Though Spinoza's definition of God at the beginning of the Ethics unequivocally asserts that God has infinitely many attributes, the reader of the Ethics will find only two of these attributes discussed in any detail in Parts Two through Five of the book. Addressing this intriguing gap between the infinity of attributes asserted in E1d6 and the discussion merely of the two attributes of Extension and Thought in the rest of the book, Jonathan Bennett writes: Spinoza seems to imply (...) that there are other [attributes] – he says indeed that God or Nature has “infinite attributes.” Surprising as it may seem, there are reasons to think that by this Spinoza did not mean anything entailing that there are more than two attributes. In this paper I will argue that Bennett’s claim is fundamentally wrong and deeply misleading. I do think, however, that addressing Bennett’s challenge will help us better understand Spinoza’s notion of infinity. I will begin by summarizing Bennett’s arguments. I will then turn to examine briefly the textual evidence for and against his reading. Then I will respond to each of Bennett’s arguments, and conclude by pointing out theoretical considerations which, I believe, simply refute his reading. (shrink)
This book is an exploration of 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 analyses the many puzzles and paradoxes that follow in the train of the infinite. Even simple notions, such as counting, adding and maximising 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)
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)
The notion of potential infinity dominated in mathematical thinking about infinity from Aristotle until Cantor. The coherence and philosophical importance of the notion are defended. Particular attention is paid to the question of whether potential infinity is compatible with classical logic or requires a weaker logic, perhaps intuitionistic.
An analysis of the counter-intuitive properties of infinity as understood differently in mathematics, classical physics and quantum physics allows the consideration of various paradoxes under a new light (e.g. Zeno’s dichotomy, Torricelli’s trumpet, and the weirdness of quantum physics). It provides strong support for the reality of abstractness and mathematical Platonism, and a plausible reason why there is something rather than nothing in the concrete universe. The conclusions are far reaching for science and philosophy.
The seventeenth century was an important period in the conceptual development of the notion of the infinite. In 1643, Evangelista Torricelli (1608-1647)—Galileo’s successor in the chair of mathematics in Florence—communicated his proof of a solid of infinite length but finite volume. Many of the leading metaphysicians of the time, notably Spinoza and Leibniz, came out in defense of actual infinity, rejecting the Aristotelian ban on it, which had been almost universally accepted for two millennia. Though it would be another (...) two centuries before the notion of the actually infinite was rehabilitated in mathematics by Dedekind and Cantor (Cauchy and Weierstrass still considered it mere paradox), their impenitent advocacy of the concept had significant reverberations in both philosophy and mathematics. In this essay, I will attempt to clarify one thread in the development of the notion of the infinite. In the first part, I study Spinoza’s discussion and endorsement, in the Letter on the Infinite (Ep. 12), of Hasdai Crescas’ (c. 1340-1410/11) crucial amendment to a traditional proof of the existence of God (“the cosmological proof” ), in which he insightfully points out that the proof does not require the Aristotelian ban on actual infinity. In the second and last part, I examine the claim, advanced by Crescas and Spinoza, that God has infinitely many attributes, and explore the reasoning that motivated both philosophers to make such a claim. Similarities between Spinoza and Crescas, which suggest the latter’s influence on the former, can be discerned in several other important issues, such as necessitarianism, the view that we are compelled to assert or reject a belief by its representational content, the enigmatic notion of amor Dei intellectualis, and the view of punishment as a natural consequent of sin. Here, I will restrict myself to the issue of the infinite, clearly a substantial topic in itself. (shrink)
In this paper I develop a philosophical account of actual mathematical infinity that does not demand ontologically or epistemologically problematic assumptions. The account is based on a simple metaphor in which we think of indefinitely continuing processes as defining objects. It is shown that such a metaphor is valid in terms of mathematical practice, as well as in line with empirical data on arithmetical cognition.
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)
Catherine Keller's Cloud of the Impossible knits together process theology and relational ontology with quantum mechanics. In quantum physics, she finds a new resource for undoing the architecture of classical metaphysics and its location of autonomous human subjects as the primary gears of ethical agency. Keller swarms theology with the quantum perspective, focusing in particular on the phenomenon of quantum entanglement, by which quantum particles are found to remain influential over each other long after they have been physically separated—what Albert (...) Einstein and his collaborators recklessly dismissed as “spooky action at a distance.” This spooky action, Keller suggests, reroutes process thought—classically concerned with flux—to a new concern with intransigence—particularly the intransigence of the ethical relationship. Attending to the ethical urgency of the Other, she leaves process theology in a position of susceptibility to the moral imperative posed by the marginalized, the victimized, and the oppressed. This essay argues that although the ontological work of Keller's book productively integrates quantum physics into process theology, the ethical dimension of relationality is left cold in the quantum field. This is because, contra the ethical framework of contemporary deconstruction, which, following Emmanuel Levinas, sees ethical relationships as emerging out of a dynamic of infinite distance, moral connection has nothing to do with the remote reaches of the quantum scale or the macro-scale limits of space—nothing to do with “infinity” at all. Ethics emerges out of a much messier landscape—the evolved dynamic of fleshy, finite, material bodies. Rather than seeing ethical labor as a matter of physics, my contention is that interdisciplinary undertakings like Cloud of the Impossible are ethical disciplinary practices, re-acquainting us with the non-sovereignty of the self in order to open up new habits of relating rather than spotlighting ethical imperatives. (shrink)
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). (Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.07.47). (shrink)
In the Reality we know, we cannot say if something is infinite whether we are doing Physics, Biology, Sociology or Economics. This means we have to be careful using this concept. Infinite structures do not exist in the physical world as far as we know. So what do mathematicians mean when they assert the existence of ω? There is no universally accepted philosophy of mathematics but the most common belief is that mathematics touches on another worldly absolute truth. Many mathematicians (...) believe that mathematics involves a special perception of an idealized world of absolute truth. This comes in part from the recognition that our knowledge of the physical world is imperfect and falls short of what we can apprehend with mathematical thinking. The objective of this paper is to present an epistemological rather than an historical vision of the mathematical concept of infinity that examines the dialectic between the actual and potential infinity. (shrink)
In this paper I present a novel supertask in a Newtonian universe that destroys and creates infinite masses and energies, showing thereby that we can have infinite indeterminism. Previous supertasks have managed only to destroy or create finite masses and energies, thereby giving cases of only finite indeterminism. In the Nothing from Infinity paradox we will see an infinitude of finite masses and an infinitude of energy disappear entirely, and do so despite the conservation of energy in all collisions. (...) I then show how this leads to the Infinity from Nothing paradox, in which we have the spontaneous eruption of infinite mass and energy out of nothing. I conclude by showing how our supertask models at least something of an old conundrum, the question of what happens when the immovable object meets the irresistible force. (shrink)
In the section of the Antinomy of pure Reason Kant presents three notions of infinity. By investigating these concepts of infinity, this paper highlights important ‘building blocks’ of the structure of the mathematical antinomies, such as the ability of reason of producing ascending and descending series, as well as the notions of given and givable series. These structural features are discussed in order to clarify Ernst Zermelo’s reading of Kant’s antinomy, according to which the latter is deeply rooted (...) in the tendency of the mind of producing “creative progress” and “inclusive closure”. The aim of this paper is to explain in which sense and why Kant’s treatment of the antinomies attracts the attention of Zermelo in the early 1900s and which aspects of his second axiomatic system have been inspired by Kant’s philosophy. Thus, by reading Kant’s antinomy ‘through Zermelo’s eyes’—with emphasis on the concept of regressive series in indefinitum and on that of regressive series ad infinitum – this paper identifies the echoes of Kant’s work in the making of the ZFC set theory. (shrink)
In this paper we introduce a theory of finite sets FST with a strong negation of the axiom of infinity asserting that every set is provably bijective with a natural number. We study in detail the role of the axioms of Power Set, Choice, Regularity in FST, pointing out the relative dependences or independences among them. FST is shown to be provably equivalent to a fragment of Alternative Set Theory. Furthermore, the introduction of FST is motivated in view of (...) a non-standard development. MSC: 03E30, 03E35. (shrink)
This paper deals with the treatment of infinity and finiteness in mereology. After an overview of some first-order mereological theories, finiteness axioms are introduced along with a mereological definition of “x is finite” in terms of which the axioms themselves are derivable in each of those theories. The finiteness axioms also provide the background for definitions of “ T makes an assumption of infinity”. In addition, extensions of mereological theories by the axioms are investigated for their own sake. (...) In the final part, a definition of “x is finite” stated in a second-order language is also presented, followed by some concluding remarks on the motivation for the study of the extensions of mereological theories dealt with in the paper. (shrink)
Infinity exists as a concept but has no existence in actuality. For infinity to have existence in actuality either time or space have to already be infinite. Unless something is already infinite, the only way to become infinite is by an 'infinity leap' in an infinitely small moment, and this is not possible. Neither does infinitely small have an existence since anything larger than zero is not infinitely small. Therefore infinity has no existence in actuality.
In his 2006 paper `Pantheists in Spite of Themselves: God and Infinity in Contemporary Theology,’ William Lane Craig examines the work of Wolfhart Pannenberg, Philip Clayton, and F. LeRon Shults, whose conceptions of God are influenced by Hegel. Craig shows that these thinkers’ Hegelian formulations lead to monism, despite their attempts to avoid it. He then attempts to refute Hegelian thinking by appealing to Cantor. I argue that that this refutation fails because Cantor and Hegel are far more amicable (...) than Craig realizes, as Small’s and Drozdek’s work shows. (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)
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.
I advance a novel interpretation of Kant's argument that our original representation of space must be intuitive, according to which the intuitive status of spatial representation is secured by its infinitary structure. I defend a conception of intuitive representation as what must be given to the mind in order to be thought at all. Discursive representation, as modelled on the specific division of a highest genus into species, cannot account for infinite complexity. Because we represent space as infinitely complex, the (...) spatial manifold cannot be generated discursively and must therefore be given to the mind, i.e. represented in intuition. (shrink)
We show that the existence of an infinite set can be reduced to the existence of finite sets “as big as we will”, provided that a multivalued extension of the relation of equipotence is admitted. In accordance, we modelize the notion of infinite set by a fuzzy subset representing the class of wide sets.
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)
The medieval distinction between categorematic and syncategorematic words is usually given as the distinction between words which have signification or meaning in isolation from other words and those which have signification only when combined with other words . Some words, however, are classified as both categorematic and syncategorematic. One such word is Latin infinita ‘infinite’. Because infinita can be either categorematic or syncategorematic, it is possible to form sophisms using infinita whose solutions turn on the distinction between categorematic and syncategorematic (...) uses of infinita. As a result, medieval logicians were interested in identifying correct logical rules governing the categorematic and syncategorematic uses of the term. In this paper, we look at 13th–15th-century logical discussions of infinita used syncategorematically and categorematically. We also relate the distinction to other medieval distinctions with which it has often been conflated in modern times, and show how and where these conflations go wrong. (shrink)
In this paper I will examine what Blaise Pascal means by “infinite distance”, both in his works on projective geometry and in the apologetics of the Pensées’s. I suggest that there is a difference of meaning in these two uses of “infinite distance”, and that the Pensées’s use of it also bears relations to the mathematical concept of heterogeneity. I also consider the relation between the finite and the infinite and the acceptance of paradoxical relations by Pascal.
Lévinas is the philosopher of the absolutely Other, the thinker of the primacy of the ethical relation, the poet of the face. Against the formalism of Kantian subjectivity, the totality of the Hegelian system, the monism of Husserlian phenomenology and the instrumentalism of Heideggerian ontology, Lévinas develops a phenomenological account of the ethical relation grounded in the idea of infinity, an idea which is concretely produced in the experience with the absolutely other, particularly, in their face. The face of (...) the other, irreducible to any ontological structure of being or any epistemological intentionality of representation, reaches out from on high across the abyss of the isolated ego, commanding respect all the while granting the possibility of murder. This experience overflows the subjective capacity of the separated ego, forcing it “beyond being.” This anarchic relation with the Other is the groundless condition of possibility for ethical life, that is, truly human life. The structure of the ethical relation can then be determined in hindsight as the ground of meaning for what it is to be an I at all. -/- This is a pretty uncontroversial reading of Lévinas' work, especially Totality and Infinity. And yet, there is one small problem. If this is what Lévinas is doing, then why does the largest section of Totality and Infinity – section II, “Interiority and Economy” – have nothing to do with ethics, the other, or the face at all? Why is it devoted to an arduous analysis of what he calls separation, egoism, economy, enjoyment, labour, and possession? In other words, why does Lévinas spend so much energy on writing about the egoist at the heart of his magnum opus, which is supposedly a text devoted to the Other? And furthermore, why is this section one of the least discussed in the secondary literature on Lévinas? -/- These questions motivate the present inquiry, which modestly seeks to understand what Lévinas is up to in this section. Once laying out the basic story, I will focus on the concepts of labour and possession, for I think these are the unrecognized pivots upon which the transition from ego to Other turns. I will also make some slight attempts to interpret Lévinas' direct or indirect comments on Plato, Kant, Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger. For although he distances himself from these giants, he stands on their shoulders as well. (shrink)
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 Infinity and the Mind, Rudy Rucker leads an excursion to that stretch of the universe he calls the "Mindscape," where he explores infinity in all its forms: potential and actual, mathematical and physical, theological and mundane. Here Rucker acquaints us with Gödel's rotating universe, in which it is theoretically possible to travel into the past, and explains an interpretation of quantum mechanics in which billions of parallel worlds are produced every microsecond. It is in the realm of (...)infinity, he maintains, that mathematics, science, and logic merge with the fantastic. By closely examining the paradoxes that arise from this merging, we can learn a great deal about the human mind, its powers, and its limitations. Using cartoons, puzzles, and quotations to enliven his text, Rucker guides us through such topics as the paradoxes of set theory, the possibilities of physical infinities, and the results of Gödel's incompleteness theorems. His personal encounters with Gödel the mathematician and philosopher provide a rare glimpse at genius and reveal what very few mathematicians have dared to admit: the transcendent implications of Platonic realism. (shrink)
The concept of linguistic infinity has had a central role to play in foundational debates within theoretical linguistics since its more formal inception in the mid-twentieth century. The conceptualist tradition, marshalled in by Chomsky and others, holds that infinity is a core explanandum and a link to the formal sciences. Realism/Platonism takes this further to argue that linguistics is in fact a formal science with an abstract ontology. In this paper, I argue that a central misconstrual of formal (...) apparatus of recursive operations such as the set-theoretic operation merge has led to a mathematisation of the object of inquiry, producing a strong analogy with discrete mathematics and especially arithmetic. The main product of this error has been the assumption that natural, like some formal, languages are discretely infinite. I will offer an alternative means of capturing the insights and observations related to this posit in terms of scientific modelling. My chief aim will be to draw from the larger philosophy of science literature in order to offer a position of grammars as models compatible with various foundational interpretations of linguistics while being informed by contemporary ideas on scientific modelling for the natural and social sciences. (shrink)
Alexander R. Pruss examines a large family of paradoxes to do with infinity - ranging from deterministic supertasks to infinite lotteries and decision theory. Having identified their common structure, Pruss considers at length how these paradoxes can be resolved by embracing causal finitism.
This article is concerned with reflection principles in the context of Cantor’s conception of the set-theoretic universe. We argue that within such a conception reflection principles can be formulated that confer intrinsic plausibility to strong axioms of infinity.
One of the most distinctive and intriguing developments of modern set theory has been the realization that, despite widely divergent incentives for strengthening the standard axioms, there is essentially only one way of ascending the higher reaches of infinity. To the mathematical realist the unexpected convergence suggests that all these axiomatic extensions describe different aspects of the same underlying reality.
In this short note I argue that, using the type of configurations put forward in a recent paper by Laraudogoitia in this same journal, new paradoxes of infinity of a completely different nature can be formulated.
This paper considers non-standard analysis and a recently introduced computational methodology based on the notion of ①. The latter approach was developed with the intention to allow one to work with infinities and infinitesimals numerically in a unique computational framework and in all the situations requiring these notions. Non-standard analysis is a classical purely symbolic technique that works with ultrafilters, external and internal sets, standard and non-standard numbers, etc. In its turn, the ①-based methodology does not use any of these (...) notions and proposes a more physical treatment of mathematical objects separating the objects from tools used to study them. It both offers a possibility to create new numerical methods using infinities and infinitesimals in floating-point computations and allows one to study certain mathematical objects dealing with infinity more accurately than it is done traditionally. In these notes, we explain that even though both methodologies deal with infinities and infinitesimals, they are independent and represent two different philosophies of Mathematics that are not in a conflict. It is proved that texts :539–555, 2017; Gutman and Kutateladze in Sib Math J 49:835–841, 2008; Kutateladze in J Appl Ind Math 5:73–75, 2011) asserting that the ①-based methodology is a part of non-standard analysis unfortunately contain several logical fallacies. Their attempt to show that the ①-based methodology can be formalized within non-standard analysis is similar to trying to show that constructivism can be reduced to the traditional Mathematics. (shrink)
By obtaining several new results on Cook-style two-sorted bounded arithmetic, this paper measures the strengths of the axiom of extensionality and of other weak fundamental set-theoretic axioms in the absence of the axiom of infinity, following the author’s previous work [K. Sato, The strength of extensionality I — weak weak set theories with infinity, Annals of Pure and Applied Logic 157 234–268] which measures them in the presence. These investigations provide a uniform framework in which three different kinds (...) of reverse mathematics–Friedman–Simpson’s “orthodox” reverse mathematics, Cook’s bounded reverse mathematics and large cardinal theory–can be reformulated within one language so that we can compare them more directly. (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 (...) class='Hi'>infinity is based on a metaphysical prejudice in favor of numbers as objects — a prejudice that mathematics can get along without. (shrink)
Infinity is an intriguing topic, with connections to religion, philosophy, metaphysics, logic, and physics as well as mathematics. Its history goes back to ancient times, with especially important contributions from Euclid, Aristotle, Eudoxus, and Archimedes. The infinitely large is intimately related to the infinitely small. Cosmologists consider sweeping questions about whether space and time are infinite. Philosophers and mathematicians ranging from Zeno to Russell have posed numerous paradoxes about infinity and infinitesimals. Many vital areas of mathematics rest upon (...) some version of infinity. The most obvious, and the first context in which major new techniques depended on formulating infinite processes, is calculus. But there are many others, for example Fourier analysis and fractals.In this Very Short Introduction, Ian Stewart discusses infinity in mathematics while also drawing in the various other aspects of infinity and explaining some of the major problems and insights arising from this concept. He argues that working with infinity is not just an abstract, intellectual exercise but that it is instead a concept with important practical everyday applications, and considers how mathematicians use infinity and infinitesimals to answer questions or supply techniques that do not appear to involve the infinite.ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable. (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)
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)