This paper aims to show that Frege’s and Hilbert’s mutual disagreement results from different notions of Anschauung and their relation to axioms. In the first section of the paper, evidence is provided to support that Frege and Hilbert were influenced by the same developments of 19th-century geometry, in particular the work of Gauss, Plücker, and von Staudt. The second section of the paper shows that Frege and Hilbert take different approaches to deal with the problems that the developments in 19th-century (...) geometry posed for the traditional Kantian philosophy of mathematics. Frege maintains that Anschauung is a source of knowledge by which we acknowledge geometrical axioms as true. For Hilbert, in contrast, axioms provide one of several correct “pictures” of reality. Hilbert’s position is thereby deeply influenced by epistemological ideas from Hertz and Helmholtz, and, in turn, influenced the neo-Kantian Cassirer. (shrink)
In recent years, several scholars have been investigating Frege’s mathematical background, especially in geometry, in order to put his general views on mathematics and logic into proper perspective. In this article I want to continue this line of research and study Frege’s views on geometry in their own right by focussing on his views on a field which occupied center stage in nineteenth century geometry, namely, projective geometry.
In this paper, I critically discuss Frege’s philosophy of geometry with special emphasis on his position in The Foundations of Arithmetic of 1884. In Sect. 2, I argue that that what Frege calls faculty of intuition in his dissertation is probably meant to refer to a capacity of visualizing geometrical configurations structurally in a way which is essentially the same for most Western educated human beings. I further suggest that according to his Habilitationsschrift it is through spatial intuition that we (...) come to know the axioms of Euclidean geometry. In Sect. 3, I argue that Frege seems right in claiming in The Foundations, §14 that the synthetic nature of the Euclidean axioms follows from the fact that they are independent of one another and of the primitive laws of logic. If the former were dependent on the latter, they would be analytic in Frege’s sense of analyticity. But then they would not be independent of one another and due to their mutual provability would lose their status as axioms of Euclidean geometry, since according to Frege an axiom of a theory T is per definitionen unprovable in T. I further argue that only by invoking pure spatial intuition can Frege “explain” the epistemological status of the axioms of Euclidean geometry completely: their synthetic a priori nature. Finally, I argue that his view about independence in The Foundations, §14 seems to clash with his conception of independence in his mature period. In Sect. 4, I scrutinize Frege’s somewhat vague, but unduly neglected remarks in The Foundations, §26 on space, spatial intuition and the axioms of Euclidean geometry. I argue that for the sake of coherence Frege should have said unambiguously that space is objective, that it is independedent not only of our spatial intuition, but of our mental life altogether including our judgements about space, instead of encouraging the possible conjecture that in his view it contains an objective and a subjective component. I further argue that for Frege the objectivity of both space and the axioms of Euclidean geometry manifests itself in our universal and compulsory acknowledgement of the Euclidean axioms as true. I conclude Sect. 4 by arguing that there is a conflict between the subjectivity of our spatial intuitions as stressed in The Foundations, §26 and Frege’s thesis in his dissertation that the axioms of Euclidean geometry derive their validity from the nature of our faculty of intuition. To resolve this conflict, I propose that in the light of his avowed realism in The Foundations Frege could have replaced his early thesis by saying that although we come to know the axioms of Euclidean geometry through spatial intuition and are justified in acknowledging them as true on the basis of geometrical intuition, their truth is independent not only of the nature of our faculty of intuition and singular acts of intuition, but of our mental processes and activities in general, including the inner mental act of judging. In Sect. 5, I argue that Frege most likely did not adopt Kant’s method of acquiring geometrical knowledge via the ostensive construction of concepts in spatial intuition. In contrast to Kant, Frege holds that the axioms of three-dimensional Euclidean geometry express state of affairs about space obtaining independently of our spatial intuition. In Sect. 6, I conclude with a summarized assessment of Frege’s philosophy of geometry. (shrink)
In a series of articles dating from 1903 to 1906, Frege criticizes Hilbert’s methodology of proving the independence and consistency of various fragments of Euclidean geometry in his Foundations of Geometry. In the final part of the last article, Frege makes his own proposal as to how the independence of genuine axioms should be proved. Frege contends that independence proofs require the development of a ‘new science’ with its own basic truths. This paper aims to provide a reconstruction of this (...) New Science that meets modern standards and to examine possible problems surrounding Frege’s original proposal. The paper is organized as follows: the first two sections summarize the main points of the Frege–Hilbert controversy and discuss some issues surrounding the problem of independence proofs. Section 3 contains an informal presentation of Frege’s proposal. In section 4 a more detailed reconstruction of Frege’s New Science is set out while section 5 examines what is left out. The concluding section is devoted to a discussion of Frege’s strategy and its significance from a broader perspective. (shrink)
I investigate the role of geometric intuition in Frege’s early mathematical works and the significance of his view of the role of intuition in geometry to properly understanding the aims of his logicist project. I critically evaluate the interpretations of Mark Wilson, Jamie Tappenden, and Michael Dummett. The final analysis that I provide clarifies the relationship of Frege’s restricted logicist project to dominant trends in German mathematical research, in particular to Weierstrassian arithmetization and to the Riemannian conceptual/geometrical tradition at Göttingen. (...) Concurring with Tappenden, I hold that Frege’s logicism should not be understood as a continuing a project of reductionist arithmetization. However, Frege does not quite take up the Riemannian banner either. His logicism supports a hierarchical understanding of the structure of mathematical knowledge, according to which arithmetic is applicable to geometry but not vice versa because the former is more general, as revealed by the strictly logical nature of its objects in comparison to the intuitional nature of geometric objects. I suggest, in particular, that Frege intended that foundational work would show the use of geometric intuition in complex analysis, a source of error for Riemann that Weierstrass was proud to have uncovered, to be inessential. (shrink)
The idea of objectivity is primary in Gottlob Frege’s thought, not only for his conception of logic and mathematics, but also for his philosophy as a whole. He deals with the topic for the first time in 1884, in Grundlagen der Arithmetik, precisely in paragraph 26. He distinguishes the objective from the subjective, of course, but also from the real, what he calls the actual (wirklich in German). In order to be perfectly understood, he gives as example the colors but, (...) above all, to explain what is objective in geometry and space, he proceeds to a «thought-experiment», founded on the principle of duality. It is this aspect that I emphasize here, in the general framework ofparagraph 26 and in conjunction with Frege’s other works. (shrink)
This paper argues that Frege's notoriously long commitment to Kant's thesis that Euclidean geometry is synthetic _a priori_ is best explained by realizing that Frege uses ‘intuition’ in two senses. Frege sometimes adopts the usage presented in Hermann Helmholtz's sign theory of perception. However, when using ‘intuition’ to denote the source of geometric knowledge, he is appealing to Hermann Cohen's use of Kantian terminology. We will see that Cohen reinterpreted Kantian notions, stripping them of any psychological connotation. Cohen's defense of (...) his modified Kantian thesis on the unique status of the Euclidean axioms presents Frege's own views in a much more favorable light. (shrink)
It is widely believed that some puzzling and provocative remarks that Frege makes in his late writings indicate he rejected independence arguments in geometry, particularly arguments for the independence of the parallels axiom. I show that this is mistaken: Frege distinguished two approaches to independence arguments and his puzzling remarks apply only to one of them. Not only did Frege not reject independence arguments across the board, but also he had an interesting positive proposal about the logical structure of correct (...) independence arguments, deriving from the geometrical principle of duality and the associated idea of substitution invariance. The discussion also serves as a useful focal point for independently interesting details of Frege's mathematical environment. This feeds into a currently active scholarly debate because Frege's supposed attitude to independence arguments has been taken to support a widely accepted thesis (proposed by Ricketts among others) concerning Frege's attitude toward metatheory in general. I show that this thesis gains no support from Frege's puzzling remarks about independence arguments. (shrink)
This paper develops some respects in which the philosophy of mathematics can fruitfully be informed by mathematical practice, through examining Frege's Grundlagen in its historical setting. The first sections of the paper are devoted to elaborating some aspects of nineteenth century mathematics which informed Frege's early work. (These events are of considerable philosophical significance even apart from the connection with Frege.) In the middle sections, some minor themes of Grundlagen are developed: the relationship Frege envisions between arithmetic and geometry and (...) the way in which the study of reasoning is to illuminate this. In the final section, it is argued that the sorts of issues Frege attempted to address concerning the character of mathematical reasoning are still in need of a satisfying answer. (shrink)
In his Grundlagen, Frege held that geometrical truths.are synthetic a priori, and that they rest on intuition. From this it has been concluded that he thought, like Kant, that space and time are a priori intuitions and that physical objects are mere appearances. It is plausible that Frege always believed geometrical truths to be synthetic a priori; the virtual disappearance of the word ‘intuition’ from his writings from after 1885 until 1924 suggests, on the other hand, that he became dissatisfied (...) with the notion of intuition as he had employed it in Grundlagen. The belief that a priori intuition is a source of knowledge does not in itself entail idealism: that is a question about what it is that makes true the propositions known in this way. In Grundlagen, Frege expressly states that geometrical truths are objective in the sense of being independent of our intuition. This shows that, even at that period, Frege did not draw the idealist conclusion drawn by Kant. (shrink)
Gegen die vielfach vertretene Auffassung, Frege habe die Hilbertsche Axiomatik nicht verstanden, wird nachzuweisen versucht, daß Frege die neue Methode nicht nur verstanden, sondem auch begrifflich präzise analysiert hat. Er definiert eine formale Theorie im Hilbertschen Sinn als eine Klasse von logisch beweisbaren Wenn-dann-Sätzen, die freie Variable enthalten und deren Wenn-Satz eine Konjunktion der Axiome im Hilbertschen Sinn ist. Er untersucht ferner das Verhältnis zwischen einer Hilbertschen Theorie und ihren Modellen (Anwendungen) und wendet seine allgemeinen Ergebnisse in erhellender Weise auf (...) Hilberts Grundlagen der Geometrie an. (shrink)
I examine Frege’s explanation of how Hilbert ought to have presented his proofs of the independence of the axioms of geometry: in terms of mappings between (what we would call) fully interpreted statements. This helps make sense of Frege’s objections to the notion of different interpretations, which many have found puzzling. (The paper is the text of a talk presented in October 1994.).