Pythagoras thought that the ultimate truth behind what we see around us lay in number. Galileo believed that the universe was written in the language of mathematics. Eugene Wigner famously described the effectiveness of mathematics in describing nature as unreasonable, and likened it to a miracle. Finally, Max Tegmark, in his book Our Mathematical Universe, completes the circle by claiming that reality is mathematics. Is there really some deep truth uniting mathematics and reality that demands an explanation? Is God a mathematician?
I was prompted to write this article after listening to a couple of podcasts which sought to defend the humanities, and argue for their continued place in the academic world. The first was called “Why the Humanities?” on ABC’s The Philosopher’s Zone. The second was a Philosophy Bites episode entitled “Martha Nussbaum on the Value of the Humanities.” I will discuss this topic in three parts. First, I will make a critical observation on the way people tend to defend philosophy. Next, because it was quite good, I will briefly run through Robert Stern’s answer in the ABC podcast. Finally, I will offer my own thoughts as to what philosophy is, and why it is valuable.