But oh my what a long step it is from the blunt

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But, oh my, what a long step it is from the blunt statement ―Seven plus three equals ten‖ to ou r cautious generalization hedged with definitions and conditions. We have in a certain sense pulled the whole of arithmetic over the line that was to divide Creatura from Pleroma. That is, the statement no longer has the flavour of naked truth and instead is clearly an artifact of human thought, indeed of the thought of particular humans at particular times and places. Is it then so, that Saint Augustine‘s Eternal Verities are only spin-offs from peculiar ideas or customs cherished at various times by various human cultural systems? Kommentar [d3]: Given that St. Augustin is supposed to have lived from 354 to 430 A.D., he might have known Diophantus‟ work, a Greek living in Alexandria. Probably around 200 A.D. (provably between 100BC and 350 A.D.), and not commonly considered an Arab. Diophantus has been occasionally been termed the “father of algebra”. He never used general methods in his equations, though, and his oeuvre is referred to as Arithmeticorum .. In this regard, Al-Khwarzimi would lay a more convincing claim to the tit le “father of algebra”. He, however, lived from 780 -850 A.D. Also note that Augustin makes an arithmetic , not an algebraic argument. His notion of “necessity” is firmly rooted in the concreteness of natural numbers and bears little relation to more abstract necessary and eternal verities of the algebraic type (as Bateson would probably prefer to have it). Kommentar [d4]: In contrast to multiplication and division, which may relate incommensurables, thereby changing the resulting substance (unit). You can‟t add 6 meters to 2 seconds, but dividing the first through the latter yields the speed of almost 11km per hour. 6 potatoes plus 2 tomatos doesn‟t add up to eight pomatos. For Bateson, this sum would be wrong on two accounts: fist, it qualifes as a categorical error. And being British by birth, he might insist that even this fictuous and empty (super-) category should be spelt properly that is, as „pomatoes‟. An adequate adjustment of the unit / category / metric can help to get the figures right: 6 potatoes plus 2 tomatos are eight pieces of vegetable. The class adjustment looks adequate, but is it? The answer to this question depends on your perspective. Bateson the cook might say yes, while Bateson the biologist might take issue here, pointing out that a tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable …
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I am an anthropologist by trade and training, and ideas of cultural relativity are part of anthropological orthodoxy … but how far can cultural relativity go? What can the cultural relativist say about the Eternal [[p_023]] Verities? Does not arithmetic have roots in the unchanging, solid rock of Pleroma? And how can we talk about such a question?
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  • Fall '19
  • Gregory Bateson

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