Infinitesimals and the continuum

The opposed concepts of continuity and discreteness have figured prominently in the development of mathematics, and have also commanded the attention of philosophers. Continuous entities may be characterized by the fact that they can be divided indefinitely without altering their essential nature. So, for instance, the water in a bucket may be indefinitely halved and yet remain water. (For the purposes of illustration I ignore the atomic nature of matter which has been established by modern physics.) Discrete entities, on the other hand, typically cannot be divided without effecting a change in their nature: half a wheel is plainly no longer a wheel. Thus we have two contrasting properties: on the one hand, the property of being indivisible, separate or discrete, and, on the other, the property of being indefinitely divisible and continuous although not actually divided into parts.
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