Infinity Wars Spinoza vs Hegel - 16 Dec - UniMelb

Where: Linkway, The John Medley Building, University of Melbourne

When: Thursday 16 December 2021, 9.30 am – 4.00 pm.

Attendance is free but limited to 50 people.


Everyone knows that infinity is a problem. Once you’ve got the hang of the finite, you start to wonder: where does it all lead? Anywhere? Maybe, maybe not. After all, if infinity exists, perhaps motion doesn’t. Think of Zeno’s paradoxes, which implicate infinity and continuity at the limits of divisibility. But even if we all agreed that there’s a where there, and that it’s possible to move there, could we ever get there? Perhaps the non-finite is simply in-actual, a potential? A nowhere? Or an ill-defined concept? A nothing? An everything? Or rather an everywhere, like the void and the atoms for the atomists? Indiscriminable from the indefinite? Or something altogether else? Perhaps a transcendent God would be infinite, too big or too other for number? Don’t think the questions stop there.

At least one thing everyone can agree on is that modern science takes a definitive new step in the direction of the infinite. As the title of Alexandre Koyré’s famous book puts it: From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe. Or as Ernst Cassirer asserts, drawing out the implications of Galileo and Kepler’s deployment of mathematics: ‘as the apeiron, the infinite had seemed to be the contradiction of limit. But in the new form of mathematical analysis, the infinite is placed in the service of quantitative determination, and indeed, proves to be one of its most important tools.’ Under pressure of the new sciences and their methods, the world itself starts to become infinite. At the lower end, there is an upsurge of infinitesimals; at the upper, the essential infinity of real space.

That’s all very well, except when you start to think about how to start thinking about it again. It all gets nasty (if there’s such an all at all). Infinity always means war in philosophy — infinity is an infinity war. And that’s where the philosophers come in. If we could have found somebody to speak sensibly about Leibniz, we would have asked them. Instead, we’re going to keep it simple: Benedict Spinoza v. G.W.F. Hegel.  This study day will take up the challenge of explicating and criticizing their doctrines of infinity through two rigorous panels and a final confrontation.


9.30am: Infinity and Beyond, An Introduction

Luara Karlson-Carp & Caitlyn Lesiuk

10.00am - 12.00pm: Spinoza on Infinity

Moderator: Caitlyn Lesiuk

Janice Richardson

Jon Rubin

Inja Stracenski

12.00pm – 1.00pm: LUNCH

1.00pm - 3.00pm: Hegel on Infinity

Moderator: Luara Karlson-Carp

Brendan Duncan

Daniel Lopez

Gregory Marks

3.00pm – 4.00pm: Final Confrontation

Moderators: Luara Karlson-Carp & Caitlyn Lesiuk


Note: Most of the events listed on the ASCP website are not hosted by the ASCP.  Events posted here are considered to be of interest to the Australasian continental philosophy community.

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