Numbers and Reality

Posted by: David A. White - Philosophy for Kids (Prufrock Press 2001)
Designed for: Middle School
Estimated Time Necessary: 1 Class Period
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Learning Objectives

  • Understanding Numbers in the Context of a Human World - a conversation about which things in the room are real, and whether or not any things in the room are ‘more real’ than others. Ask the same of numbers. Are numbers as real as you are?

Tool Text

Have students answer yes or no to the quiz questions (found below) on a sheet of paper. Next have a discussion around some of the discussion questions.

If students answer no to all questions than they would probably agree with the position in metaphysics that maintains that all real things are real in the same way. This position holds that something is either ‘real’ or it does not exist; there are no gradations of reality.

However, Aristotle argued that philosophers should take the time to argue how things are real ­­that there are not just two categories of reality and non­reality, but it instead can be described in terms of levels, degrees, and forms.

Numbers and Reality

Have Your Class Watch This Video

Possible Discussion Questions
  1. What does it mean for something to be real? Is it the same or different than the idea of existence?
  2. If something is real, must it be something we can see, hear, touch, taste, or smell?
  3. Does a certain property make a thing more real than a thing that lacks that property? For example, if numbers are eternal, are numbers more real than a human because humans have limited life spans?
  4. Is a thing more real if it has more properties?
  5. Does it make a difference if we say that numbers are real or not? What might be the consequences either way?
  6. Is a snowflake more real than an atom?
  7. Is an atom more real than a subatomic particle?
  8. Is a subatomic particle more real than a centaur?
  9. Is a centaur more real than a square circle?

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