Help me find "Idiotic Infinity"(no, not the Internet)
May 20, 2006 10:47 PM   Subscribe

Philosophy-Filter: In reading a paper about mathematics philosophy I came across a reference to the term "idiotic infinity"; which Hegel used to express the unlimited accumulation of ideas, all of which become equally profound. I'd like to read more of what Hegel said about this idea, but I cannot find the term in use anywhere. Does anyone familiar with Hegel know where in his enormous corpus I might find the discussion of the "idiotic infinity"? There is also the off-chance that the math paper reference was wrong, and the term might have originated with another philosopher entirely.
posted by archae to Religion & Philosophy (5 answers total)
Best answer: I think the problem is the translation from German. If I'm not mistaken, the German term is "schlechte Undendlichkeit". You might have more luck searching for "bad infinity".
posted by zaebiz at 11:07 PM on May 20, 2006

I'm used to the much kinder "bad infinity." Some googling suggests this is a particularly bad translation of the same. You can read about it in the Logic, or figure out what it means in the Phenomenology of Spirit. :-) What you've got here is good enough for government work, so it's best to decide whether you want to spend the next three months figuring out the rest. With Hegel, it's either stare at the surface or dive in.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:10 PM on May 20, 2006

*Shakes fist at Zaebiz, above*
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:11 PM on May 20, 2006

Second time today I have successfully hijacked the response of someone who knows more about the topic than I do.
posted by zaebiz at 11:27 PM on May 20, 2006

This sounds very similar to a phenomenon that Robert Pirsig describes in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence. He discusses a state of thought where intense intellectual effort directed at a problem yields an inifinite number of hypotheses about the solution to the problem. At one point he came to believe that there was no way to prove a solution to a philoophical question because of this inifnitude of hypotheses. He doesn't use the term "idiotic infinity" but I think he's describing the same thing.
posted by rhiannon at 4:05 AM on May 21, 2006

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