Extrapolation

Languages, Litanies, and the Limit

The Discourse of Mathematics in Neal Stephenson's Anathem

Extrapolation (2012), 53, (3), 327–345.

Abstract

In this article, I explore Stephenson's use of mathematical objects and philosophies in his novel Anathem (2008). Comparing it to Plato's Timaeus, I argue that the novel should not be read as a literal expression of Stephenson's own philosophical commitments, but that it should instead be treated as a thought-experiment in metaphysical possibility. I then situate the novel in the context of mathematical philosophy, and by means of close readings of the relevant passages, proceed to argue that the conclusion of Anathem suggests a possible reconciliation between Platonist and Fictionalist philosophies of mathematics.

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Bonevac, Daniel. "Fictionalism." Philosophy of Mathematics. Ed. Andrew D. Irvine. Burlington, MA: Elsevier, 2009. Print. Philosophy of Mathematics Google Scholar

Cooper, John M. "Introduction to Timaeus." Plato: Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997. Print. Plato: Complete Works Google Scholar

Fraleigh, John B. A First Course in Abstract Algebra. 7th edn. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2003. Print. A First Course in Abstract Algebra Google Scholar

Franklin, James. "Aristotelian Realism." Philosophy of Mathematics. Ed. Andrew D. Irvine. Burlington, MA: Elsevier, 2009. Print. Philosophy of Mathematics Google Scholar

Hart, W. D. "Les Liaisons Dangereuses." Philosophy of Mathematics. Ed. Andrew D. Irvine. Burlington, MA: Elsevier, 2009. Print. Philosophy of Mathematics Google Scholar

Irvine, Andrew D. "Preface." Philosophy of Mathematics. Ed. Andrew D. Irvine. Burlington, MA: Elsevier, 2009. Print. Philosophy of Mathematics Google Scholar

Kalderon, M. Fictionalism in Metaphysics. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005. Fictionalism in Metaphysics Google Scholar

Plato. Timaeus. Trans. Donald J. Zeyl. Plato: Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997. Print. Plato: Complete Works Google Scholar

Stephenson, Neal. Anathem. New York: HarperCollins, 2009. Print. Anathem Google Scholar

Stephenson, Neal. Cryptonomicon. New York: Avon, 2002. Print. Cryptonomicon Google Scholar

Stephenson, Neal. In the Beginning … Was the Command Line. New York: HarperCollins, 1999. E-book. In the Beginning … Was the Command Line Google Scholar

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Fisher, Douglas

Fisher, Douglas