Geometry and Spatial Intuition: A Genetic Approach

Dissertation, Mcgill University (Canada) (2003)
In this thesis, I investigate the nature of geometric knowledge and its relationship to spatial intuition. My goal is to rehabilitate the Kantian view that Euclid's geometry is a mathematical practice, which is grounded in spatial intuition, yet, nevertheless, yields a type of a priori knowledge about the structure of visual space. I argue for this by showing that Euclid's geometry allows us to derive knowledge from idealized visual objects, i.e., idealized diagrams by means of non-formal logical inferences. By developing such an account of Euclid's geometry, I complete the "standard view" that geometry is either a formal system or an empirical science , which was developed mainly by the logical positivists and which is currently accepted by many mathematicians and philosophers. My thesis is divided into three parts. I use Hans Reichenbach's arguments against Kant and Edmund Husserl's genetic approach to the concept of space as a means of arguing that the "standard view" has to be supplemented by a concept of a geometry whose propositions have genuine spatial content. I then develop a coherent interpretation of Euclid's method by investigating both the subject matter of Euclid's geometry and the nature of geometric inferences. In the final part of this thesis, I modify Husserl's phenomenological analysis of the constitution of visual space in order to define a concept of spatial intuition that allows me not only to explain how Euclid's practice is grounded in visual space, but also to account for the apriority of its results
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Lisa Shabel (2004). Kant's "Argument From Geometry". Journal of the History of Philosophy 42 (2):195-215.
Gary Hatfield (1984). Spatial Perception and Geometry in Kant and Helmholtz. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1984:569 - 587.

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