Sunday, October 7, 2007

Mathematics, logics, and "correct thinking"

A known sceintist told me that "mathematics teaches you to think straight".
Probably assuming that thinking logically correct thoughts is what one needs in life.

Focus on the logical ignores at least the following very important parts of reality:

1) things that cannot be quantified, cannot be abstracted. can you put love into logic? can you define the specific ffeeling you got today near the tree?

2) the unknown. There is so much we do not know. we should be aware of it. look for it. manage life while knowing that there is a lot unknown.

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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

hello zilber, i agree with you, we can not put some things matematically, but mathematics is a powerful way of thinking aside experience, my question is, how far can we go with hight math optimizing happiness? can math helpme go out of poverty? or such sadness? atleast getting a better life, not so rich! in a way let say doing a good bet in a bussiness?

Yechezkel Zilber said...

I started the other way around.
I used to think that mathematics/logic is everything, till I realized that psychology is evrything.

Can life be made better?
1) Most important is the inner side of life. How to play with inner feelings is a challenge, but we should remember that much is inside. Maybe >the idea of flow , see also wiki and book.

2) mathematics or logics may help to improve life.
One trick is to explore the full range of possibilities.
Limitation is life abound. But there are endless hidden ways to handle many situations etc. The trick is to be more aware on all kinds iof things of this direction.

Example: I lost a plane and has to stay in airport for a whole night. I was nto very happy about it. But still manage to read quitely etc. for much of the time. so I still managed to get less sad than by default.

Whne exploring the wuide range of possibilities, one should be aware that it has a negative side, some possibilities are negative or een very negative. When you try to oversmart the system beaware. (Talen talks about this in things with unknown outcomes: take every cheap gamble that may have a great positive outcome. Avoid anything that has in it place for a very bad outcome).

3) Money is a very technical numerical thing. Money earned. Money spent. Money accumulated.
Many business opportunities are just a mathematical way to transfer money into your pocket.
I beleive that much of business starts with the following logic. In order for a business to succeed it has to put together perfectly a list of steps and details. Most who try to do business fail at some part of the chain of dids. If one managed to know all details needed for a business, nad managed to carefully make the whole chain working, he has good chance to make money.
But business are a very ricky area. You have many mistakes till you learn (if at all). Best thing in business is try it without risking too much. Some are good at it. Others are not built for it. Go figure...

HS said...

I agree with your acquaintance, mathematics is indeed one of the best ways to learn how to think. Gives one a standard of reasoning and a benchmark for evidence (that is usually called "proof" but can never be such in the real world as opposed to math). You have a point insofar as thinking (not math, which is just one form of thinking) per se cannot bring you happiness in life (unless you are a natural thinker and LIKE ideas and logic). But it is still a fair question to think about how to think, or the "cleanest" or "best" way to think, or what is the model of thinking activity.

Yechezkel Zilber said...

Mathematical thinking has advantages. Period.

I see everything in light of its consequences. So, good thinking = most effective thinking in pursuing your goals / whatever.

Logical thinking is inferior in various settings.
Actually, one is best advised to have in hand logical/mathematical thinking and intuitive and practical thinking.

In reality, it is not easy to elternate between kinds of thinking. One has therefore, to choose a general preference to whatever kind of thinking (assuming one makes a conscious decision aobut how to think). This has to be a summary of thinking effecgiveness + its effect of the experience of life and experience of thinking.


All this was for the individual. But if the question is for soceity or for a sceintists that claims his motif to be for the utility of humanity, the quesiton is different because the distributiokn of effects rights and mistakes is very different and skewed at times. Some will think a relatively more logical approach is optimal. (similar question about how sceince should be decided, where logic etc. should have an even more central role, apparently)