The power of names

  1. Lemma
  2. The power of names
  3. English
  4. Tampakis, Kostas
  5. Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Cult and spirituality - Mathematics - History and philosophy of science
  6. 2017
  7. Graham, Loren [Author]. The power of names
  8. Theology and Science
  9. Name worshipping - set theory - Luzin, Nikolai - Moscow School of Mathematics - Naming
  10. Click Here
    1. Loren Graham (2011) The Power of Names, Theology and Science, 9:1,157-164, DOI:10.1080/14746700.2011.547020
    1. This paper by L. Graham belongs to the same collection of papers that culminated in his and Kantor’s 'Naming Infinity' book. It is a shortened and truncated account of the argument found in the book,. whoch focuses only on the role of Nikolai Luzin.

      The paper starts by describing how the act of ‘‘naming’’ something has throughout history often been linked to the exertion of power over the thing named. This concept is found in almost all cultures, and Graham mentions specific examples in early Christianity, in ancient Greek and Roman religions, and in medieval philosophers. In mathematics, ‘‘naming’’ plays an essential role because mathematical objects that have not yet been named are difficult to work with. The paper discusses briefly the work of Alexander Grothendieck, Georg Cantor and of the French generation of Borel, Lebesgue and Baire. The focus then shifts to Dmitri Egorov and Niklai Luzin, who visited Paris long enough to get appraised of the new ideas, but who were also very influenced by the Russian Orthodox Church and especially by Name Worshipping. Although condemned by the Russian Church, Name Worshipping was practiced as a spiritual act of the believer in which he invoked the name of God through prayer, making him real.  That idea, Luzin and Egorov used in sets, bringing to fruition a theory in which a set was made real by naming it. Luzin’s approach to naming mathematical objects was original: he believed that the act involved both gains and losses. On the one hand, he gained control through naming. On the other hand, he believed that he lost ‘‘the foggy and dark parts that our intuition whispers to us.’’ The article ends by positing that this influence on Luzin and Egorov has been largely missed by historians of mathematics because it has been condemned by two of the most powerful institutions in recent Russian history: the Orthodox Church and the Communist Party.