We live through maps (-2): perception and information

In 1991 I had to write a paper on philosophy, as part of my Master’s degree in mathematics. I wonder if philosophy is still such a prominent part of the mathematics curriculum in Nijmegen (or elsewhere) nowadays?

At the time I thought the assignment was too hard on a student of mathematics, or at least on me since I tend to take philosophy very seriously. If the great philosophers were hard put to express their thoughts in words, how could such a thing be expected from a student of mathematics? It seems comparable to asking students of philosophy to write a paper on algebraic number theory.

Yet, even though the assignment cost me a very big amount of time and energy, far disproportionate to what the teacher assumed would suffice, in the end I was satisfied with the result. And the strange thing is, after more than 20 years I am still satisfied with the result.

The paper is not too long, and written in Dutch, in a literary fashion, on a typewriter dating from the ’60s. I have decided to translate it into English for this blog, so that its contents will be findable on the web.

Before I begin, let me summarize (in hindsight) the key element of the paper:

We live through maps

In explanation of this sentence, a too short summary of the paper:

Our world is what we perceive it to be. What we perceive is determined by the information we accord to aspects of our world. This information is stored in maps, which cannot be consistent across our world. 

This inherent inconsistency, combined with the personalized character of the maps involved, go a long way in explaining why philosophy in science to me appears such a tower of Babel (see previous post).

In the next posts I will `simply’ translate the original typewriter manuscript into English chapter by chapter. Comments will be very much appreciated (see the `about’ section of this blog).

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About fwaaldijk

mathematician (foundations & topology in constructive mathematics) and visual artist
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