What are Numbers?

What are numbers at a fundamental level?

I’ve always found this question rather interesting as I’ve dealt with plenty of numbers throughout my career working in the finance industry. Yet, I still do not understand what they are at the most basic level. Specifically, here are the kinds of questions I’ve pondered:

Why do numbers make sense to us?

When we look at a number, how do we rationalize what the numbers are trying to tell us? Do we possess a some kind of innate ability to interpret numbers or do we learn to understand them?

Do numbers exist in a tangible form or are they strictly conceptual?

Is there such a thing as a physical entity behind numbers or are they just concepts within our minds? When we view numbers that are written down, we can see that they possess a physical form as we can use them in formulas, list them out & so forth. However, it seems like usage of a number is something that exists within our minds in an intangible manner. If that’s the case, can they be considered a physical entity or are they conceptual? Alternatively, do numbers exist somewhere between the physical realm and the abstract realm?

Do numbers exist in nature, or are they a creation of humankind?

As we observe phenomena within our universe, we are able to see different patterns and sequences for which we use mathematical numbers to create formulas in helping explain what we see. But are numbers required to help explain nature, or are they built within our hardwired logical way of viewing the world, which makes the usage of numbers a necessity?

It’s always interesting to see the ubiquitous usage of numbers everywhere in society, yet it really does seem that at a fundamental level  – the essence of what a number is, is still unknown to us.



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