Epi•Stem Lecture Series: A talk by Professor Conleth Hussey

Head of Department of Civil Engineering & Materials Science
Wednesday 13th May 12:30, Room A1-065


Title of Talk:



Hussey-CWhile Plato had the intuition that “Anyone who does not begin with love will never understand what philosophy is,” this talk starts from the position that “Anyone who does not understand mathematics will never understand what love is!”

When the Mathematician Georg Cantor (1845-1918) created his transfinite set theory, and discovered that he could lo-cate a first infinity (Omega) beyond the finite, as the first of an uncountable number of higher infinities, little did he know that his discovery would provide the paradigm for the understanding of truth procedures in the four domains of art, science, politics, and love. Representing an interruption to the rules of succession and repetition of the natural whole numbers, Cantor’s Omega has the hallmarks of what the French mathematician and philosopher, Alain Badiou, refers to as an event.

That the nature of science is that of a truth procedure is witnessed by the fact that the history of its advancement is pep-pered with such events and epiphanies. Badiou, who is undoubtedly Plato’s successor as the modern philosopher of love, explains “Starting out from something that is simply an encounter, a trifle, you learn that you can experience the world on the basis of difference and not only in terms of identity… In today's world, it is generally thought that individuals only pursue their self-interest. Love is an antidote to that. Provided it isn't conceived only as an exchange of mutual fa-vours, or isn't calculated way in advance as a profitable investment, love really is a unique trust placed in chance.”

This talk is suitable for all, particularly those who are petrified by mathematics. Taking a rollercoaster ride from Prufrock to the Windows of Wonder, from Socrates to Lacan, from Archimedes in his bath to Roentgen’s discovery of X-Rays, from Cantor’s conjuring up of Omega from the void to the mind-numbing back-breaking content of modern textbooks, this talk will re-enchant your appreciation of mathematics as though you had passed through a Tunnel of Love.

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