Bowin begins with an apparent paradox about Aristotelian infinity: Aristotle clearly says that infinity exists only potentially and not actually. However, Aristotle appears to say two different things about the nature of that potential existence. On the one hand, he seems to say that the potentiality is like that of a process that might occur but isn't right now. Aristotle uses the Olympics as an example: they might be occurring, but they aren't just now. On the other hand, (...) Aristotle says that infinity "exists in actuality as a process that is now occurring" (234). Bowin makes clear that Aristotle doesn't explicitly solve this problem, so we are left to work out the best reading we can. His proposed solution is that "infinity must be...a per se accident...of number and magnitude" (250). (shrink)
Two fundamental categories of any ontology are the category of objects and the category of universals. We discuss the question whether either of these categories can be infinite or not. In the category of objects, the subcategory of physical objects is examined within the context of different cosmological theories regarding the different kinds of fundamental objects in the universe. Abstract objects are discussed in terms of sets and the intensional objects of conceptual realism. The category of universals is discussed in (...) terms of the three major theories of universals: nominalism, realism, and conceptualism. The finitude of mind pertains only to conceptualism. We consider the question of whether or not this finitude precludes impredicative concept formation. An explication of potential infinity, especially as applied to concepts and expressions, is given. We also briefly discuss a logic of plural objects, or groups of single objects (individuals), which is based on Bertrand Russell’s (1903, The principles of mathematics, 2nd edn. (1938). Norton & Co, NY) notion of a class as many. The universal class as many does not exist in this logic if there are two or more single objects; but the issue is undecided if there is just one individual. We note that adding plural objects (groups) to an ontology with a countable infinity of individuals (single objects) does not generate an uncountable infinity of classes as many. (shrink)
We suggest a new approach for addressing the problem of establishing an axiomatic foundation for large cardinals. An axiom asserting the existence of a large cardinal can naturally be viewed as a strong Axiom of Infinity. However, it has not been clear on the basis of our knowledge of ω itself, or of generally agreed upon intuitions about the true nature of the mathematical universe, what the right strengthening of the Axiom of Infinity is—which large cardinals ought to (...) be derivable? It was shown in the 1960s by Lawvere that the existence of an infinite set is equivalent to the existence of a certain kind of structure-preserving transformation from V to itself, not isomorphic to the identity. We use Lawvere's transformation, rather than ω, as a starting point for a reasonably natural sequence of strengthenings and refinements, leading to a proposed strong Axiom of Infinity. A first refinement was discussed in later work by Trnková—Blass, showing that if the preservation properties of Lawvere's tranformation are strengthened to the point of requiring it to be an exact functor , such a transformation is provably equivalent to the existence of a measurable cardinal. We propose to push the preservation properties as far as possible, short of inconsistency. The resulting transformation V→V is strong enough to account for virtually all large cardinals, but is at the same time a natural generalization of an assertion about transformations V→V known to be equivalent to the Axiom of Infinity. (shrink)
This paper defends the Quine-Putnam mathematical indispensability argument against two objections raised by Penelope Maddy. The objections concern scientific practices regarding the development of the atomic theory and the role of applied mathematics in the continuum and infinity. I present two alternative accounts by Stephen Brush and Alan Chalmers on the atomic theory. I argue that these two theories are consistent with Quine’s theory of scientific confirmation. I advance some novel versions of the indispensability argument. I argue that these (...) new versions accommodate Maddy’s history of the atomic theory. Counter-examples are provided regarding the role of the mathematical continuum and mathematical infinity in science. (shrink)
Against any obscurantist stand, denying the interest of natural sciences for the comprehension of human meaning and language, but also against any reductionist hypothesis, frustrating the specificity of the semiotic point of view on nature, the paper argues that the deepest dynamic at the basis of meaning consists in its being a mechanism of ‘potentiality navigation’ within a universe generally characterized by motility. On the one hand, such a hypothesis widens the sphere of meaning to all beings somehow endowed with (...) the capacity of moving and/or perceiving movement. On the other hand, through a new evolutionist interpretation of the concept of generativity, such a hypothesis preserves the peculiarity of human meaning, meant as essentially founded on a certain intuition of infinity. Two corollaries stem from this hypothesis: first, religiosity can be considered as a matrix of grammars of infinity, aiming at regimenting its flight of potentialities. Second, non-genetic transmission of cultural information exerts determinant influence also at the level of that very deep mechanism of the human predicament that is the cognitive navigation of motor potentialities. A re-reading of the structuralist epistemology, scientific literature on the nervous cells of jellyfish, and some recent experiments on the mirror neurons of dancers, as well as certain intuitions of Teilhard de Chardin, are the main arguments of the paper. (shrink)
Does mathematical practice require the existence of actual infinities, or are potential infinities enough? Contrasting points of view are examined in depth, concentrating on Aristotle’s arguments against actual infinities, Cantor’s attempts to refute Aristotle, and concluding with Zermelo’s assertion of the primacy of potential infinity in mathematics.
We describe a variety of sets internal to models of intuitionistic set theory that (1) manifest some of the crucial behaviors of potentially infinite sets as described in the foundational literature going back to Aristotle, and (2) provide models for systems of predicative arithmetic. We close with a brief discussion of Church’s Thesis for predicative arithmetic.
It is shown that the following three common understandings of Newton’s laws of motion do not hold for systems of infinitely many components. First, Newton’s third law, or the law of action and reaction, is universally believed to imply that the total sum of internal forces in a system is always zero. Several examples are presented to show that this belief fails to hold for infinite systems. Second, two of these examples are of an infinitely divisible continuous body with finite (...) mass and volume such that the sum of all the internal forces in the body is not zero and the body accelerates due to this non-null net internal force. So the two examples also demonstrate the breakdown of the common understanding that according to Newton’s laws a body under no external force does not accelerate. Finally, these examples also make it clear that the expression ‘impressed force’ in Newton’s formulations of his first and second laws should be understood not as ‘external force’ but as ‘exerted force’ which is the sum of all the internal and external forces acting on a given body, if the body is infinitely divisible. (shrink)
In article <email@example.com> firstname.lastname@example.org writes: Reminds me of a friend of mine who claims that the number 17 is "the most random" number. His proof ran as follows: pick a number. It's not really as good a random number as 17, is it? (Invariable Answer: "Umm, well, no...") This reminds me of a little experiment I did a couple of years ago. I stood on a busy street corner in Oxford, and asked passers by to "name a random number between (...) zero and infinity." I was wondering what this "random" distribution would look like. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is not only to deal with the concept of infinity, but also to develop some considerations about the epistemological status of cosmology. These problems are connected because from an epistemological point of view, cosmology, meant as the study of the universe as a whole, is not merely a physical (or empirical) science. On the contrary it has an unavoidable metaphysical character which can be found in questions like “why is there this universe (or a (...) universe at all)?”. As a consequence, questions concerning the infinity of the universe in space and time can correctly arise only taking into account this metaphysical character of cosmology. Accordingly, in the following paper it will be shown that two different concepts of physical infinity of the universe (the relativistic one and the inflationary one) rely on two different ways of solution of a metaphysical problem. The difference between these concepts cannot be analysed using the classical distinctions between actual/potential infinity or numerable/continuum infinity, but the introduction of a new “modal” distinction will be necessary. Finally, it will be illustrated the role of a philosophical concept of infinity of the universe. (shrink)
Cosmological arguments attempt to prove the existence of God by appeal to the necessity of a first cause. Schematically, a cosmological argument will thus appear as: (1) All contingent beings have a cause of existence. (2) There can be no infinite causal chains. (3) Therefore, there must be some non-contingent First Cause. Cosmological arguments come in two species, depending on their justification of the second premiss. Non-temporal cosmological arguments, such as those of Aristotle and Aquinas, view causation as requiring explanatory (...) or conceptual priority, and thus insist that there can be no infinite regresses in such priority. Temporal cosmological arguments, also called kalam cosmological arguments due to their historical roots in Islamic kalam philosophers such as Abu Yusuf Ya'qub b. Ishaq al-Kindi and Abu Ali al-Hussain ibn Sina, view causation as requiring temporal priority, and thus insist that there can be no infinite temporal regresses.1 The kalam cosmological argument thus requires some supporting argument showing the incoherence of an infinite temporal regress of causally related events. William Lane Craig, in "The Finitude of the Past and the Existence of God"2, attempts to provide such an argument: (4) An actual infinite cannot exist. (5) An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite. (6) Therefore an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist. (9) I will not be concerned here with the general status of cosmological arguments, kalam or otherwise, or with contesting Craig's assumption that an infinite past would (unlike an infinite future) constitute a problematic actual infinity. I am rather concerned with Craig's general working principle, embodied in (4) above, that actual infinities are impossible. Craig, of course, is not alone in denying the possibility of the actually infinite. Resistance to such infinities is at least as old as Aristotle (Physics 3.5.204b1 – 206a8), and, as Craig rightly points out, persists through much of modern (i.e., post-scholastic, pre-twentieth-century) philosophy.. (shrink)
Exploring philosophical questions about infinity, Graham Oppy examines how the infinite lurks everywhere, both in science and in our ordinary thoughts about the world. He also analyzes the many puzzles and paradoxes that follow in the train of the infinite, addressing such simple notions as counting, adding, and maximizing present serious difficulties. Other topics examined include the nature of space and time, infinities in physical science, infinities in theories of probability and decision, the nature of part/whole relations, mathematical theories (...) of the infinite, and infinite regression and principles of sufficient reason. (shrink)
This article discusses the history of the concepts of potential infinity and actual infinity in the context of Christian theology, mathematical thinking and metaphysical reasoning. It shows that the structure of Ancient Greek rationality could not go beyond the concept of potential infinity, which is highlighted in Aristotle's metaphysics. The limitations of the metaphysical mind of ancient Greece were overcome through Christian theology and its concept of the infinite God, as formulated in Gregory of Nyssa's theology. That (...) is how the concept of actual infinity emerged. However, Gregory of Nyssa's understanding of human rationality went still further. He said that access to the infinity of God was to be found only in an asymptotic ascension, as expressed in apophatic theology, and this view endangered the rationality of theology. Deeply influenced by the apophatic tradition, Nicholas of Cusa avoided this danger by showing that infinity could be accessed by symbolic representation and asymptotic mathematical reasoning. Thus, he made an immense contribution in making infinity rationally accessible. This endeavor was finally realized by Georg Cantor. This rational accessibility revealed discernible structures of infinity, such as the continuum hypothesis, and the cardinal numbers. However, the probable logical inconsistency of Georg Cantor's all-encompassing Absolute Infinity points to an intuitive understanding of infinity that goes beyond its rational structures – as in apophatic theology. (shrink)
Celebrated as a courtesan and poet, and as a woman of great intelligence and wit, Tullia d'Aragona (1510–56) entered the debate about the morality of love that engaged the best and most famous male intellects of sixteenth-century Italy. First published in Venice in 1547, but never before published in English, Dialogue on the Infinity of Love casts a woman rather than a man as the main disputant on the ethics of love. Sexually liberated and financially independent, Tullia d'Aragona dared (...) to argue that the only moral form of love between woman and man is one that recognizes both the sensual and the spiritual needs of humankind. Declaring sexual drives to be fundamentally irrepressible and blameless, she challenged the Platonic and religious orthodoxy of her time, which condemned all forms of sensual experience, denied the rationality of women, and relegated femininity to the realm of physicality and sin. Human beings, she argued, consist of body and soul, sense and intellect, and honorable love must be based on this real nature. By exposing the intrinsic misogyny of prevailing theories of love, Aragona vindicates all women, proposing a morality of love that restores them to intellectual and sexual parity with men. Through Aragona's sharp reasoning, her sense of irony and humor, and her renowned linguistic skill, a rare picture unfolds of an intelligent and thoughtful woman fighting sixteenth-century stereotypes of women and sexuality. (shrink)
Simple-type theory is widely regarded as inadequate to capture the metaphysics of mathematics. The problem, however, is not that some kinds of structure cannot be studied within simple-type theory. Even structures that violate simple-types are isomorphic to structures that can be studied in simple-type theory. In disputes over the logicist foundations of mathematics, the central issue concerns the problem that simple-type theory fails to assure an infinity of natural numbers as objects . This paper argues that the problem of (...)infinity is based on a metaphysical prejudice in favor of numbers as objects — a prejudice that mathematics can get along without. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: Introduction Rudy Rucker; Part I. Perspectives on Infinity from History: 1. Infinity as a transformative concept in science and theology Wolfgang Achtner; Part II. Perspectives on Infinity from Mathematics: 2. The mathematical infinity Enrico Bombieri; 3. Warning signs of a possible collapse of contemporary mathematics Edward Nelson; Part III. Technical Perspectives on Infinity from Advanced Mathematics: 4. The realm of the infinite W. Hugh Woodin; 5. A potential subtlety concerning the distinction (...) between determinism and nondeterminism W. Hugh Woodin; 6. Concept calculus: much better than Harvey M. Friedman; Part IV. Perspectives on Infinity from Physics and Cosmology: 7. Some considerations on infinity in physics Carlo Rovelli; 8. Cosmological intimations of infinity Anthony Aguirre; 9. Infinity and the nostalgia of the stars Marco Bersanelli; 10. Infinities in cosmology Michael Heller; Part V. Perspectives on Infinity from Philosophy and Theology: 11. God and infinity: directions for future research Graham Oppy; 12. Notes on the concept of the infinite in the history of Western metaphysics David Bentley Hart; 13. God and infinity: theological insights from Cantor's mathematics Robert J. Russell; 14. A partially skeptical response to Hart and Russell Denys A. Turner. (shrink)
Kant says patently conflicting things about infinity and our grasp of it. Infinite space is a good case in point. In his solution to the First Antinomy, he denies that we can grasp the spatial universe as infinite, and therefore that this universe can be infinite; while in the Aesthetic he says just the opposite: ‘Space is represented as a given infinite magnitude’ (A25/B39). And he rests these upon consistently opposite grounds. In the Antinomy we are told that we (...) can have no intuitive grasp of an infinite space, and in the Aesthetic he says that our grasp of infinite space is precisely intuitive. (shrink)
The article presents Leibniz's preoccupation (in 1675?6) with the difference between the notion of infinite number, which he regards as impossible, and that of the infinite being, which he regards as possible. I call this issue ?Leibniz's Problem? and examine Spinoza's solution to a similar problem that arises in the context of his philosophy. ?Spinoza's solution? is expounded in his letter on the infinite (Ep.12), which Leibniz read and annotated in April 1676. The gist of Spinoza's solution is to distinguish (...) between three kinds of infinity and, in particular, between one that applies to substance, and one that applies to numbers, seen as auxiliaries of the imagination. The rest of the paper examines the extent to which Spinoza's solution solves Leibniz's problem. The main thesis I advance is that, when Spinoza and Leibniz say that the divine substance is infinite, in most contexts it is to be understood in non-numerical and non-quantitative terms. Instead, for Spinoza and Leibniz, a substance is said to be infinite in a qualitative sense stressing that it is complete, perfect and indivisible. I argue that this approach solves one strand of Leibniz's problem and leaves another unsolved. (shrink)
It is controversial whether Wittgenstein's philosophy of mathematics is of critical importance for mathematical proofs, or is only concerned with the adequate philosophical interpretation of mathematics. Wittgenstein's remarks on the infinity of prime numbers provide a helpful example which will be used to clarify this question. His antiplatonistic view of mathematics contradicts the widespread understanding of proofs as logical derivations from a set of axioms or assumptions. Wittgenstein's critique of traditional proofs of the infinity of prime numbers, specifically (...) those of Euler and Euclid, not only offers philosophical insight but also suggests substantive improvements. A careful examination of his comments leads to a deeper understanding of what proves the infinity of primes. (shrink)
In this article I concentrate on three issues. First, Graham Oppy’s treatment of the relationship between the concept of infinity and Zeno’s paradoxes lay bare several porblems that must be dealt with if the concept of infinity is to do any intellectual work in philosophy of religion. Here I will expand on some insightful remarks by Oppy in an effort ot adequately respond to these problems. Second, I will do the same regarding Oppy’s treatment of Kant’s first antinomy (...) in the first critique, which deals in part with the question of whether the world had a beginning in time or if time extends infinitely into the past. And third, my examination of these two issues will inform what I have to say regarding a key topic in philosophy of religion: the question regarding the proper relationship between the infinite and the finite in the concept of God. (shrink)
There are two seemingly opposed descriptions of the subject in Totality and Infinity : the separate and autonomous I and the self that is ready to respond to the Other’s suffering and need. This paper points out that there is in fact another way Levinas speaks of the subject, which reinforces and reconciles the other two accounts. Throughout his first major work, Levinas explains how the ego is allowed to emerge as such by the Other who constantly confronts it. (...) At certain points in that work Levinas comes to describe the self as a creature given to itself by another. The notion of the created ego allows for both freedom and responsibility as Levinas understands the creature as capable of thinking critically, becoming an independent individual, and turning to the Other in responsibility. (shrink)
The issue of infinity appeared in cosmology in the form of a question on spatial and time finiteness or infinity of the universe. Recently, more and more talking is going on about “other universes” (different ones from “our”), the number of which may be infinite. Speculations on this topic emerged in effect of the discussions on the issue of the anthropic principle, and the so-called inflation scenario. In truth, this kind of speculations are hardly recognized as scientific theories, (...) however, they may be included in a sort of “scientific fringe” fulfilling a beneficial heuristic function.All of the speculations regarding numerous universes boil down to the juggling of probabilities, i.e. to the applying of the theory of probability to the universes’ set. However, without probabilistic measure being introduced onto this “set” (as it is not known whether it is a set in a technical sense of this term)—and there is no knowledge at all as to how to do this—such considerations may not go beyond a vague intuition.The producing of other universes usually results from an assumption that the disturbing of original circumstances, of values of physical constants, or of other parameters characterizing the universe is possible. On the other hand, the idea of the final theory seems to assume that the mathematical structure of this theory should be rigid, i.e. that the disturbing of its parameters leads on to the very same structure. This would have eliminated the possibility of the existence of other universes.The idea of infinite number of universes sometimes has an anti-theological undertone: there is no need for assuming purposeful acting of the Creator, since all possibilities are fulfilled. The reaction of a theologian may be as follows: Just the same, God may create just a single universe, as much as an infinite number of universes. What’s more, one may risk saying that God is not interested in nothing that may be short of infinity. (shrink)
In this paper a simple model in particle dynamics of a well-known supertask is constructed (the supertask was introduced by Max Black some years ago). As a consequence, a new and simple result about creation ex nihilo of particles can be proved compatible with classical dynamics. This result cannot be avoided by imposing boundary conditions at spatial infinity, and therefore is really new in the literature. It follows that there is no reason why even a world of rigid spheres (...) should be eternal, as has been erroneously assumed, especially since the time of Newton. (shrink)
Eli Maor examines the role of infinity in mathematics and geometry and its cultural impact on the arts and sciences. He evokes the profound intellectual impact the infinite has exercised on the human mind--from the "horror infiniti" of the Greeks to the works of M. C. Escher from the ornamental designs of the Moslems, to the sage Giordano Bruno, whose belief in an infinite universe led to his death at the hands of the Inquisition. But above all, the book (...) describes the mathematician's fascination with infinity--a fascination mingled with puzzlement. "Maor explores the idea of infinity in mathematics and in art and argues that this is the point of contact between the two, best exemplified by the work of the Dutch artist M. C. Escher, six of whose works are shown here in beautiful color plates."--Los Angeles Times "[Eli Maor's] enthusiasm for the topic carries the reader through a rich panorama."--Choice "Fascinating and enjoyable.... places the ideas of infinity in a cultural context and shows how they have been espoused and molded by mathematics."--Science. (shrink)
Mathematics is obviously important in the sciences. And so it is likely to be equally important in any effort that aims to understand God in a scientifically significant way or that aims to clarify the relations between science and theology. The degree to which God has any perfection is absolutely infinite. We use contemporary mathematics to precisely define that absolute infinity. For any perfection, we use transfinite recursion to define an endlessly ascending series of degrees of that perfection. That (...) series rises to an absolutely infinite degree of that perfection. God has that absolutely infinite degree. We focus on the perfections of knowledge, power, and benevolence. Our model of divine infinity thus builds a bridge between mathematics and theology. (shrink)
Problem: There is currently a great deal of mysticism, uncritical hype, and blind adulation of imaginary mathematical and physical entities in popular culture. We seek to explore what a radical constructivist perspective on mathematical entities might entail, and to draw out the implications of this perspective for how we think about the nature of mathematical entities. Method: Conceptual analysis. Results: If we want to avoid the introduction of entities that are ill-defined and inaccessible to verification, then formal systems need to (...) avoid introduction of potential and actual infinities. If decidability and consistency are desired, keep formal systems finite. Infinity is a useful heuristic concept, but has no place in proof theory. Implications: We attempt to debunk many of the mysticisms and uncritical adulations of Gödelian arguments and to ground mathematical foundations in intersubjectively verifiable operations of limited observers. We hope that these insights will be useful to anyone trying to make sense of claims about the nature of formal systems. If we return to the notion of formal systems as concrete, finite systems, then we can be clear about the nature of computations that can be physically realized. In practical terms, the answer is not to proscribe notions of the infinite, but to recognize that these concepts have a different status with respect to their verifiability. We need to demarcate clearly the realm of free creation and imagination, where platonic entities are useful heuristic devices, and the realm of verification, testing, and proof, where infinities introduce ill-defined entities that create ambiguities and undecidable, ill-posed sets of propositions. Constructivist content: The paper attempts to extend the scope of radical constructivist perspective to mathematical systems, and to discuss the relationships between radical constructivism and other allied, yet distinct perspectives in the debate over the foundations of mathematics, such as psychological constructivism and mathematical constructivism. (shrink)
Puzzles can arise in ethical theory (as well as decision theory) when infinity is involved. The puzzles arise primarily in theories—such as consequentialist theories—that appeal to the value of actions or states of affairs. Section 1 addresses the question of whether one source of value (such as major aesthetic pleasures) can be infinitely more valuable than another (such as minor gustatory pleasures). An affirmative answer is given by appealing to the notion of lexicographic priority. Section 2 address the question (...) of what morality requires when there are an infinite number of feasible options and no option is maximally valuable? In such cases, it is suggested, morality can demand no more than that we “almost maximize” or (more weakly) that we “satisfice”. Section 3 addresses a puzzle that can arise when time is infinitely long. Is a state of affairs with two units of value at each time more valuable than a state of affairs with one unit at each time (even though both produce infinite amounts of value)? A plausible principle is introduced that answers affirmatively, but it faces certain problems. Section 4 addresses a puzzle that can arise when time is finite but infinitely divisible. (shrink)
Alternative oppositions to “infinity” and “totality” are suggested, examined and shown to be inadequate by comparison to the sense of the opposition contained in title Totality and Infinity chosen by Levinas. Special attention is given to this opposition and the priority given to ethics in relation Kant’s distinction between understanding and reason and the priority given by Kant to ethics. The book’s title is further illuminated by means of its first sentence, and the first sentence is illuminated by (...) means of the book’s title. Special attention is given to explicating the nature and significance of the hitherto unnoticed “informal” fallacy contained in the first sentence. (shrink)
Logarithmic ambiguities in the choice of asymptotically Cartesian coordinates at spatial infinity are discussed. It is shown that they do not affect the definitions of energy-momentum and angular momentum at i°. Thus, from a physical viewpoint, the ambiguities are “pure gauge.” A prescription is given for fixed this gauge freedom for the class of space-times in which the leading-order part of the Weyl tensor satisfies a certain reflection symmetry. This class admits, in all (relatively boosted) rest frames at (...) class='Hi'>infinity, a one-parameter family of asymptotically distinct 3-surfaces (generalized 3-planes) on which the trace of the extrinsic curvature falls off faster than usual. (shrink)
The article traces the links between theism and the concept of infinity in modern philosophy. Descartes appealed to "infinite perfection" as intuitive and immediately knowable, basing his theism upon it. Leibniz's quantitative understanding of infinity, as in the infinitesimals, made the break between finite and infinite less central without erasing it. Both are challenged by the infinite set theory of Georg Cantor, which finally provides a mechanism for speaking of greater and lesser infinite quantities--and yet he still posits (...) an "absolute infinite," beyond all sets! I show how infinity remains central to philosophical theology even apart from theistic proofs. (shrink)
This paper treats the formulation of the gravitational field variables and the equations obeyed by them at spatial infinity. The variables consist of a three-dimensional tensor and a scalar, which satisfy separate field equations, which in turn can be obtained from two distinct Lagrangians. Aside from Lorentz rotations, the symmetry operations include an Abelian gauge group and an Abelian Lie group, leading to a number of conservation laws and to differential identities between the field equations.
The reach of explanations -- Closer to reality -- The spark -- Creation -- The reality of abstractions -- The jump to universality -- Artificial creativity -- A window on infinity -- Optimism -- A dream of Socrates -- The multiverse -- A physicist's history of bad philosophy -- Choices -- Why are flowers beautiful? -- The evolution of culture -- The evolution of creativity -- Unsustainable -- The beginning.
In preparation for the treatment of the gravitational field at spatial infinity, this paper deals with the electromagnetic field at spatial infinity. The field equations on this three-dimensional(1+2) manifold can be obtained from an action principle, which in turn lends itself to a Hamiltonian formulation. Quantization is formally straightforward, but some thought is given to the physical interpretation of the results.
Although Levinas does not specifically articulate an environmental ethic, he certainly has a concept of nature working within his philosophy, a portrait of which can be drawn from the various texts that describe in detail what he believes to be the human, primordial relationship to the elemental. The following essay is an attempt to articulate how Levinas comes to define that relationship, and to imagine what kind of environmental ethic is implied by it. We will see that an important, dichotomous (...) distinction is made between two types of infinity, the “bad infinity” of the sacred and the “good infinity” of the holy. This distinction corresponds to the separated subject’srelationship to the natural world and to the human world. For Levinas, this distinction addresses not only the rationalist vs. empiricist question concerning the relationship between consciousness and the body, a guiding question for modern philosophy from Descartesthrough Husserl, but also the question concerning technology, especially as it is posed by Heidegger and other twentieth century continental philosophers. These two related questions can help guide us to an understanding of how Levinas imagines environmentalimperatives toward both the body’s exclusive relationship to nature, and to the interpersonal relationships between the self and other human beings. We will begin this analysis with Husserl’s answer to the question of consciousness. (shrink)
Subject and the realisation of ethical responsibility – The Idea of the In finite in Levinas' Totality and Infinity. In Totality and Infinity Emmanuel Levinas writes about the categorical character of the ethical responsibility that the subject owes to the other. The confrontation with the suffering other puts the subject's natural self-interest into question, and brings him/her to realise an ethical responsibility of which s/he cannot unburden himself/herself. The question arises as to what in the constitution of the (...) subject makes him/her susceptible to the realisation of ethical responsibility. This article illustrates that in order to accentuate ethical responsibility as strongly as he does, Levinas needs to take a quasi- metaphysical step. The “trace of the infinite” that “creation” has left on the finite subject, predisposes the subject to the appeal of the other. Levinas' use of words such as “God”, “the Good”, “creation” and “the Idea of Infinity” does not have a theological or a mystical underpinning. These metaphysical concepts are philosophical figures of speech that Levinas borrows from Plato and Descartes. S. Afr. J. Philos. Vol.19(2) 2000: 133-150. (shrink)
Totality and Infinity , the title of a well-known work by Emmanuel Levinas, takes up a word which readers of Poetic Intention and of many other texts of Édouard Glissant’s will easily recognize: a term sometimes used in a sense that is clearly positive, sometimes in a sense that is not quite as positive, such as when, for instance, he compares “totalizing Reason” to the “Montaigne’s tolerant relativism.” In his final collection of essays, Traité du tout-monde, Poétique IV , (...) Glissant attempts one more time to clarify the sense in which the reader will have to understand his use of the word “totality,” thinking, and rightfully so, that this word might lead to some confusion: “To write is to say the world. The world as totality, which is so dangerously close to the totalitarian.” Of course, here, it will be necessary to try to ascertain whether or not Levinas’s totality and Glissant’s can peacefully coexist, or, rather, whether this word might, in Glissant, have opposite meanings. Where the second word is concerned, “infinity,” any reader of Glissant will know that he locates its source in those societies he calls atavistic, which are grounded in foundational texts that are the bearers of stories of filiation, of legitimacy, societies whose arrogance and whose errors the author never ceases to decry and whose decomposition, in the very times in which we live, he never ceases to announce (even as Glissant recognizes that there was a time when atavistic cultures undoubtedly must have experienced their own period of creolization, and that, conversely, composite cultures undoubtedly often tend to become atavistic). On this level, “totality” and “infinity,” for him, seem to belong to the same world. Thus, and still in Traité du tout-monde , he proposes that "Hebraism, Christianity, Islam are grounded in the same spirituality of the One and to the same belief in a revealed Truth… The thought of the One that has done so much to magnify, as well as to denature. How can one consent to this thought, which transfigures while neither offending nor de-routing the Diverse?" Moreover, it would be interesting, I think, to know how Levinas might react to these words of Glissant’s: “Totality is not that which has often been called the universal. It is the finite and realized quantity of the infinite detail of the real.” This word, “infinite,” is decidedly dangerous: what is an “infinite detail?” Does this word, “infinite,” not always lead to the unknown, to the non-totalizable, to what Levinas would call an “enigma,” to what Glissant would call an “opacity?&rdquo. (shrink)
In 1964 José Benardete invented the “New Zeno Paradox” about an infinity of gods trying to prevent a traveller from reaching his destination. In this paper it is argued, contra Priest and Yablo, that the paradox must be resolved by rejecting the possibility of actual infinity. Further, it is shown that this paradox has the same logical form as Yablo’s Paradox. It is suggested that constructivism can serve as the basis of a common solution to New Zeno and (...) the paradoxes of truth, and a constructivist interpretation of Kripke’s theory of truth is given. (shrink)
It amazes children, as they try to count themselves out of numbers, only to discover one day that the hundreds, thousands, and zillions go on forever—to something like infinity. And anyone who has advanced beyond the bounds of basic mathematics has soon marveled at that drunken number eight lying on its side in the pages of their work. Infinity fascinates; it takes the mind beyond its everyday concerns—indeed, beyond everything—to something always more. Infinity makes even the (...) infinite universe seem small; yet it can also be infinitesimal. Infinity thrives on paradox, and it turns the simplest arithmetic on its head, with 1 seeming feasibly to equal 0, after all. Infinity defies common sense. The contemplation of it has relieved at least two great mathematicians of their sanity. Thoroughly readable and entirely accessible, science writer Brian Clegg's lively history explores infinity in its many intriguing facets, from its ancient origins to its place today at the heart of mathematics and science. He examines infinity's paradoxes and profiles the people who first grappled with and then defined and refined them, offering information, mystery, and poetry to conceive the inconceivable and define the indefinable. (shrink)