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An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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Yet the world around us in its more fundamental structural aspects is not additive; and for adjustment we must find means of passing from additive tendencies and formulations to non-additive tendencies and formulations. Modern mathematics has developed these methods, and modern physics is beginning to apply them. Let us repeat: the importance of linear functions implies the importance of 'straight' lines. They are important on two counts: first, because they are simpler than all other curves, so that naturally we want to study them before we study other curves, such as, for instance, circles or the other conic sections in elementary geometry; and secondly, because all curves can be approximated by straight lines. This point is very important, as approximation is the most powerful method we have of handling complicated situations.
There are two methods of approximating a curve in the vicinity of a point. If we are interested in the immediate vicinity of a point we approximate the curve by its tangent, as the tangent approximates the curve in the vicinity of a point better than any other straight line. If we want to decrease the error which we make in this approximation, we have only to decrease the vicinity in which we consider it. If we do not want to restrict ourselves to a small