Does the number 1 exist?


What if, as my co-blogger once suggested – it is only an approximation?

For where can this number 1 be found?

We say, for example, “well, here is one zebra.”


But then we might say, “now it has joined with one pack of zebras.”


Well what has happened to the one?

And even one zebra, we should say, “is made up of organs and appendages, which in turn are made up of proteins and fats, which in turn are made of particles.”


This is hardly a revelation for us.  Despite the fact that the number 1 cannot be isolated, and truly said to exist, mathematics has proven its usefulness time and time again.  The approximations can help guide us through reality.

But more troubling, the abstract notion of 1 is developed further in our own character – we feel that we exist, we are a “one”, our consciousness is independent and monolithic.

Words are mere abstractions that cannot capture the wonder of a world where 1s seems to exist everywhere – isolated for moments and then lost when we refocus our attention.

Armed with fickle concepts, we fancy reality to follow in the same fashion; perhaps the flaw lies with our approach while interpreting the appearances.

Wittgenstein, who was familiar with Indian mysticism, said more or less this very thing.

Yet we still teach children that the number 1 exists, and gloss over the difficulties.  Perhaps we’re afraid to confront the brittleness of even our most rock-solid and fundamental building blocks?

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1 Response to Delineation

  1. Pingback: Maya – “All Duality Is Falsely Imagined” « Active Philosophy

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