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From interminatum to infinitum: Cusanus, Bruno, and the Concept of Limit

Fri, March 23, 11:00am to 12:30pm, Harrah's Hotel, 2nd Level - Fulton Street Salon I


In his justly celebrated book From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, Alexandre Koyré describes Nicolaus Cusanus’s universe as being ‘interminate’ (interminatum) rather than infinite (infinitum). It was not only ‘boundless and not terminated by an outside shell’, but also ‘not terminated in its constituents’. The influence of Nicolaus's worldview is easily discerned in Bruno’s early writings where Bruno, while explicitly claiming that the universe has no outer boundaries, does not yet take issue with the Aristotelian idea of the infinite divisibility, i.e., 'non-terminability', of matter. He only denies this possibility explicitly in his late works, where he sets out his version of atomism. This paper sketches out the steps by which Bruno introduces atomism into his new cosmology. By acquiring an atomistic structure, Bruno’s universe becomes infinite in the full sense that Koyré imagined, that is, defined according to the 'interminate' number of its ultimate components.


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