Devoted to a little known but exemplary episode in the recent history of the relationship of mathematics and religion, Naming Infinity
revolves around French and Russian mathematicians working on set theory at the beginning of the twentieth century. Initially discovered by a German mathematician, set theory (which explores the understanding of infinity) was developed in France before undergoing a profound crisis. When the French stalled, the Russians entered the scene with creative energy, advancing the theory with an original approach fueled by intense mysticism. Pavel Florensky, a mathematician turned theologian, was particularly interested in the 'relationship between the naming of 'God' and the naming of sets in set theory: both God and sets were made real by their naming. In fact, the 'set of all sets' might be God Himself.' But accusations of religious heresy and the political upheaval brought on by the Russian Revolution complicated and nearly devastated not only the mathematical work but also the lives of Russian mathematicians Egorov, Luzin, and Florensky. Naming Infinity weaves together the mathematical, religious, and political dramas of these men, emphasizing the way in which they revitalized mathematics by insisting on its collaboration with all of life, especially the human and the mystical. 239 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
In 1913, Russian imperial marines stormed an Orthodox monastery at Mt. Athos, Greece, to haul off monks engaged in a dangerously heretical practice known as Name Worshipping. Exiled to remote Russian outposts, the monks and their mystical movement went underground. Ultimately, they came across Russian intellectuals who embraced Name Worshipping and who would achieve one of the biggest mathematical breakthroughs of the twentieth century, going beyond recent French achievements.
Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor take us on an exciting mathematical mystery tour as they unravel a bizarre tale of political struggles, psychological crises, sexual complexities, and ethical dilemmas. At the core of this book is the contest between French and Russian mathematicians who sought new answers to one of the oldest puzzles in math: the nature of infinity. The French school chased rationalist solutions. The Russian mathematicians, notably Dmitri Egorov and Nikolai Luzin who founded the famous Moscow School of Mathematics were inspired by mystical insights attained during Name Worshipping. Their religious practice appears to have opened to them visions into the infinite and led to the founding of descriptive set theory.
The men and women of the leading French and Russian mathematical schools are central characters in this absorbing tale that could not be told until now. "Naming Infinity" is a poignant human interest story that raises provocative questions about science and religion, intuition and creativity.