## Number, Quantity: Fantasy, Pathology

Knatz.com / Teaching / Thinking Tools /

 Number / Quantity
 Real Imaginary
 Measurement Symbolic Fantasy Pathology

The photographer adjusts her focal length to three feet. Maybe she’s measured it, maybe it’s an estimate. But we agree that it’s a number. We may agree that it’s close enough for a snapshot. Unless she’s measured it, we may not agree that it’s good enough for glossy magazine work. Now she changes the focal length to infinity. Uh … Is infinity a number? Did she measure it? How?

Noah built his ark. Then it rained for forty days and forty nights. Is that a measurement? Counting is a sort of measurement, no? Who counted? Who checked the count? Or is that irrelevant? misleadingly precise? If it’s a symbol, like a kid without twelve cents saying “a million dollars,” then precision isn’t important, gets in the way of understanding. “Forty” or a “million” is fine; unless the symbol grossly misrepresents the intent: knowingly or unknowingly. like if it rained not for forty days and forty nights but for several months, or several years.

George Washington promised the Mohawk that the land he wasn’t taking that day would be theirs “for ever.” How long does that for ever last? a few months? a couple of years?
The groom promises to love and care for … After the honeymoon, he gives her a black eye. The bride has promised to honor and obey (still in some ceremonies). How long is the promise good for? a month? a decade? till she changes her mind? till he actually gets sick? is drafted? gets fired from his job? “For ever and ever” isn’t a number, but it does indicate expanses of time, no?

Some theologies had God living in “Eternity,” some where the Elect would join him. Time is posited as finite; eternity as infinite. (How big is the infinity?) (Gamow taught us that some infinities are stronger than other infinities.)
The rent is due on the first of the month. That extrapolates to the first of next month, to the first of the month after that … Does it extrapolate for a decade? for a century? for a millennium? Can the rent be due after the regime has fallen? after the earth has been engulfed by the sun? Can the rent be due after the universe no longer exists as the universe?

The bishop said that Creation occurred on some date four thousand years BC. He had estimated by counting, then subtracting. Then Darwin says that evolution has been ongoing for millions of years. Then the Leakeys find Homo fossils already millions of years old, amid other fossils very much older than that. These too are estimates: estimates based on careful measurements, all subject to review, final judgment never coming due.

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