Review: Pierobon, Kant et les mathématiques: La conception Kantienne des mathématiques [Book Review]

Philosophia Mathematica 14 (3):370-378 (2006)
This book is a welcome contribution to the literature on Kant's philosophy of mathematics in two particular respects. First, the author systematically traces the development of Kant's thought on mathematics from the very early pre-Critical writings through to the Critical philosophy. Secondly, it puts forward a challenge to contemporary Anglo-Saxon commentators on Kant's philosophy of mathematics which merits consideration.A central theme of the book is that an adequate understanding of Kant's pronouncements on mathematics must begin with the recognition that mathematics in Kant's time was poised at the beginning of what Pierobon calls the ‘algebraic revolution’ of the nineteenth century. For Kant, Euclidean geometry, with its heavy reliance on the geometric image, was the paradigm of certainty. The algebraic revolution of the nineteenth century replaced that paradigm with an algebraic formalism, thereby freeing mathematics from any connection to the geometric image, and also severing the link to intuition. Pierobon describes this as the ‘divergence between the image and writing [l'écriture]’ . So great was the shift, Pierobon suggests, that, after the developments of the nineteenth century, it became difficult to find any sense in Kant's conception of mathematics as sensible knowledge. This, certainly, was the view of Russell, who notoriously claimed in Mysticism and Logic that modern developments in logic dealt a ‘fatal blow to the Kantian philosophy’ and that ‘the whole doctrine of a priori intuitions, by which Kant explained the possibility of pure mathematics, is wholly inapplicable to mathematics in its present form’.1 Pierobon claims, though, that much of Anglo-Saxon commentary on Kant's philosophy of mathematics begins from this ‘rationalist and logicist’ position , reading Kant's philosophy of mathematics from a post-algebraic-revolution perspective. This book attempts to offer a corrective to that position by offering a Kantian conception of mathematics …
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DOI 10.1093/philmat/nkj016
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