We will explore names and reality in mathematics and science. Roman numbering systems are good for bartering and trade, but only the adoption of the Arabic number system with its number zero allowed the birth of modern mathematics. Zero is the neutral element of addition and subtraction and allows it to work with equations. And along with the numbers and system of formal math, the word algebra itself comes from the Arabic language “al-jebr”.
In modern physics, this relation becomes a new weight. The apparent paradox of the quantum mechanical wave particle duality shows this on a very fundamental level. The question of what I want to measure leads to totally different outcomes of the same measured entity. Measuring location will collapse the wave function into a particle with a defined location, but not more wave attributes, whereas measuring velocities (momentum) will force the same thing into being a wave-like thing and lose all particle characteristics like location. So on this very fundamental level, the views that we have will lead to mutually exclusive measurements of the very same object.
There have been many attempts to clean out these paradoxes, but they only lead even deeper into the rabbit hole. Bohm’s attempt to explain quantum mechanics in terms of things which make more sense leads to question causality in itself. So the very basic assumptions of cause and effect seem to be not true on a fundamental level, but just really constructs of the human mind.
The weirdness doesn’t stop there. Even fundamental principles like the existence of space and time must be very much questioned, in light of modern physics. In the words of Einstein, “time and space is more a presumption that we make to interpret the world, not so much fundamental truths of reality itself”.
A different worldview is needed to incorporate these findings into language and therefore into human understanding. North A. Whitehead proposed an altogether different description of reality. He doesn’t define objects but actions as the fundamental building blocks of reality. Actions are the unchangeable entities, which have universal truth to them, and objects are merely nodes between multiple actions, the points where they connect.
This seems very paradoxical with our understanding of the world, but it got new winds with quantum mechanics, as it seems to naturally work much better with the implications of quantum mechanics.
The question I’m discussing is related to the concept of linguistic determinism, and there’s a big controversy on that subject. The quantum mechanics part I brought up is in itself its own ball game, and the short mention isn’t meant to explain it or be exhaustive. It is really more meant to discuss these questions lightly, provide some examples and sensitize the reader to the topic, and obviously, this text only expresses the views of the author. I hope you had fun reading it in that spirit. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like support in your language-learning journey.