Mathematics, as a scientific discipline, developed from the rather humble beginnings of practical counting and measurements. The Pythagoreans shifted this discipline to the ideal, intelligible world—the “Pythagorean paradise”—where it remains to this day. However, there have been doubts as to whether some of the more peculiar mathematical concepts (irrational numbers, zero, negative numbers, infinity…) also belong to this “Paradise”. Within Theo-Platonism of the fourth century, the Christian God legitimised the concept of infinity. God then acted as guarantor for the existence of infinity even in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Later, however, God was played down with explicit references to Him having been eliminated. He remained hidden, as it were, in the “supernatural axioms” of set theory. Attempts to “excommunicate” Him consistently from the foundation of mathematics had only a negligible impact on the mathematics itself. Was it due to the fact that those formal foundations of mathematics (the set theory) are not the true foundations, with the actual basis being in mathematical practice?
Part of the book: Epistemology and Transformation of Knowledge in Global Age