4. Infinity and the Sublime

  • Karin Verelst FUND-CLEA Department of Mathematics Vrije Universiteit Brussel


In their recent work, L. Graham and J.-M. Kantor discuss a remarkable connection between diverging conceptions of the mathematical infinite in Russia and France at the beginning of the twentieth century and the religious convictions of their respective authors. They expand much more on the Russian side of the cultural equation they propose; I do believe, however, that the French (or rather ‘West European’) side is more complex than it seems, and that digging deeper into it is worthwhile. In this paper I shall therefore broaden the path laid out in Graham and Kantor’s work, by connecting two different strands of research concerning the origin of what I loosely call ‘formal’ ideas: firstly, the rich but complex relation between logic and rhetoric throughout European cultural history, and secondly, the impact of religious convictions on the formation of certain mathematical and scientific ideas during Renaissance and Early Modernity, especially but not exclusively in France.


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Author Biography

Karin Verelst, FUND-CLEA Department of Mathematics Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Karin Verelst (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) is a philosopher of science with a background in history and classical philology. Her main research interest is in the rôle paradoxes play in the shaping of theories that claim to describe or explain the world, whether ancient or modern. She focuses on the structure of such theories, rather than on their content. A combination of history and philosophy is the cornerstone of her approach. Recent research topics include: paraconsistency in Plato s metaphysics, premodern conceptions of "method", and experimentation as a realised logical inference.
God geometer (particular)