Absolute Infinity, Knowledge, and Divinity in the Thought of Cusanus and Cantor (ABSTRACT ONLY)

In Mirosław Szatkowski (ed.), Ontology of Divinity. De Gruyter. pp. 561-580 (2024)
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Renaissance philosopher, mathematician, and theologian Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) said that there is no proportion between the finite mind and the infinite. He is fond of saying reason cannot fully comprehend the infinite. That our best hope for attaining a vision and understanding of infinite things is by mathematics and by the use of contemplating symbols, which help us grasp "the absolute infinite". By the late 19th century, there is a decisive intervention in mathematics and its philosophy: the philosophical mathematician Georg Cantor (1845-1918) says that between the realm of the finite and the absolute infinite, there is an intermediate realm partaking in properties in a certain sense of both the finite and the infinite: the transfinite realm. Like the finite, the transfinite realm is a realm of mathematical objects, numbers, and knowledge. Like the absolute infinite, the transfinite is a form of infinity insofar as transfinite sets and numbers transcend any finite number. Echoing Cusanus and neo-Platonism, Cantor says that the transfinite sequence of all ordinals is a symbol of the absolutely infinite, that is, God. This paper considers how the doctrine of symbolism and the philosophers' different commitments to the laws of logic, especially the Law of Non-Contradiction (LNC), enables these thinkers to articulate a transcendental apophatic approach to divinity.

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Anne Newstead
Swinburne University of Technology


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