February 04, 2012

The varieties of infinity, or why heaven won't work

I'm an avid nonfiction reader. So, especially at larger libraries, I just head to the new books display and grab what I want ...

While at the same time, knowing I can't read every book I want to.

That has an analogy to Western monotheisms' view of a perpetual, individual-soul afterlife. (Hinduism and some other religions besides the Judeo-Islamo-Christian tradition may fall here, too, but I'm focused on them.)

The analogy? Has roots in one Georg Cantor and the mathematics of infinity.

If you have any familiarity with this, you know there are different infinities of sets, such as
א-null, א-one and א-two. Well, picture your or my individual infinite life in heaven as א-null. Well, if the “set” of א-null is multiplied by itself, we get א-one, a different level of set-infinity. Arguably, even though the number of people in the Western version of heaven, with no procreation, will be finite, one could still say that all the works they will produce will be something like א-one to an individual person’s א-null.

So, heaven would be a sort of “bounded infinity,” and, aside from medieval Christian notions of the real greatness of heaven being to bask in the glory of god, we would see our individual infinities as essentially “bounded.” That, in turn, would be a sort of psychological pain.

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