The Number Three---not a human conception

About a year ago, I read (on the net) an interview. The two people being interviewed were Richard Dawkins and Stephen Pinker.

The interview was not about the number three, but one of the two people being interviewed brought up the number three, and made the statement, that the number three was not conceptualized by the human mind, but had always existed.

They said that the origin of “three” had been debated by mathmaticians and philosophers for a long period of time.

I have not been able to find anything on this subject, I am not sure how I would go about it, also I have not been able to find this interview again.

Does a computer work with three things (0 + 1 + programme)?

Does sexual selection work with three things (male + male + female selector)?

Are the above two related, and are they related to the question of where did the number three come from?

The idea is that 3, a number, is an abstraction, a universal like the color “white” or the emotion “angry.”

This page goes into some detail about universals.

Also of interest is the classic division that universals present:

And I think computers work with three things: 0, 1, and NAND logic; at least, your entire computer (not including the power handling devices and fans) should be expressible with those three things.

The number three represents “neither” in response to a “this” or “that” decision. It represents “up” in response to a “left” or “right” decision. It represents “no” in response to “would you rather be stabbed or shot?”

Three takes the previous pair, concatenates them into a single choice, and posits the other.

Most researchers that study the emotion of envy, say this emotion is universal. Does this mean the emotion of envy is not a concept? My question is—why do humans have this emotion? Is envy a Darwinian adaptation, if so, what is the benefit? Can envy be a universal and an adaptation?

Most of the books read that it takes two for envy, and three for jealousy. I question this assumption.

Well, there’s a bit of difference between the actual emotion of envy, and the concept we have in our heads of that emotion. There’s a quote I like: “The map is not the territory.” Unfortunately, I forget who said it.

Ultrafilter, it is an awesome quote (I don’t know who said it either) but it is a trap that is much easier fallen into than avoided, because often the reference and the referent are not intuitively distinguished. I consider it a problem of language myself, whereas the word “is” can be used to equivocate or to assign, as in the following (programming example):

int a = 13;
bool b = (a == 13);

The first “sentence” would easily translate as “‘a’ is ‘13’,” that is, “assign 13 to a.” Whereas the second example, “a is 13” is a process of equivocation; that is, we may use “a” every time we use “13.” (actually, it is an evaluation, “can we use a for 13,” but that is not strictly necessary for understanding).

In these two cases, which is the map and which is the territory? The distinction is not quite as clear as pointing to California and then pointing to a map of California, where the distinction between the two is much more clear than “which is thirteen and which represents 13?” Especially when we consider that “13” is itself a symbol, possibly, when used outside the delimiters.

Such a mess is the spoken and written word. :slight_smile:

Jesse, you say, “Does this mean the emotion of envy is not a concept?” Precisely! That isn’t to say we cannot have a concept of envy; merely that an instance of envy is not a concept.

Interesting. I would never read “int a = 13;” as a declarative statement, but as an imperative, so that problem had never occurred to me.

ultrafilter said:

See Count Alfred Korzybski, the originator of the cult of General Semantics, a precursor of the cult of Dianetics.

For an entertaining (as I recall, it’s been years) view of GS, read A. E. Van Vogt’s SF stories, the best being the first, The World of Null-A.

Here’s an interesting looking site that takes on GS, Van Vogt and null-a.

As I learned in my higher education (Schoolhouse Rock):

Three is a magic number.