The linguist George Lakoff, of the University of California, Berkeley, along with Rafael Nunez, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, San Diego, have for several years advanced the argument that much of mathematics, from set theory to trigonometry to the concept of infinity, derives not from immutable properties of the universe but from the evolutionary history of the human brain and body. Our number system, they argue, and our understanding of addition and subtraction emerge from the fact that we are bipedal animals that measure off distances in discrete steps.
"If we had wheels, or moved along the ground on our bellies like snakes," Lakoff argues, "math might be very different."
Saturday, January 26, 2008
This is one of the most interesting ideas I've heard in a long time:
Posted by David Appell at 1/26/2008 01:11:00 PM