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How can a finite brain think about infinite structures?

How can a finite brain think about infinite structures, such as the natural numbers (1,2,3,4,…..)? How can a finite brain imagine infinite processes, such as removing all the even numbers from the above structure and sticking them on the end? What evolutionary pressures produced brains with the power to do these things? How is the competence to infinite structures encoded in the genome?
These are topics of my own current research, and i’ll be surprised if anyone has answers.
Aaron from West Midlands (Age 55+)


One Response

  1. I can’t answer this from a psychological point of view, but will try to from a mathematical one.

    When looking at an infinite set of objects (whether numbers, processes, or whatever) the brain can’t cope with looking at each as an individual. Instead of doing this, it views the set as a single object, and when necessary it can pull out a single object to look at more closely. It is simply looking at single objects, or maybe finite numbers of objects.

    I think the brain has, or has developed, an extremely efficient way of dealing with abstraction. Just going from numbers used as labels for counting (one cow, two cows…) to them being objects in themselves is, in my opinion, an amazing ability to deal with abstraction. Seeing an infinite set (or even an infinite set of infinite sets, such as the set of all infinite subsets of the set of natural numbers) as a single object is just another example of this.

    I hope this has helped…

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