duminică, 13 ianuarie 2013

Troubles with 'more than' and 'less than'



We often start to pay attention to a thing when it becomes more or less than it was in a previous state.

Such an attention conceals a deeper problem. Namely, for our common experience, it is a great challenge to accept that a thing can be in two different states, even if they belong to successive periods of time. Because we primarily learn, for instance, about „a dog”, not about a dog growing old or decaying.

Thus, any increase or decrease of the same thing is a challenge to our mind. But any thought about a thing makes us alien to it, since we have to interrupt the direct contact with it. Moreover, when it is involved a person, such a distance for thinking of her presents moral problems.

In order to solve such difficulties, we appeal to the mathematical thinking. The increase or decrease of a thing is reckoned using the abstract numerical notions. Concerning people, we use the system of numbering their years of life. Since the habit of numbering is largely adopted, the numbers came to seem harmless for our relations with the numbered things.

Besides, the numerical abstractions leave us the impression that we had a thoughtful approach of all the changes. In fact, though rational, the mathematical explanation is just an expedient for the harder duty of thinking what does mean a thing which is „more than” or „less than”.

We feel such a harder duty whenever we refrain from mathematical explanations and simply wonder before things and persons which become bigger and smaller than they were before.