A Puritan twist in our nature makes us think that anything good for us must be twice as good if it's hard to swallow. Learning Greek and Latin used to play the role of character builder, since they were considered to be as exhausting and unrewarding as digging a trench in the morning and filling it up in the afternoon. It was what made a man, or a woman -- or more likely a robot -- of you. Now math serves that purpose in many schools: your task is to try to follow rules that make sense, perhaps, to some higher beings; and in the end to accept your failure with humbled pride. As you limp off with your aching mind and bruised soul, you know that nothing in later life will ever be as difficult.What a perverse fate for one of our kind's greatest triumphs! Think how absurd it would be were music treated this way (for math and music are both excursions into sensuous structure): suffer through playing your scales, and when you're an adult you'll never have to listen to music again. And this is mathematics we're talking about, the language in which, Galileo said, the Book of the World is written. This is mathematics, which reaches down into our deepest intuitions and outward toward the nature of the universe -- mathematics, which explains the atoms as well as the stars in their courses, and lets us see into the ways that rivers and arteries branch. For mathematics itself is the study of connections: how things ideally must and, in fact, do sort together -- beyond, around, and within us. It doesn't just help us to balance our checkbooks; it leads us to see the balances hidden in the tumble of events, and the shapes of those quiet symmetries behind the random clatter of things. At the same time, we come to savor it, like music, wholly for itself. Applied or pure, mathematics gives whoever enjoys it a matchless self-confidence, along with a sense of partaking in truths that follow neither from persuasion nor faith but stand foursquare on their own. This is why it appeals to what we will come back to again and again: our **architectural instinct** -- as deep in us as any of our urges.

~ Ellen Kaplan

Language as putative science. - The significance of language for the evolution of culture lies in this, that mankind set up in language a separate world beside the other world, a place it took to be so firmly set that, standing upon it, it could lift the rest of the world off its hinges and make itself master of it. To the extent that man has for long ages believed in the concepts and names of things as in aeternae veritates he has appropriated to himself that pride by which he raised himself above the animal: he really thought that in language he possessed knowledge of the world. The sculptor of language was not so modest as to believe that he was only giving things designations, he conceived rather that with words he was expressing supreame knowledge of things; language is, in fact, the first stage of occupation with science. Here, too, it is the belief that the truth has been found out of which the mightiest sources of energy have flowed. A great deal later - only now - it dawns on men that in their belief in language they have propagated a tremendous error. Happily, it is too late for the evolution of reason, which depends on this belief, to be put back. - Logic too depends on presuppositions with which nothing in the real world corresponds, for example on the presupposition that there are identical things, that the same thing is identical at different points of time: but this science came into existence through the opposite belief (that such conditions do obtain in the real world). It is the same with mathematics, which would certainly not have come into existence if one had known from the beginning that there was in nature no exactly straight line, no real circle, no absolute magnitude.

~ Friedrich Nietzsche