Ranganathan’s elucidation of subject in the light of ‘Infinity (∞)’

Dutta, Bidyarthi


This paper reviews Ranganathan’s description of subject from mathematical angle. Ranganathan was highly influenced by Nineteenth Century mathematician George Cantor and he used the concept of infinity in developing an axiomatic interpretation of subject. Majority of library scientists interpreted the concept of subject merely as a term
or descriptor or heading to include the same in cataloguing and subject indexing. Some library scientists interpreted subject on the basis of document, i.e. from the angle of the concept of aboutness or epistemological potential of the document etc. Some people explained subject from the viewpoint of social, cultural or socio-cultural process. Attempts were made to describe subject from epistemological viewpoint. But S R Ranganathan was the first to develop
an axiomatic concept of subject on its own. He built up an independent idea of subject that is ubiquitously pervasive
with human cognition process. To develop the basic foundation of subject, he used the mathematical concepts of
infinity and infinitesimal and construed the set of subjects or universe of subjects as continuous infinite universe.
The subject may also exist in extremely micro-form, which was termed as spot subject and analogized with point, which is dimensionless having only an existence. The influence of Twentieth Century physicist George Gamow on Ranganathan’s thought has also been discussed.


Subject; Continuous Infinite Universe; S R Ranganathan; Ranganathan’s school; Infinity; Infinitesimal; George Cantor; George Gamow; Set theory

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