The History of Math / Dedicated to the one I love

The last words he pronounced were — your name. (Heart of Darkness)

There is are some complex things dealing with time. Well, let’s begin by talking about the Heart of Darkness, which ends with this lie about dedicating one’s life to a loved one. This whole whole section seems to be about the past and the future. Kurtz is the future, but he is also the past — he is dead and gone. Something so powerful as to be imminent — so real was this future that it was mistaken for having already happened.

That’s just it — the imminence of the future, the mode of imminence. I feel like this is familiar ground, but the whole oint here is semi-imminent, as we approach familiar ground with better tools maybe. And also, the women — for some reason the women has control over this imminence, despite having, of course, never set foot in Africa. But for her this imminence was as real as a river, or a window, as in the final scene. “Mathematics is profoundly feminine” I have here in my notes — which is a kind of a provocative formula that points at where we want to go.

The real question here is the imminence of math, or the mode of imminence. Again, I am not sure if the above quotation is right, but at least it does raise questions, ie, if it is wrong, then it is wrong in the right direction, I feel. Math, too, seems to be a future that has already happened, in the above sense. Well, there is a third concern here: that we do not know what math is. This is important to point out since all math does is talk about itself, it seems, but we cannot trust it, at least, not in the first, declarative, descriptive sense. The history of math has yet to be brought to light. We may have to talk about a psychological history of math, or about eras that we haven’t even understood yet, who knows. This is certainly an exciting venture though.

Oh, and one more thing: isn’t it true that all metaphysics can do is point in a certain direction, to point at something? nd if so, doesn’t the history of math consist merely of moments that point at something? Yet these moments must each be examined individually?

Now, by the “femininity of math”, I don’t merely mean, the creative feminine. This is a benefit of us returning to the same question with more maturity — I mean, that it’s easy to be misled here, to forget what we meant, and to dismiss it later as error. We are not referring merely to the playfulness of math, since that is simply being who one is, and is not a future that is imminent. It does not relate to guilt, for example, or to the future yet to come, which we identified in the previous blog as the uncanny.  But, on the other hand, it is not something other than what math already is. Again, this feels like some moment of maturity to me, I mean, the necessity of thinking such a delicate topic. It is the moment, not strictly outside of math, a moment when imminence and femininity intersect. That’s another thing about the feminine — that they seem more real.

(Sometimes I am troubled by the question of whether what we talk about is exists at all, ie, whether math isn’t merely the sum of technical exigencies. But I am comforted by … various reflections, not limited to the “categorical imperative” of criticism, the existence of parallel histories, etc..)

So what I’m saying here is that the only kind of reflection that matters, in math, are those that seem to determine our future, but that is subtle enough to not merely be a fantasy. But still feminine — that is the whole nature of the feminine. “They are out of it”, says Conrad, but at the same time, they are not fantasy. It is not obvious whether something is one or the other, whether something is fantastic, technical, or of literary interest, it is hard to tell the interesting from the uninteresting in history.

========== END OF INTRODUCTION ==========

Let’s talk about the zero, the historical development of the zero. Now math functioned long before the zero, and it functions long after. The zero is certainly ingrained into math at this point, it has become one symbol among many other symbols. Now, I don’t really want to speak of the zero as merely a symbol, I don’t really want to associate with the rise of algebra or something, I mean. Rather, it is associated with a very specific sort of purity in math — I mean here specifically to dismiss the assumed distinction between the pure and the pragmatic, the notion of “mathematical autism”, for example. In a sense we are saying that everything is the same, that we are cut off from “our own” origin, that we work with ideas that are dead and gone. “I arrived in a city that always made me think of a whited sepulchur” (Heart of Darkness).

It is hard to imagine that moment. It is perhaps a profound transformation. It was at once anti-materialistic and materialistic. It faced great resistance for it’s amaterialism, but at the same time it seems undenaible with its play uon guilt, which we associated with the uncanny in the previous entry on Futurama. The uncanny causes metaphysical transformations, which may be, as we said above, pointers, or not stable in themselves (and rather only as an orbit). The phenomenality of the uncanny cannot be discounted but it slowly builds up until it becomes this imminence we speak of.

TBC

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