Ways of Infinity

Jean-Michel Salanskis 1
  • 1 Université Paris Ouest, Nanterre La Défense


The paper discusses analogies between the way in which infinity is understood and dealt with in mathematics and in Jewish tradition. It begins with recalling the classical debate about infinity in the field of the foundations of mathematics. Reading an important paper by A. Robinson, we come to the conclusion that mathematicians work “as if” infinite totalities existed. They do so by following the rules of their formalized discourse which, at least if it refers to anything at all, also refers to such totalities. The paper describes how, according to Jewish tradition, infinity is also not theological: instead of thinking that they own some infinite being or relate to it, observant Jews follow Jewish law.

The analogy is then extended to what is called ‘epistemological infinity’. The paper shows that both in mathematics and in Judaism, we get some epistemological experience of infinity, as far as both Talmudic knowledge and contemporary mathematical encyclopedia are experienced as inexhaustible sources of new thoughts, structures, ideas, developments.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.


Journal + Issues