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The Mathematical ImaginationOn the Origins and Promise of Critical Theory$
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Matthew Handelman

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780823283835

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823283835.001.0001

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The Philosophy of Mathematics: Privation and Representation in Gershom Scholem’s Negative Aesthetics

The Philosophy of Mathematics: Privation and Representation in Gershom Scholem’s Negative Aesthetics

Chapter:
(p.65) Two The Philosophy of Mathematics: Privation and Representation in Gershom Scholem’s Negative Aesthetics
Source:
The Mathematical Imagination
Author(s):

Matthew Handelman

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823283835.003.0003

Chapter 2 investigates the moment in 1917 when the philosophy of mathematics revealed to Gershom Scholem the symbolic potential of privation. Mathematics—in particular, the translation of logic into the symbols and operations of mathematics known as mathematical logic—produced novel results by discarding the conventional representational and meaning-making functions of language. Drawing on these mathematical insights, Scholem’s theorization of the poetic genre of lament and his translations of the biblical book of Lamentations employed erasure on the level of literary form to symbolize experiences, such as the Jewish diaspora, that exceed the limits of linguistic and historical representation. For Scholem, both poetry and history can mobilize deprivation as a means of retaining in language a symbol of experiences and ideas that remain unsayable in language and inexpressible in history—accounting for the erasure of exile and finding historical continuity in moments of silence, rupture, and catastrophe.

Keywords:   foundations of mathematics, Jewish mysticism, lament, mathematical logic, philosophy of language, silence, Scholem, tautology, translation

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