Numeration and Existentialism

Part VII: Numeration, Uniqueness and Existentialism

We have looked at the implications of the existential view upon human beings regarding the issues of meaning through interpretation and self-awareness. We will now focus on one area of knowledge that virtually all human cultures share and see how this knowledge is again interpretation and assignment of meaning, where there is no intrinsic meaning within. Meaning assignment to knowledge is as readers of this series of articles will no doubt know, without merit. Or better phrased, this knowledge contains no intrinsic meaning. I am referring to the irrepressible tendency human beings have for identifying unique objects from things that can be enumerated. This statement requires some very detailed explanation.

We experience the world as a collection of distinct countable objects. We are by our physical structure bounded to see our sensate world as filled with countable things. We likewise do enumerate these separately existing things. But, we go further.We identify specific qualities of these distinct objects and classify them as unique. We assign value to the unique objects of the sets of things we perceive. For example, all of us have been exposed to reports of superlatives. We hear of the tallest this or the shortest that. The first this or the last that is reported on broadcast media, and constantly we encounter records of special events. It almost seems that there is an obsessive disorder among human beings to tally uniqueness among denumerable sets. But this recognition of the unique among the many is without meaning. It is synthetic. We impose the very idea of unique upon any collection of things. This will sound very odd, but there is no reason why differences in attributes of existing things should be interpreted as unique. To illustrate the point take the following set of numbers: 4,10,3.

The number 3 is the only prime number in the set of numbers above. The others have differences between them, but the distinction of 3 being the only prime number would make it one of a kind in this set. In other words 3 is unique in this set. But, if you didn't know about prime numbers you wouldn't see this uniqueness. This implies that uniqueness is imposed upon this set of numbers. Number 3 being prime doesn't really make it unique in this set, it's just another number like the rest, but we can impose this synthetic uniqueness by defining primality in such a way that only 3 can possess it in this set.We define prime as: Any number that is divisible only by itself and 1.Another example will make the idea clearer and maybe a little more bizarre to some readers.Consider a set of 3 men. Two men are 6 feet tall and one man is 5 foot 5 inches tall. To anyone that saw this collection of 3 men, the shortest man would be uniquely shorter than the other 2 men.But, I would say while this man possesses the quality of being unique, this quality can't be assigned any value. He is just one man that is different in height than the other two, whom are of the same height. One last example should make my point clear. The other day, I heard on the radio a 13 year old boy climbed Mount Everest. No doubt, this event was noted because he was the first 13 year old boy to ever climb Mount Everest. He was what else: unique.But, this uniqueness is absolutely without value. To the mountain, and the world at large because people record the fact that one of their own at a certain age, scaled a mountain peak and no one else of his age had done that is entirely meaningless. Just as one prime in a set of non-primes is and one short man out of two equally tall men is.These perceptible things that appear unique to us and are thus evaluated as meaningful in some sense are NOT.And what makes this objectionable to existentialists is we human beings engage in this sort of pattern recognition all the time.

Why is it important to note certain anniversaries of events? You hear all the time, this is the 50th anniversary of the founding the Academy of X. Or better, this is our 25th wedding anniversary. As if those numbers are somehow more meaningful than the 49th or the 24th anniversaries. Why is the first and last count of anything more meaningful than the intermediate counts? Why wouldn't prime number dates not be meaningful? Wouldn't it be just as meaningful to say: Wow, this is our 51st marriage anniversary! We're not gonna have another prime number date like this until uh, our 53 third anniversary!You see what I'm getting at?We make false, synthetic purposes out of numbering things! We create objectively meaningless purposes by numerating, then assigning meanings to our many-faceted world.What is worst is we all so conditioned by this odd behavior, we don't even notice it's meaningless. We even look for it. I find myself thinking things like: well in 3 months it will be my grandson's birthday, I should get him, etc. It's gotten to me too, you see!