WHAT IS MATHEMATICS , REALLY ?
Maths is a language
English is a language
English doesn’t physically exist in the real world , it’s a human made concept , that can be used to describe physical world .
The fact that we know an Elephant is an Elephant , it’s because we assigned the English word Elephant to describe an animal that is the Elephant . Now another human language uses another word to describe the same Elephant, you can describe an Elephant in Sinhalese using the Sinhalese word ‘Aliya ‘or in Spanish using the Spanish word ‘Elefante’. But it is still referring to the same real physical thing that is the Elephant.
In the same way , Math is also a language , that we have used to assign to physical phenomenas. Just like how the word Elephant is not a real physical thing , but the animal that it describes is real.
Math is not a real physical thing, but the phenomenons that it can describe are real . If we describe something new we invent a new word to describe it, if we discover a new phenomenon or observe something new , we can use math to describe it . Maths is a language that describes patterns that do exist in the universe.
4 isn’t an object it’s a way to speak about certain patterns of the universe.The sentence ‘4 ‘is even ‘or “2+2=4” are true statements about patterns that we observe in the universe.A pattern isn’t an object but doesn’t make it any less real . In fact, you could argue that the very concept of ‘an object ‘ is a human invention and doesn’t really exist in the real world anyway.
A cat is just a collection of fundamental particles arranged in a certain pattern with no clear boundary between the cat and the rest of the world . After all, is the hair part of the cat ? It’s not made of living matter and the cat constantly sheds it . Are the particles of oxygen and carbon dioxide in its blood part of the cat ?What about the bacteria that lives in it ?
AND NO , mathematics is not a universal language. It is, however, the study of universal truths. Mathematics is the science that deals with the logic of shape, quantity and arrangement.
Math is all around us, in everything we do. This is very much like the idea that you can’t prove that the ‘self’ really exists apart from the world . The Buddha taught a doctrine called anatta, which is often defined as “no-self,” or the teaching that the sense of being a permanent, autonomous self is an illusion. This does not fit our ordinary experience.
If you asked me What is mathematics in simple words, It is the study of the sciences of numbers, quantities, geometry and forms.