TOK: #17 – Math: Discovered or Invented?

What do you make of the term ‘a useful fiction’? To which AOK(s) do you think this idea may also apply?

“Fiction” usually refers to something made up and used for entertainment purposes, something that doesn’t hold significant meaning in our daily lives. However, fictions can also be useful and meaningful. For example, in maths, axioms can be considered “useful fictions” because although made up, they help form the base of all math proofs and theories. Without axioms, it would be extremely difficult to make any progress in mathematics.

“Useful fictions” also apply to religious knowledge systems as the Bible story can be thought of as a fiction, especially for people who are not religious. However, this fictitious story is also useful for religious people as they have strong faith in the religion and live by the principles and morals taught in the story. This is similar to mathematics where something “made up” still holds significant meaning to people’s lives, despite not being completely true. If the Bible story was not made up then people would not have a religion to follow and believe in. Thus, “a useful fiction” applies to religious knowledge systems similar to how it applies to mathematics.

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