Quotable Words: The Mathematical Experience


Re-reading a classic by Philip J. Davis and Reuben Hersh that I first encountered in college. They are the perfect guides to math as a human endeavor, and its many touch points with non-STEM disciplines. Here they are quoting Herman Weyl about the uses of infinity…

 …purely mathematical inquiry in itself, according to the conviction of many great thinkers, by its special character, its certainty and stringency, lifts the human mind in to closer proximity with the divine than is attainable through any other medium. Mathematics is the science of the infinite, its goals the symbolic comprehension of the infinite with human, that is finite, means. It is the great achievement of the Greeks to have made the contrast between the finite and the infinite fruitful for the cognition of reality. Coming from the Orient, the religious intuition of the infinite, the άπειροv, takes hold of the Greek soul…

This tension between the finite and the infinite and its conciliation now become the driving motive of Greek investigation.

The Mathematical Experience (1981) p. 108

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