Friday,
5 March 2004
DISSENTING VOICES
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 centuriesdu BoisReymond, Veronese, Brentano,
Peirce, Weyl and Brouwerwho stood out as champions of the irreducibility
of the continuum concept to discreteness.
