Jacob Klein on François Vieta’s Establishment of Algebra as the General Analytical Art

What is at stake for Jacob Klein in François Vieta’s analytical art is the birth of both the “modern concept of ‘number’ [Zahl], as it underlies symbolic calculi” and the expanded, in contrast to ancient Greek science, scope of the generality of mathematical science itself. Of the former, Klein writes that it “heralds a general conceptual transformation which extends over the whole of modern science”. The latter, he says, lends the “treatment” [πραγματεία] at issue in the ancient Greek mathematical idea of a “‘general treatment’ [καθόλου πραγματεία]” “a completely new sense” “within the system of ‘science.’” The generality of this new sense will concern both the method and object of science in what will come to be known as universal mathematics. This transformation of the basic concept and scope, initially of mathematics and then of “the system of knowledge in general”, “concerns first and foremost the concept of ἀριθμόσ itself”. As a result of “its transfer into a new conceptual dimension” —i.e., into the dimension in which both “the concept of ‘number’ [Zahl]... is itself... as is that which it means” “symbolic in nature”—a transfer that “becomes visible” “for the first time in Vieta’s ‘general analytic,’” there follows “a thoroughgoing modification of the means and aims of science.” Klein maintains that what this modification involves is “best characterized by a phrase... in which Vieta expresses the ultimate problem, the problem proper, of his ‘analytical art’: ‘Analytical art appropriates to itself by right the proud problem of problems, which is: TO LEAVE NO PROBLEM UNSOLVED’.”
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  Continental Philosophy  History of Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 0093-4240
DOI gfpj20042527
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