[lit-ideas] Re: Numbers

  • From: AT <atri2715@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 19 Jan 2006 01:15:40 -0500

Thanks Robert; I for one need to let all this sink in for a while, reread, 
think some more, come at it in a different way, find a new angle, a new 
correlative, who knows. I'm not sure what to say really...but let me suggest 

Take the number 4, for example. A child who learns about numbers learns that 
seeing 4 marbles, 4 gummi bears, 4 sticks (put close together), signifies 
something similar. It is the idea of "4"--something present neither in sticks, 
gummi bears or marbles, yet something exemplified and made present by the 
instantiantion, in front of the child's eyes, of 4 things arranged close 
together. Initially the idea of number is the idea of 4 objects, recalled at 
will. The objects themselves recede from importance and later only the idea 
remains. But what actually remains? Whatever remains is perhaps what a number 

The only thing that remains residually after all objects disappear is 
something that we can describe as: "the memory of 4 objects" or better even, 
"the memory of 4 presences". Finally, "presence" itself, recalled. This 
recalling of "presence" is indeed a mental state, but it would have been 
impossible without an original actual presence. And so, numbers, as mental 
states, do retain a vestigial link to the objective world of objects, and 
presence, and would be impossible to conceptualize without a memory of the 
world. The world is necessary for numbers to exist, but only vestigially, in 
memory. To recall a number is to remember presence, and the number is the 
memory of presence itself, details forgotten or erased.

That, I think, is what a number is--a kind of memory, and so, a kind of 
abstract link to the world. And so, only a living person could understand what 
a number is, for it is something "inside". I don't know if this explains 
anything. I need to stop, and confess further ignorance. This discussion has 
brought me very close to Husserl's 'Origin of Geometry' and Derrida's preface 
to it, to which I further defer...

Thanks for engaging,  Robert--

Alex Trifan/ Boston

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