Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Theorems don't have numbers

To tag a theorem is to label it an artifice, to suggest that it has no meaning beyond the cardinal place it occupies in one author or another's text. To number it is to catalogue it, to render it little more than a specimen or a reference point, against which some other theorem may be propped. To number it is to abridge it, to downgrade it, to curtail its conceptual power. To number it is to encourage its verbatim memorization, to make it impotent, to remove its powerful poisoned teeth.

Theorems in their natural state (in the great mathematical wild) roam unnumbered and numberless. They are ideas, notions, metaphors, all only marginally tamed, and tamed, if tamed at all, not by breaking them and beating them but instead by learning them well enough to leap upon their backs and let them take you to where it is their fellow theorems lie.

Theorems don't have numbers.

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