Mathematical and philosophical analyses

Philosophy of Science 31 (3):255-264 (1964)
In this paper I shall argue that to a very significant extent mathematics is concept analysis, and that though the analysis of mathematical concepts is in a number of ways different from the analysis of philosophic concepts, the similarities between these two types of concept analyses are as important and far reaching as the differences. I shall argue that because mathematics and philosophy are each concerned with the analysis of concepts, they are much more like one another epistemologically than is often recognized. In insisting upon fundamental similarities between mathematics and philosophy, I shall be agreeing with the classical rationalists, but on a very different conception of both philosophy and mathematics from that held by the rationalists. The rationalists wished to assimilate philosophy to mathematics as understood in their time; viz. as a body of necessary propositions, which followed from self-evident axioms and postulates, revealed to the natural light of reason. As against this rationalistic position, I wish to make a comparison in the reverse direction, in which I shall presuppose a certain conception of philosophy as something given, and then insist that mathematics is in many important respects similar to philosophy as so understood. In particular, I wish to insist that there is a significant comparison between mathematics on the one hand, and philosophy as understood by probably a majority of philosophers today on the other--viz., philosophy understood as concept analysis--, where it is conceded that the analysis of philosophic concepts is inherently a tentative matter, wherein it is impossible--at least in the usual case--to offer any one analysis of a given philosophic concept as absolutely certain and beyond all revision. I shall argue that by virtue of the fact that mathematics, like philosophy, is concerned with the analysis of concepts, many at least of the propositions advanced within it are inherently revisable, and do not possess the kind of certainty the rationalists ascribed to them
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DOI 10.1086/288008
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