History of Philosophy Quarterly 34 (4):371-390 (2017)

Christopher Yeomans
Purdue University
It is fair to say that Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's philosophy of mathematics and his interpretation of the calculus in particular have not been popular topics of conversation since the early part of the twentieth century. Changes in mathematics in the late nineteenth century, the new set-theoretical approach to understanding its foundations, and the rise of a sympathetic philosophical logic have all conspired to give prior philosophies of mathematics (including Hegel's) the untimely appearance of naïveté. The common view was expressed by Bertrand Russell: The great [mathematicians] of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were so much impressed by the results of their new methods that they did not trouble to examine their foundations. Although their arguments were fallacious, a special Providence saw to it that their conclusions were more or less true. Hegel fastened upon the obscurities in the foundations of mathematics, turned them into dialectical contradictions, and resolved them by nonsensical syntheses. . . .The resulting puzzles [of mathematics] were all cleared up during the nineteenth century, not by heroic philosophical doctrines such as that of Kant or that of Hegel, but by patient attention to detail (1956, 368–69).
Keywords Hegel  philosophy of mathematics
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