Mocking Mathematics

It's a common theme in TV shows and movies to see people positively boasting that they are "terrible at math." This is interesting: you don't see anyone boasting that they are terrible at reading, or terrible at choosing breakfast.

But mathematics displays the reality of objective, transcendental truth. And this is a serious threat to the world of doxa, of mere opinion. So it is best to portray it as something only an elite few can possibly understand.


  1. Or, as Nominalists do, reject the existence of abstract objects entirely. Now you don't even have to deal with them! One less way to deal with absolute truth! Weeee!

    As I read your ruminations on this blog about doxa and philodoxers, I too am surprised at the insights that Plato brought with the 'doxa' symbol. When you step back from the world of opinion, it can strike you that it is incredible how obtuse philosophers in general are, and how out of touch with wisdom and reality they can be. Philosopher X argues that only *universals* don't exist - he is okay with all of that 'other stuff'. Philosopher Y counters that universals *do*, in fact, exist - they just exist in a particular, instantiated way (i.e., like what Armstrong claimed) and not anywhere's else. Philosopher Z comes in and then says that *both* X and Y are wrong: it is actually the case that nothing but concrete stuff exists - and he then proceeds to define what he will take as being 'concrete'. Anything outside of his little world of the concrete - whether we seem to have experience of it or not - is taken as being silly, meaningless, or trivial.

    When you are deep in the forest that is all of this muck, you don't see that it is really just a bunch of philodoxers throwing arguments around that don't have any real grounding at all in reality. They are not interested, for the most part, in capturing or describing reality - they just want to fit it into their advanced systems. They are even less interested in dealing with wisdom (what the hell is that supposed to be, anyway? Can I reduce it to a proposition? No? Well then! Half of the work is done for me! A 'useless concept'! Wisdom has been refuted!)

    I think that the average American - or someone who does not live in the world of the philosopher - senses, on some level, this sophistry, and wisely decides not to be a part of it.

    Plato is quite incredible. In some ways, he is more of a meta-philosopher - doing philosophy about philosophy, and doing philosophy about how philosophy is to be done - than he is a philosopher about doctrines and propositions (which he rejected outright). Sorry for the rambling - but thanks again for the insights.

  2. There are two kinds of people: those willing to be wrong, and those not. Those not are in charge of the mass culture.

    In other words, I think we are agreeing. (Heck, even Bob Murphy and I were agreeing today!)

  3. People often boast they aren't good at writing or at speaking as well though. Mere opinion or socially derived meaning like language in all its ambiguous fuzziness?

  4. To be fair, many people boast of being clueless about fashion, and fashion is arguably the opposite of objective, transcendental truth.