Combining the Worlds of Art and Math: They’re More Alike Than You Think

By Haley Armstrong


  We live in a culture of ideological extremes. Maybe our branch of mind stems from what we are being taught: that one field of study has to contrast the other. In reality, the seemingly calculated answers in math can help define the so-called abstract questions in humanities. Similar to a functioning government, the best notion to engage all the facets of our mind is to realize that no concept has to be limited to just one subject. The idea that mathematics and humanities are separate fields is a result of the perceived polarity of the education system. The idea that students who love humanities would hate math, or vice versa, is a result of our near-sighted perspective.

  Equality is an idea that encompasses the rationale of law and mathematics. This term, although seemingly variable in different subjects, can be defined as the understanding of one subject versus another. Equality, from a Leibniz definition, is defined by the notion that two values are equal when one can be substituted by the other with- in the same function or expression, “context,” without the “context” changing.

  Co-founder of calculus Gottfried Leibniz was actually, first and foremost, a philosopher. Thus, his ideas about mathematics found relevance in the established ideals of the legal system. Leibniz, making a realization about the intertwined nature of law and mathematics, switched the functional idea of “context” to the legal notion of “context:” “there is legal equality between two individuals if one individual, being defendant in a legal process with respect to a crime committed under some circumstance, can be substituted by the other, also a defendant who committed the same crime under the same circumstance, without any change in the legal process.”

  The laws of functions directly relates to Lex Talionis’s “eye for an eye” notion in humanities and religious studies. From mathematics, we can define legal equality in terms of proportionality – proportional justice, how each actionable input correlates with a karmic output. Thus, we couldn’t define one study without the other.

  Mathematics surrounds the science of calculation, and English surrounds the science of definition and interpretation. Why is plotting a polar curve so dissimilar to plotting a sentence diagram? There are different planes and axes, such as different sentence structures and varieties. All we are doing, with both, is trying to map out the complexities of our universe in a palpable physical plot.

  “You love art – you’d hate the structured, dull nature of mathematics.” Once you advance into higher level maths, it is no longer black and white. Oh, you like that function overthere? What will happen when it reaches infinity, clearly an ungraspable axial point? What is the area under the curve? Yes, the artistic students would enjoy graphing – get excited for the cardioids and fractals, but they will also realize that calculus is the whole array of colors on the color wheel. Sometimes it’s blurry – the purpose of math is to make it become black and white. Same goes for art – the process isn’t absolute. However, mathematics describes art more than within its geometry. With the study of math, you can transcend visual forms, create patterns in algorithms or sequences. For instance, the Fibonacci sequence – found not only in math but all over art and nature. Van Gogh’s spirals? Fibonacci sequences.

  Nature and art emulate math, or maybe math emulates our natural and artistic world. Either way, you can’t have one without the other.