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Numbers by the numbers: intro

[ by Charles Cameron — numbers as analytic categories, introducing a series of posts ]

Umpteen Ways of Looking at a Possum

This is the first post in a series, suggesting that we think in numbers — among other analytic categories — with a great deal of our thinking revolving specifically around binaries: war and peace, friend and foe, good and (axis of) evil and so forth. At times this serves us well, at times it leads us to overly simplistic, misleading, false, dangerous conclusions.

One is a single data point, perhaps an anomaly.
Two is a duel or a duet, an opposition or a trend, competition or collaboration.
Three is enough to permit shifting alliances.
Four tends to square off into two pair … and so forth.

So let me put it this way: numbers are analytic categories, categories of thought, categories worth thinking about.

In this series, we’ll start with the earliest positive integers, and see where we go from there.


Umpteen is a delightful number. The umpteen ways book, should you be interested, is about a New Orleans poet, Everette Maddox. I don’t know his work, perhaps we should get acquainted.


I am eager to know what sorts of insights you can derive from or find echoed in this series of posts.

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