FOM: Finitist prejudices and ontological commitment

Pat Hayes phayes at
Tue Mar 9 13:21:29 EST 1999

There seem to be a lot of different concepts of 'finite' being used in this
discussion. Simpson claims that 'finite' means lawlike. However, it is easy
to describe infinite sets governed by simple laws (the natural numbers
might be a good candidate, for example); Shipman identifies 'finite' with
'having a finite description', which also seems peculiar for a similar
reason (consider for example the handy Greek letter 'omega'.) Davis wonders
if the question even makes sense.

Maybe I'm missing something here, but the meaning of "the universe is
finite" seems perfectly clear and much more straightforward. It means that
there is a finite total mass of the universe; that the number of elementary
particles is finite (maybe indeterminate for quantum reasons, but finite),
and that the radius of the universe is finite. All of these are currently
understood to be correct, I believe.

Pat Hayes

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