Monday, 21 June 2010

A Pedantic Ripost to the Guru Josh Infinity Project

Hello there. Here's my post for this Monday, at a much more reasonable time than last week! I saw this video at the gym the other day. Apparently it's from 2008 but I hadn't heard it before although it is said to have 'taken the world by storm' or got 22 MILLION hits on youtube, which I guess is about the same thing. And yet, as so often happens in popular culture, the lyrics contain a ridiculous use of the word 'infinity.' (See the cartoon). Another example is in cult-classic movie Forbidden Planet, where the oh-so-super-intelligent scientist claims that the aliens managed to increase their energy supply: 'almost literally to the the power of infinity'. This latter example is made even more amusing by the use of the word 'almost' at the beginning!

Now I don't want to come across as a snob, if anything I'm just a pedant, but the philosophical and mathematical point of the term infinity is that it represents that which is beyond what we can describe or calculate, and as this can't have a conceivable upper limit then infinity cannot be said to be fixed point or a quantity! Rather it's a quality: so  you can't multiply by the power of infinity anymore than you can multiply by the power of blue. Also the question of how we can know that infinity really exists when it is precisely that which exceeds and resists knowledge is a question that has been pondered by many philosophers and theologians. I don't think any of these thinkers thought that the answer might be 'Guru Josh'...

Now I suppose Guru Josh is being a bit more ''poetic'' than the writers of Forbidden Planet, but nonetheless
this sort of hippy mumbo-jumbo just serves to distract from how exciting the notion of the Infinite is, whether in astronomy or the Negative Theologians for example: Pseudo-Dionysus, Rudolf Otto, Paul Tillich, and then in all the philosophers influenced by the latter, including Heidegger. Gordon Finlayson, a lecturer at my old uni thinks we can even find a type of Negative Theology in Adorno. He presents a persuasive argument in 'On not Being Silent in the Darkness: Adorno's Singular Apophaticism' Adorno and Religion, ed. M. Waggoner, Indiana University Presss (forthcoming 2009). (Check me out with my 'proper' citations and everything!)

Hum. This post started off as a joke but  I got a bit serious at the end there...In any case infinity is a serious issue, and cartoons like this need to be seen as the pathetic attempt for easy laughs that they are....

Join me in my quest for linguistic precision in popular culture!

becca xo


  1. I like Being's facial expression in this one. Sort of patiently superior.

  2. I can only assume that Guru Josh is into non-standard analysis: