Maths, a bit like God

As easy as

Happy Pi Day
Bernard Goldbach on Flickr. Creative commons

Philosophy students please look away now.

Eternal, unchanging, omnipresent? That’s true of maths as well as of God.

Do you need a Universe for maths to exist in? I don’t think so. Do you need a moment for maths to exist in? Er, don’t think so either. Time can flicker away, stop, start, accelerate, slow down, be intermittent, go backwards and maths would continue its brute existence.

All you need for maths to exist is a single idea, ‘logic’. Once you have the idea of logic, all possible maths is both inevitable and necessary. I don’t think, for example, you need beings to think mathematical thoughts, or a Universe to write them down in. Every number, every infinity, every theorem, every possible consequence of every possible set of axioms must eternally exist in its complete perfection quite apart from this universe of time and space.

Nothing exists before Maths, and nothing can exist that is in some sense post-Maths, because Maths is a different order of a thing than Creation or Time.  Maths does not create itself, slowly building itself, like Creation might. In its unchanging totality Maths cannot not exist, and it cannot not exist regardless of whether it is being observed, or whether there is or isn’t a universe.

So maths is eternal, unchanging, omnipresent and necessary.

The ontological ‘proof’ of the existence of God is a cousin to this proof in that it also talks about God being necessary. Most days, when I try, I do not understand the Ontological Argument. Occasionally I think I get an understanding glimpse of it, but then the clouds roll over again.

But that fact that I know of something that is infinite, eternal, unchanging, perfect, complete, omnipresent and necessary–Maths–makes me think that ‘proofs’ like the Ontological Argument may (as apparently even Bertrand Russell admitted) ‘have some legs’.

(If you want to wade into the Ontological Argument, try here.)

My new book
Hopefully not the apocalypse

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.