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Using mathematics to escape the disconsolation of reality?

  1. Apr 24, 2008 #1
    Has anyone found that doing mathematics actually results in a sort of soothing "disconnect" from the drudgery of everyday life?

    I'm being serious. Something about the numbers, variables, mathematical symbols and theorems...they seem to represent a very unambiguous "reality", entirely free from the sometimes unpredictable and disconcerting events and thoughts that often arise from living life in general.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 24, 2008 #2
    "If I feel unhappy, I do mathematics to become happy. If I am happy, I do mathematics to keep happy." --Alfréd Rényi

    The ancient greek philosopher Plato believed this abstract reality containing mathematics, logic, and philosophy was the true reality and that the "unpredictable and disconcerting events" of mundane life were shadows in a cave cast by puppets under the control of people like politicians, business men etc. The masses of people think that the shadows cast by the fire behind the behind the puppets are reality; the politicians think that their puppets are reality. According to Plato the only way to get out of this puppet/shadow life is to study mathematics and philosophy.

    Only by starting with the eternally true and perfect forms of mathematics can we (according to Plato) eventually see the eternally true and perfect forms of truth, beauty, virtue, love, etc. The essence or true nature of these things that is present in all cases, just as theorems which express the essence of circularity are present in all cases of circles. In the puppet/shadow allegory this would be analogous to crawling out of the cave (jagged and sharp) and seeing the day lit world for the first time.

    The highest level of self-actualization is to understand the reason that good things are good, to understand the essence or true nature of goodness, which corresponds in this allegory to staring at the sun itself.
  4. Apr 25, 2008 #3
    I think you have been doing too much math. :)

    But I agree with you. I think it's nice because of its structure.
    There's almost* always a set structure to it. There's one right answer, not many.
  5. Apr 25, 2008 #4
    Thats not quite correct.

    On topic: I definitely experience this exact same feeling, but I tend to become filled with woe the second I consider how much there still remains to be learnt/discovered and how little time I have to do it all in.

    There really is a general feeling of excitement and wonder when you tie in disparate concepts through some common thread of which you only had glimpses of before. :smile:

    Going over old ideas with new eyes is also a fun thing to do. You aren't as afraid as you were the first time seeing them and can examine them more closely now that you have tamed their beastly nature, I've recently experienced this with infinite series and differential equations.
  6. Apr 25, 2008 #5


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    Personally, I find alcohol works better!
  7. Apr 25, 2008 #6


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    I'll drink to that.
  8. Apr 25, 2008 #7
    My Bad. I didn't know how else to put it - in words. It feels that way because i feel that in math, you can always have many different approaches to it, and when you reach the end - you still get the same answer. It's fun. What you then, need to do is find the path that will get you to the answer in the shortest way or easiest way. :P
  9. Apr 26, 2008 #8
    I'll toast while I am in a empty library studying weird math...
  10. Apr 26, 2008 #9


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    Sure, I use that all the time. It's quite effective.
  11. Apr 26, 2008 #10
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