Posted: May 25, 2019 10:45 pm
by BWE
Cito di Pense wrote:These questions are fun, and Wigner wrote a very fine essay. If we strip away all the filosofeezing, we are still only asking why something works. Maybe a better question is "why does mathematics work so well?" People try to make things work, and there are lots of innumerate people who still try to make things work (that haven't been designed for them). We might as well ask why we want stuff that works, as opposed to stuff that doesn't work. I mean, we do stuff for fun, but somehow, fun works.

At the simplest level, mathematics is a project for making knowledge systematic, where we try as hard as we can to ensure that what we come up with will work. Why does it work? Why ask why?

Wigner asked why it works so well in the physical sciences, instead of just as a project to try as hard as we can to make something work for its own sake, and that is a deep mystery. We live in this universe and want to know how it works, and we found a tool that is effective in getting the know-how together. There's always that picture that Penrose drew in the first few pages of The Road To Reality.

I confess, I didn't watch the video all the way through, after observing the limited effectiveness of the interviewer, and having first read Wigner's essay many years ago. As Ellie Arroway said, "they should have sent a poet".

I think it really boils down to the question of what it means that the universe is consistent. I also think the math question is at its root a question regarding the law of noncontradiction. But, as with most things, what I think is pretty random so ymmv.