In the movie "A Beautiful Mind," Russell Crowe plays John Nash, a brilliant mathematician who won the Nobel Prize in 1994 for his work on game theory. In one scene, Nash is talking to his wife about how he believes that numbers are all around us and that they're part of everything we see. Nash's character isn't alone in this belief -- many mathematicians believe it too.
They call it Platonism after Plato (428-348 B.C.), an ancient Greek philosopher who believed that mathematical concepts exist independently of our minds and can be discovered through reason.
In fact, some people think maths is so real that they've created a religion based on its principles called Church of Mathematics or Mathology.
But what does this mean?
How could something as abstract as mathematics have any bearing on reality?
And why would anyone want to worship numbers anyway?
The idea behind Platonism goes back thousands of years when philosophers like Aristotle tried to understand how humans acquire knowledge about things like mathematics and science from experience rather than innate knowledge or divine revelation.
Plato thought there was another way -- by using pure reason without relying upon sensory input from our eyes or ears etc., we could discover truths about reality just by thinking them through logically with no outside help at all.
For example if you were asked what 2 + 3 equals you might say 5 because your teacher told you so when she taught addition tables in elementary school but according to Plato's view there's another way -- simply look inside yourself for the answer instead of looking out at the world around you because 2 + 3 = 5 whether your teacher told you so or not!
According to Plato then mathematical concepts such as addition don't come from experience but are already present within us before we ever encounter them outside ourselves which means these ideas must exist somewhere else entirely independent even though they seem perfectly normal here among us mere mortals living life day-to-day.
So where do these ideas come from if not human beings' experiences with maths problems encountered during their lives? According To Platonic philosophy, God put them into place before time began along with other universal truths such as logic itself which also exists apart from space/time/matter etc.
But wait! If God put those universal truths into place then doesn't he get credit for creating maths instead of man himself?! Not necessarily according To Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274) whose views became very influential during mediaeval times since most people didn’t know much about Aristotle’s teachings until centuries later – Aquinas said yes God did create those laws but only gave man enough free will to use logical reasoning skills while discovering truth via observation rather than pure reason alone.
And yet despite centuries worth of debate over whether rationalists should rely solely upon their own powers versus empiricists who relied more heavily upon sense data gathered directly outside themselves neither group has been able “to show conclusively either why rationality cannot be trusted nor why empirical evidence cannot be trusted" says philosopher Stephen Hetherington adding “the two approaches remain locked together."
So maybe John Nash wasn’t crazy after all...maybe he really did find some kind of hidden order lurking beneath everyday life waiting patiently until someone came along smart enough to recognize its existence and perhaps even worship it.