Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Portraits of Unicode Characters, #1 of a series: ⧜ Incomplete Infinity

The Unicode character set is a huge but barely explored extension of what is essentially now the common linguistic matrix of the human race.  It contains every conceivable glyph and symbol, including some rather strange ones that seem to have been inserted in a spirit of philosophy, comedy, or both. This series will examine some of these and what is being done with or could be done with them.

Incomplete Infinity 

In mathematics, at least, it is an absurd concept.  Or a redundant one ‒ as Cantor showed, any infinite set is incomplete in a sense, because you can always construct a larger one But transfinite numbers aside, it doesn't seem to make much sense to talk of an incomplete infinity. A set is finite or it is infinite; there is no in-between.  Very large is not close to infinity and if you take anything away from infinity you are still left with infinity. So there doesn't seem to be anything for "incomplete infinity" to refer to.

But from a non-mathematical perspective, this symbol is just a perfect, its form and name a masterpiece of  compacted metaphysical irony. It is a representation of the human condition - partaking of the infinite, cognizant of the infinite, often driven mad by the infinite, yet irredemiably incomplete and finite.  No matter how much we accumulate, the gap between our finite selves and the infinite is never closed, except perhaps in death. 

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