more from Peter Watson

Single Idea 7466

[catalogued under 6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 4. Using Numbers / c. Counting procedure]

Full Idea

To begin with, in Mesopotamia, counting systems applied to specific commodities (so the symbol for 'three sheep' applied only to sheep, and 'three cows' applied only to cows), but later words for abstract qualities emerged.

Gist of Idea

Mesopotamian numbers applied to specific things, and then became abstract


Peter Watson (Ideas [2005], Ch.04)

Book Reference

Watson,Peter: 'Ideas: from fire to Freud' [Phoenix 2006], p.129

A Reaction

It seems from this that we actually have a record of the discovery of true numbers. Delightful. I think the best way to describe what happened is that they began to spot patterns.