Hermann Weyl: Mathematician-philosopher

MATHEMATICS AND PHILOSOPHY ARE CLOSELY LINKED, and several great mathematicians who were at the same time great philosophers come to mind— Pythagoras, Descartes and Leibniz, for instance. One great mathematician of the modern era in whose thinking philosophy played a major role was Hermann Weyl (1885–1955), whose work encompassed analysis, number theory, topology, differential geometry, relativity theory, quantum mechanics, and mathematical logic. His many writings are informed by a vast erudition, an acute philosophical awareness, and even, on occasion, a certain playfulness. No matter what the subject may be—mathematics, physics, philosophy—Weyl’s writing fascinates both by the depth of insight it reveals and by its startling departures from academic convention. Who else would have the daring to liken (as he does in the discussion of Space and Time in his Philosophy of Mathematics and Natural Science), a coordinate system to “the residue of the annihilation of the ego”1? Or then (somewhat further on in the same discussion) to express the belief in the impossibility of a completely objective account of individual consciousness by the assertion “...it is shattered by Judas’ desperate outcry, ‘Why did I have to be Judas?’”2.
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