The Meaning of Infinity

Written by Evelyn Hilt-Rojas

The Extra Muros Lustrum is just a few days away and we are all excited for the many festivities to come! As we know the theme of this particular Lustrum is ‘Infinity’; but what does infinity mean exactly? Well for those of you who are interested in this question, sit back, buckle up and enjoy a brief summary of the meaning of Infinity.

The official explanation of infinity is the concept of something being infinite; meaning unlimited, endless and without bound (Rucker, 2023). The infinity symbol which is actually called lemniscate was first used in the seventeenth century by the English mathematician John Wallis.

The concept of infinity has many fields with different approaches to its meaning. In the 1700s the infinity symbol could be found on Tarot cards, specifically the Juggler or the Magus. Infinity was known to inspire feelings of awe, futility and fear (Rucker, 2019). Nowadays, infinity can be found as the mathematical infinity, physical infinity and the metaphysical infinity. In this paper the focus will lay on the latter two.

Physical Infinity

This type of infinity can be understood as the infinities in space, time and dimensions but also in the ability to divise an infinite number of times. However, the current status of infinity within physics is unclear since there are many things that are merely speculative and not certain.

An example is the assumption of three-dimensional space being infinite whereas others believe the universe to be curved which results in a finite but boundless cosmos (Rucker, 2023). Nevertheless, thanks to the big-bang theory, it is most probable that our universes’ past is finitely long.

The question of the future being infinitely long is thus, widely debated and still uncertain.

If the infinite future would play out then this would result in galaxies drifting farther apart, stars burning to dust and particles decaying into radiation (Rucker, 2023). In the finite future version, scientists believe a cosmic catastrophe is bound to happen which leads to the destruction of the universe. As depressing as this may be, some speculate
that once a universe is destroyed the birth of a new universe follows, indicating that this scenario has a chance of being infinite itself.

In the case of infinite divisiblity, matter would be endless, resulting in the scenario of objects containing an infinite number of particles which has already been falsified by quantum mechanics (Rucker, 2023). Furthermore many movies have also touched upon the idea of parallel-universes which is yet to be a proven, concrete concept.

Metaphysical Infninty

In the metaphysical and theological domain of infinity the thought of ‘Absolute’ has been the key aspect of debate. Philosophers such as Plato believe the Absolute to be finite whereas later theologians and metaphysicians believed the Absolute to be infinite. What can be understood under the Absolute depends on who you are asking but examples may be God, the allknowing universal mind or even the idea of infinite possible thoughts (Rucker, 2023). The main idea behind the absolute is that it reaches beyond the human in any way, shape or form. Such a principle is known as the ‘reflection principle’ (Rucker, 2023).

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