Number by color

Via Johnnie Moore here is a lovely story on a mathematical savant who computes in color.

Like Johnnie, the philosophical question grabs me. Namely: whence knowing?

Of late I've been reading some of cognitive psychologist Alison Gopnik's material describing the role of causality in learning. From her work with children she believes that we learn by mapping causal relationships, not by categorizing similarities. As she describes in this paper, it's causality that permits us to distinguish between a snake and water hose. Both may appear similar, but only one may bite. The other will not. 

I thought of that when reading how numbers affect Daniel Tammet. Then there is this touching conclusion to the Guardian story:

'I do love numbers,' he says. 'It isn't only an intellectual or aloof thing that I do. I really feel that there is an emotional attachment, a caring for numbers. I think this is a human thing - in the same way that a poet humanises a river or a tree through metaphor, my world gives me a sense of numbers as personal. It sounds silly, but numbers are my friends.'

And GK Chesterton? Savant?

Thanks Johnnie for the link.