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A History of the Infinite

BBC Radio 4

A History of the Infinite
13 min2016 SEP 20
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In the second part of his journey through two and half millennia of philosophical thought, Adrian Moore introduces us to the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, who attempted a reconciliation between the idea of things going on for ever and ever and the Greeks’ abhorrence of the very notion.We hear how he came up with the idea of two different types of infinite - the potential and the actual - and how it was the potential infinite that he presented as the acceptable face of infinity.With the help of Ursula Coope, Professor of Ancient Philosophy at Oxford University, Adrian explains the idea of infinite divisibility and re-visits the paradoxes of Zeno which suggest that motion isn’t possible. He carries out his own experiment to see whether using Aristotle’s theory of the infinite he can disprove Zeno’s conclusions and actually get himself home. And he reveals how Aristotle’s theory of the infinite held sway for thousands of years, despite the challenges to it.A Juniper production first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in September 2016.