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Infinity: History, Mathematics, Philosophy

at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

(27)
Course Details
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$315
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Description
Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 21 and older
Average Class Size: 12
System Requirements:

You will need a reliable Internet connection as well as a computer or device with which you can access your virtual class. We recommend you arrive to class 5-10 minutes early to ensure you're able to set up your device and connection.

Class Delivery:

Classes will be held via Zoom.

Teacher: Suman Ganguli

Flexible Reschedule Policy: This provider has flexible, free rescheduling for any-in person workshop. Please see the cancellation policy for more details

What you'll learn in this history lesson:

How can we, as finite beings, grasp the concept of infinity? Yet humans have been contemplating infinity for millennia, whether inspired by nature, philosophy, spirituality—or mathematics. This course is a historical and conceptual approach to the latter realm, the mathematics of infinity. Our topics will include the ancient Greeks’ discovery of irrational numbers and Zeno’s paradoxes; Aristotle’s distinction between “actual infinity” and “potential infinity”; debates about infinitesimal numbers in the history of calculus; and the seeming paradoxes of infinite sums.

But our main goal will be explore the beauty of “the paradise that Cantor created for us”—the theory of infinite sets created by Georg Cantor in the 1880s. We will grapple with one of the great proofs in the history of mathematics, Cantor’s famous “diagonalization” argument, which shows that the set of real numbers is uncountably infinite–meaning, in a precise sense, that the real numbers constitute a larger infinity than the integers (the “counting numbers”). In fact, Cantor’s argument establishes that there is an infinite hierarchy of infinities!

As a guide to this intellectual history, we will read portions of David Foster Wallace’s Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity and William Dunham’s Journey Through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics in conjunction with additional readings on the history, mathematics and philosophy of infinity, including primary texts by Cantor, David Hilbert and Kurt Gödel.


Note: 

  • There is no mathematical prerequisite for this course, just a willingness to grapple with the concepts.

There *is* no physical Brooklyn Institute. We hold our classes all over (thus far) Brooklyn and Manhattan, in alternative spaces ranging from the back rooms of bars to bookstores to spaces in cultural centers, including the Center for Jewish History, the Goethe-Institut, and the Barnard Center for Research on Women. We can (and do) turn any space into a classroom. You will be notified of the exact location when you register for a class.


Remote Learning

This course is available for "remote" learning and will be available to anyone with access to an internet device with a microphone (this includes most models of computers, tablets). Classes will take place with a "Live" instructor at the date/times listed below.

Upon registration, the instructor will send along additional information about how to log-on and participate in the class.

Still have questions? Ask the community.

Refund Policy

Upon request, we will refund the entire cost of a class up until 1 week before its start date. Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to a 75% refund. After the first class: 50%. After the second: 25%. No refunds will be given after the third class.

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Reviews of Classes at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research (27)

(27 Reviews)
Infinity: History, Mathematics, Philosophy
Reviewed by Valerie V. on 11/10/2017
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School: Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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