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Allusion, or coincidence?

17 August, 2011

With various tasks that need to be done before term starts, it is perhaps no surprise that I find myself ignoring them in favour of various articles. One that recently caught my eye is a preprint of Borovik and Katz:

arXiv 1108.2285: Who Gave you the Cauchy-Weierstrass Tale? The Dual History of Rigorous Calculus

which on a first skim looks very interesting, and immediately scores points with me by taking apparent Whig history to task. (By mathematical upbringing, I am an analyst of sorts, schooled in orthodox fashion; so I don’t have immediate personal empathy with some of the misgivings about epsilontics. Nevertheless, I am interested in both the history — rather than the folklore accounts — of the subject’s development, and also in arguments for how the subject should be taught or viewed differently.)

None of that is really the reason for this post, though. Instead, I was just struck by the following acerbic aside (p. 21; the emphasis is mine):

It is sobering to realize that, forty years after A. Robinson, a logician named Walter Felscher still conceived of the history of analysis in terms of a triumphant march out of the dark age of the infinitesimal, and toward the yawning heights of Weierstrassian epsilontics.

While the phrase has no particular connotations for me, beyond the obvious irony, I wonder if it is making some deeper allusion, as used in the title of this book of Zinoviev?

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