The Three Thousand Year Reich of Negative Numbers (part one)
The curious reader might be interested to know that Diophantus and the Greek thinkers rejected the concept of negative numbers (and irrational numbers, of course) as “patently ridiculous” and “idiotic.” And we are a Greek-based society. So to borrow David Hume’s plaintive question – Then whence Negative Numbers? The answer to this question lies in the Orient. If there was ever a “yellow menace,” negative numbers are it. The Chinese, the Indians, and the Muslims gave us negative numbers. Not the superior Greeks. Is this a coincidence? I think not. These countries have had a vested interest in the concept from the very beginning.
Fortunately, however, negative numbers are behind a very thin conceptual veil. Once removed, it is easy to see the “Chinaman behind the curtain.” I’ll just say QUED ahead of time. Observe:
I can have three horses, but I cannot have negative three horses. Some people, suffering from Cognitive Dissonance (CD), suggest that “debt” is a manifestation of negative numbers. But that’s really just arguing semantics. Wittgenstein and Derrida disproved semantics back in the 20th century. In any case, what’s really going on in the situation is not that I have negative horses; rather, I owe some positive horses (Positive horses=horses that exist; countable horses. Who would want to be owed imaginary horses?). We can get by just fine without negative numbers. Besides, the Universe is full of stuff, not -stuff. If you would like to confirm this, here is the relevant empirical experiment:
Turn your head this way and that, and look at things. You may if you wish do this in a lab, for a more sciencey feel.This conclusion, in conjunction with the abolition of infinity, has pathbreaking – nay, watershed – consequences for the number line, which now looks like this:
I constantly get compliments for how incredibly parsimonious my arguments are – well, this one perhaps beats them all!
If the abolition of negative numbers in the conceptual schema catches on in the West, we can expect an end to the Three Thousand Year Reich of the Neo-Zoroastrians who think that the number line is an exact balance between negative and positive (seriously, what are the chances anyway that it would be an exact balance? It’s even worse than 1/Penultimate. It’s zero!). Now some might say that empirically the Universe is symmetrical, and they might cite anti-matter as confirmation of this. But there is not room here to discuss anti-matter; I’ll leave that for a future post!