Infinity and finity

Talking to my son about his philosophy course, he mentioned to me how philosophers can be divided into ‘infinitists’ and ‘finitists’. Finitists, such as Nietzche, see the ultimate realisation of freedom in the realisation, awareness of, and acceptance of death as making a finite boundary to life. Otherwise one is left with the infinite, and the infinite consequences of actions forever, which means one can never be ‘free’. I find this very interesting to ponder. I have not given as much thought to the concept of the finite as to the concept of the infinite. Except insofar as I feel that, like the binary concepts of 0 and 1, they are aspects of the same thing. I do not feel that the concept of ‘finity’ is necessarily any simpler or more consciously realisable than the concept of infinity. Even in the dimension of space alone (which really one cannot consider without the dimension of time), where is the finity? If for a moment we were to set aside the concept of death in time, and merely consider the end of one’s consciousness in space, where is that end? Apparently the finitists argue that animals are not aware of the finite nature of their existence, and this is a quintessential difference in their awareness. I find it intriguing to consider whether anyone is truly aware of their ‘finite’ nature, human or animal. Perhaps some very spiritually aware people, perhaps (for some are aware of their own death and are able to even foresee it quite precisely at an intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical level), and then I would imagine it is more an awareness of simultaneous finity and infinity. That is my imagining of it. I would be interested to read more, hear more, of the philosophy of it as well, though. It seems to me almost amusing to think that perhaps some think this question can be approached through an entirely intellectual dimension. How can it be? How philosophically, intellectually detached would one have to be for that? Consider, even Hal, the computer in 2001:A Space Odyssey, when he is being turned off. Our human awareness of being involves emotion and what I would call spirituality in reflecting on the finiteness of anything – most especially ourselves. I also believe that ‘awareness of death’ has personal, experiential, cultural dimensions too. There is a difference between ‘awareness of death’ engendered by participation in war, in traditional cultures, in religion, in medicine, in pain, sudden death, slow death, ‘premature’ death…there can be no one right awareness of finity, nor one right awareness of the infinite either. I think. Again, the many paths as one path. Again, the intricate connection of ‘opposites’.

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Filed under Death, Life, Philosophy

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