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Beyond Three: Jung, Anthropology And Number

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Chapter Summary

This chapter clarifies a few questions about the natural numbers. The first few numbers, 1, 2, 3, and possibly 4, are well established, but the innocent looking phrase "and so on" lurks like a snake on the path. When so confronted, if one does not freeze in terror, as mathematics causes many people to do: "There is something about mathematics that reduces many otherwise articulate, intelligent human beings to a state of tongue-tied, self-effacing confusion," as Jeromson notes, then one carefully goes around the snake keeping a respectful distance. In the nineteenth century Richard Dedekind asked the question "Was sind und was sollen die Zahlen?" which may be translated as "What are the numbers and what should they be?" The German verb "sollen" is notoriously difficult to translate but there is an implied imperative or wish here. The chapter tries to answer his question.

Keywords: natural numbers; Richard Dedekind



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