Michael friedmans behandlung Des unterschieDes zwischen arithmetik und algebra bei Kant in Kant and the exact sciences

Kant-Studien 101 (1):75-88 (2010)
In the second chapter of his book Kant and the Exact Sciences Michael Friedman deals with two different interpretations of the relation or the difference between algebra and arithmetic in Kant's thought. According to the first interpretation algebra can be described as general arithmetic because it generalizes over all numbers by the use of variables, whereas arithmetic only deals with particular numbers. The alternative suggestion is that algebra is more general than arithmetic because it considers a more general class of magnitudes. This means that arithmetic is concerned only with rational magnitudes, whereas algebra is also concerned with irrational magnitudes. In this article, I will discuss which of the two aforementioned approaches is to be considered the most plausible interpretation of Kant's theory of algebra and arithmetic. According to Friedman, the first interpretation cannot be reconciled with certain statements made by Kant on various occasions. The second interpretation is developed by Friedman himself. It is meant to be an attempt to avoid such inconsistencies. By a detailed analysis of the texts Friedman himself cites I shall examine the soundness of his arguments against the first interpretation and the compatibility of his own interpretation of the difference between algebra and arithmetic with the relevant passages in Kant's texts. It will turn out that the reasons that make Friedman reject the first interpretation are invalid as they are based on misunderstandings and that his own interpretation does not expound Kant's notions on that subject correctly, whereas the first interpretation is compatible with these passages. Thus, I conclude that the interpretation rejected by Friedman, unlike his own approach, is actually the more adequate interpretation of Kant.
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DOI 10.1515/kant.2010.005
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