News & Events

Infinity

The Great Conversation Continues with Dr. John Roberts, UNC Chapel Hill Dept. of Philosophy

Among the ancient Greek philosophers, it was a common view that there
can exist only a “potential infinity,” never an “actual infinity”: So for example, you could designate a point on a line and then designate another one and keep going without ever stopping, but that doesn’t mean that in the physical world there actually exists an infinite collection of things called “points” — in fact (according to this
view), there cannot exist an infinite collection of actual physical things, and it is impossible for anyone to actually complete an infinite sequence of tasks.

These days, most philosophers (and mathematicians and physicists) think there could be an actual infinity. But there are still some philosophers who argue that there cannot be, since the existence of an actual infinity would lead to paradox.

We’ll talk about what some of these alleged paradoxes of infinity are and we’ll talk a little about the contemporary mathematical theory of infinite sets (due to the great mathematician, Georg Cantor), and then we’ll talk about what these things have to do with each other, and whether it’s possible to figure out whether it’s really possible for
there to be an infinite number of things.

The conversation will be finite.

Tuesday, October 19th, Faculty Center, 5:00 pm

The Great Conversation is sponsored by the Philosophy Dept and Phi Sigma Tau and offers an opportunity for students and faculty
of all disciplines to join us in philosophical inquiry.

Bring your good mind and bring a friend!