The goal for today is to prove that magical thinking is rampant in mathematics. First of all lets define magical thinking. I would say that magical thinking is a kind of metaphorical thinking, as in the metaphor “My heart is the sun” only with the added idea that writing these words/making the metaphor exerts towards making the metaphor true to some degree or in some sense. Magical thinking is the claim that saying “My heart is the sun” actually warms my heart.
Now the way that mathematics uses magical thinking is to start with a metaphorical idea of difference. For example, the difference between a “raven” (1) and a “writing desk” (2) metaphorically (not actually) is the difference between the “north star” (3) and the “form of thinking called questioning” (4). It is fairly intuitive that the difference between (1) and (2) is different from the difference between (3) and (4), but mathematics amalgamates all differences together into one concept with metaphor. And it is a particular kind of metaphor that asserts that difference actually works that way.
Even though 3 and 5 are less different (2) than 3 and 9, (6), these differences are not taken into account in the traditional mathematical symbol for difference, the . Traditionally 3 5 just as much as 3 9, so the identity of difference, , is enforced.
Mathematics asserts an ultimate concept “Difference” that is universal—it works for any situation where there is difference, making any difference “complete” and it does so by metaphorically joining disparate differences. Hence, it falls under my definition of magical thinking.
I am doing the opposite of what Derrida did with his Différance. Derrida added senses to difference allowing it a history and to belong to language, I am suggesting that we subtract, or better divide utterly Difference into differences.
The rest of the sciences follow suit, of course, since mathematics is the language of the sciences. My advisor for my M.S. in mathematics once said “mathematics is the poetry of the sciences.” A poetry that uses the metaphor of Difference over and over again.