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::: center home >> events >> lunchtime >> 2003-04 >> abstracts

Friday, 5 March 2004
Divergent Conceptions of the Continuum in 19th and Early
20th Century Mathematics and Philosophy

John L. Bell
University of Western Ontario

12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: The latter half of the nineteenth century saw the emergence of the arithmetical conception of real number in which the continuous was reduced to an assemblage of separate discrete points. Underpinned by the development of set theory, this reduction has become the reigning orthodoxy among mathematicians. Yet the doctrine that the continuous is fully explicable in terms of the discrete has never lacked opponents. I will discuss the views of six figures of the late 19th and early 20th centuries-du Bois-Reymond, Veronese, Brentano, Peirce, Weyl and Brouwer-who stood out as champions of the irreducibility of the continuum concept to discreteness.

Revised 3/11/08 - Copyright 2006