This book presents a new approach to the epistemology of mathematics by viewing mathematics as a human activity whose knowledge is intimately linked with practice. Charting an exciting new direction in the philosophy of mathematics, José Ferreirós uses the crucial idea of a continuum to provide an account of the development of mathematical knowledge that reflects the actual experience of doing math and makes sense of the perceived objectivity of mathematical results. -/- Describing a historically oriented, agent-based philosophy of mathematics, (...) Ferreirós shows how the mathematical tradition evolved from Euclidean geometry to the real numbers and set-theoretic structures. He argues for the need to take into account a whole web of mathematical and other practices that are learned and linked by agents, and whose interplay acts as a constraint. Ferreirós demonstrates how advanced mathematics, far from being a priori, is based on hypotheses, in contrast to elementary math, which has strong cognitive and practical roots and therefore enjoys certainty. -/- Offering a wealth of philosophical and historical insights, Mathematical Knowledge and the Interplay of Practices challenges us to rethink some of our most basic assumptions about mathematics, its objectivity, and its relationship to culture and science. (shrink)
Review by A. Kanamori, Boston University (author of The Higher Infinite), review in The Bulletin of Symbolic Logic: “Notwithstanding and braving the daunting complexities of this labyrinth, José Ferreirós has written a magisterial account of the history of set theory which is panoramic, balanced and engaging. Not only does this book synthesize much previous work and provide fresh insights and points of view, but it also features a major innovation, a full-fledged treatment of the emergence of the set-theoretic approach in (...) mathematics from the early nineteenth century. Much of history is in the details, and much of good history is in tone, emphasis, and the drawing together of different strands. Without being Whiggish, Ferreirós is never far from major synthetic themes, themes that in the main work toward balance and pull back from excesses of emphasis of some recent histories. The main criticism of the book would have to be on matters of broad interpretation. Yet, Ferreirós brings a considerable mathematical acuity and expertise to his enterprise, and this makes his viewpoints the more compelling.” . (shrink)
David Hilbert’s early foundational views, especially those corresponding to the 1890s, are analysed here. I consider strong evidence for the fact that Hilbert was a logicist at that time, following upon Dedekind’s footsteps in his understanding of pure mathematics. This insight makes it possible to throw new light on the evolution of Hilbert’s foundational ideas, including his early contributions to the foundations of geometry and the real number system. The context of Dedekind-style logicism makes it possible to offer a new (...) analysis of the emergence of Hilbert’s famous ideas on mathematical existence, now seen as a revision of basic principles of the “naive logic” of sets. At the same time, careful scrutiny of his published and unpublished work around the turn of the century uncovers deep differences between his ideas about consistency proofs before and after 1904. Along the way, we cover topics such as the role of sets and of the dichotomic conception of set theory in Hilbert’s early axiomatics, and offer detailed analyses of Hilbert’s paradox and of his completeness axiom (Vollständigkeitsaxiom). (shrink)
This paper aims to outline an analysis and interpretation of the process that led to First-Order Logic and its consolidation as a core system of modern logic. We begin with an historical overview of landmarks along the road to modern logic, and proceed to a philosophical discussion casting doubt on the possibility of a purely rational justification of the actual delimitation of First-Order-Logic. On this basis, we advance the thesis that a certain historical tradition was essential to the emergence of (...) modern logic; this traditional context is analyzed as consisting in some guiding principles and, particularly, a set of exemplares (i.e., paradigmatic instances). Then, we proceed to interpret the historical course of development reviewed in section 1, which can broadly be described as a two-phased movement of expansion and then restriction of the scope of logical theory. We shall try to pinpoint ambivalencies in the process, and the main motives for subsequent changes. Among the latter, one may emphasize the spirit of modern axiomatics, the situation of foundational insecurity in the 1920s, the resulting desire to find systems well-behaved from a proof-theoretical point of view, and the metatheoretical results of the 1930s. Not surprisingly, the mathematical and, more specifically, the foundational context in which Firs-Order-Logic matured will be seen to have played a primary role in its shaping. (shrink)
Set theory deals with the most fundamental existence questions in mathematics—questions which affect other areas of mathematics, from the real numbers to structures of all kinds, but which are posed as dealing with the existence of sets. Especially noteworthy are principles establishing the existence of some infinite sets, the so-called “arbitrary sets.” This paper is devoted to an analysis of the motivating goal of studying arbitrary sets, usually referred to under the labels of quasi-combinatorialism or combinatorial maximality. After explaining what (...) is meant by definability and by “arbitrariness,” a first historical part discusses the strong motives why set theory was conceived as a theory of arbitrary sets, emphasizing connections with analysis and particularly with the continuum of real numbers. Judged from this perspective, the axiom of choice stands out as a most central and natural set-theoretic principle (in the sense of quasi-combinatorialism). A second part starts by considering the potential mismatch between the formal systems of mathematics and their motivating conceptions, and proceeds to offer an elementary discussion of how far the Zermelo—Fraenkel system goes in laying out principles that capture the idea of “arbitrary sets”. We argue that the theory is rather poor in this respect. (shrink)
The place of Richard Dedekind in the history of logicism is a controversial matter. The conception of logic incorporated in his work is certainly old-fashioned, in spite of innovative elements that would play an important role in late 19th and early 20th century discussions. Yet his understanding of logic and logicism remains of interest for the light it throws upon the development of modern logic in general, and logicist views of the foundations of mathematics in particular. The paper clarifies Dedekind's (...) views and their relation to transcendental logic, makes explicit the role of the principle of comprehension (unrestricted) and offers a reconstrucion ot his dichotomy conception. The last section explores the differences with Frege (half epistemic, half metaphysical) making clear that there were different brands of logicism, and that logicism does not necessarily lead to singularism or “essentialistic objectualism”. (shrink)
A general introduction to the celebrated foundational crisis, discussing how the characteristic traits of modern mathematics (acceptance of the notion of an “arbitrary” function proposed by Dirichlet; wholehearted acceptance of infinite sets and the higher infinite; a preference “to put thoughts in the place of calculations” and to concentrate on “structures” characterized axiomatically; a reliance on “purely existential” methods of proof) provoked extensive polemics and alternative approaches. Going beyond exclusive concentration on the paradoxes, it also discusses the role of the (...) axiom of Choice, issues of predicativity, and goes on to present the ideas of intuitionism and Hilbert's program. The essay closes with Gödel's contributions and the aftermath. (shrink)
We discuss critically some recent theses about geometric cognition, namely claims of universality made by Dehaene et al., and the idea of a “natural geometry” employed by Spelke et al. We offer arguments for the need to distinguish visuo-spatial cognition from basic geometric knowledge, furthermore we claim that the latter cannot be identified with Euclidean geometry. The main aim of the paper is to advance toward a characterization of basic, practical geometry – which in our view requires a combination of (...) experiments on visuo-spatial cognition with studies in cognitive archaeology and comparative history. Examples from these fields are given, with special emphasis on the comparison of ancient Chinese and ancient Greek geometric ideas and procedures. (shrink)
The celebrated “creation” of transfinite set theory by Georg Cantor has been studied in detail by historians of mathematics. However, it has generally been overlooked that his research program cannot be adequately explained as an outgrowth of the mainstream mathematics of his day. We review the main extra-mathematical motivations behind Cantor's very novel research, giving particular attention to a key contribution, the Grundlagen (Foundations of a general theory of sets) of 1883, where those motives are articulated in some detail. Evidence (...) from other publications and correspondence is pulled out to provide clarification and a detailed interpretation of those ideas and their impact upon Cantor's research. Throughout the paper, a special effort is made to place Cantor's scientific undertakings within the context of developments in German science and philosophy at the time (philosophers such as Trendelenburg and Lotze, scientists like Weber, Riemann, Vogt, Haeckel), and to reflect on the German intellectual atmosphere during the nineteenth century. (shrink)
The present paper is a contribution to the history of logic and its philosophy toward the mid-20th century. It examines the interplay between logic, type theory and set theory during the 1930s and 40s, before the reign of first-order logic, and the closely connected issue of the fate of logicism. After a brief presentation of the emergence of logicism, set theory, and type theory, Quine’s work is our central concern, since he was seemingly the most outstanding logicist around 1940, though (...) he would shortly abandon that viewpoint and promote first-order logic as all of logic. Quine’s class-theoretic systems NF and ML, and his farewell to logicism, are examined. The last section attempts to summarize the motives why set theory was preferred to other systems, and first orderlogic won its position as the paradigm logic system after the great War. (shrink)
We offer an analysis of the disciplinary transformations underwent by mathematical or symbolic logic since its emergence in the late 19 th century. Examined are its origins as a hybrid of philosophy and mathematics, the maturity and institutionalisation attained under the label “logic and foundations,” a second wave of institutionalisation in the Postwar period, and the institutional developments since 1975 in connection with computer science and with the study of language and informatics. Although some “internal history” is discussed, the main (...) focus is on the emergence, consolidation and convolutions of logic as a discipline, through various professional associations and journals, in centers such as Torino, Göttingen, Warsaw, Berkeley, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, and Amsterdam. (shrink)
In 1887–1894, Richard Dedekind explored a number of ideas within the project of placing mappings at the very center of pure mathematics. We review two such initiatives: the introduction in 1894 of groups into Galois theory intrinsically via field automorphisms, and a new attempt to define the continuum via maps from ℕ to ℕ in 1891. These represented the culmination of Dedekind’s efforts to reconceive pure mathematics within a theory of sets and maps and throw new light onto the nature (...) of his structuralism and its specificity in relation to the work of other mathematicians. (shrink)
Dedekind’s methodology, in his classic booklet on the foundations of arithmetic, has been the topic of some debate. While some authors make it closely analogue to Hilbert’s early axiomatics, others emphasize its idiosyncratic features, most importantly the fact that no axioms are stated and its careful deductive structure apparently rests on definitions alone. In particular, the so-called Dedekind “axioms” of arithmetic are presented by him as “characteristic conditions” in the definition of the complex concept of a simply infinite system. Making (...) sense of Dedekind’s method may be dependent on an analysis of the classical model of deductive science, as presented by authors from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Studying the modern reconstructions of Euclidean geometry, we show that they did not presuppose deductive independence of the axioms from the definitions. Authors like Wolff elaborated a mathematics based on definitions, and the Wolffian model of deductive science shows significant coincidences with Dedekind’s method, despite the great differences in content and approach. Wolff had a conception of definitions as genetic, which bears some similarities with Kant’s idea of synthetic definitions: they are understood as positing the content of mathematical concepts and introducing thought objects that are the objects of mathematics. The emphasis on the spontaneity of the understanding, which can be found in this philosophical tradition, can also be fruitfully related with Dedekind’s idea of the “free creation” of mathematical objects. (shrink)
I offer a critical review of several different conceptions of the activity of foundational research, from the time of Gauss to the present. These are (1) the traditional image, guiding Gauss, Dedekind, Frege and others, that sees in the search for more adequate basic systems a logical excavation of a priori structures, (2) the program to find sound formal systems for so-called classical mathematics that can be proved consistent, usually associated with the name of Hilbert, and (3) the historicist alternative, (...) guiding Riemann, Poincaré, Weyl and others, that seeks to perfect available conceptual systems with the aim to avoid conceptual limitations and expand the range of theoretical options. I shall contend that, at times, assumptions about the foundational enterprise emerge from certain dogmas that are frequently inherited from previous, outdated images. To round the discussion, I mention some traits of an alternative program that investigates the epistemology of mathematical knowledge. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to argue that there existed relevant interactions between mechanics and geometry during the first half of the nineteenth century, following a path that goes from Gauss to Riemann through Jacobi. By presenting a rich historical context we hope to throw light on the philosophical change of epistemological categories applied by these authors to the fundamental principles of both disciplines. We intend to show that presentations of the changing status of the principles of mechanics as (...) a mere epiphenomenon of the emergence of non-Euclidean geometries are inaccurate, that the relations between the two disciplines were richer than what is usually considered in the literature. These claims will be based on historical and philosophical arguments, starting from the fact that disciplinary boundaries at the time were not rigid as we are used today. It is widely known that the main figures we target worked in different areas, which is a first piece of evidence for the plausibility of our main thesis. (shrink)
This book is part of a major project undertaken by the Centre for Studies in Civilizations , being one of a total of ninety-six planned volumes. The author is a statistician and computer scientist by training, who has concentrated on historical matters for the last ten years or so. The book has very ambitious aims, proposing an alternative philosophy of mathematics and a deviant history of the calculus. Throughout, there is an emphasis on the need to combine history and philosophy (...) of mathematics, especially in order to evaluate properly the history of mathematics in India, in particular the history of the calculus.The pivotal goals of the book are to oppose the Eurocentric account of the history of science in general and mathematics in particular; to avoid the usual philosophical idea of the centrality of proof for mathematical knowledge, in favour of the traditional Indian notion of pramāṇa [validation] encompassing empirical elements and emphasizing calculation; to analyze the thousand-year-long development of infinite series in India, starting in the fifth century; and to show ‘how and why the calculus was imported into Europe’ from about 1500. The result is a picture in which inputs from the Indian subcontinent and epistemology are the driving forces of the history of mathematics, as people in the European subcontinent struggle to adopt new calculation techniques from the East in spite of Western philosophico-religious biases . Thus, a ‘first math war’ involved the algorismus de numero indorum, adopted for practical reasons, which forced Europeans to modify their epistemology of number and quantities. A ‘second math war’ revolved around infinite series and the calculus, since the background of Western epistemology created ‘spurious difficulties’ about infinities and infinitesimals, partially resolved with theories of real numbers. And a ‘third math war’ is …. (shrink)
A book-length study of Riemann's multi-dimensional work (in Spanish), which considers his contributions to physics, philosophy and mathematics. Plus a bi-lingual edition (German-Spanish) of some of his landmark papers: the lecture on geometry, with Weyl's comments; the paper introducing the Riemann Conjecture, part of his 1857 paper on function theory; all of the philosophical fragments, etc. These different contributions, and their interconnections, are carefully studied in the introductory essay of 150 pages.
A long-awaited edition of Zermelo’s works Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9548-y Authors José Ferreirós, Instituto de Filosofia, CCHS-CSIC, Albasanz, 26-28, 28037 Madrid, Spain Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
Logicism finds a prominent place in textbooks as one of the main alternatives in the foundations of mathematics, even though it lost much of its attraction from about 1950. Of course the neologicist trend has revitalized the movement on the basis of Hume’s Principle and Frege’s Theorem, but even so neologicism restricts itself to arithmetic and does not aim to account for all of mathematics. The present contribution does not focus on the classical logicism of Frege and Dedekind, nor on (...) the Russell-Carnap period, and also not on recent neologicism; its aim is to call attention to some forms of heritage from logicism that normally go quite unnoticed. In the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, the logicist thesis became a stimulus for some deep innovations in the field of mathematical logic. One can argue, in particular, that two key ideas linked with formal semantics had their origins in the conception of logic associated with the logicist trend – the expansion of metamathematics brought about by Tarski, opening the way to model theory, and the insistence on the “full” set-theoretic semantics as “standard” for second-order logic. The paper proposes an analysis of those inheritances and argues that that logical theory ought to avoid some of their implications. (shrink)
El artículo intenta promover una recepción más amplia de los trabajos recientes sobre filosofía de la actividad científica experimental. Primero se comentarán los orígenes y las características de la tradición teoreticista predominante, criticando sus presupuestos y sus "miserias". Se analizará luego la función de los instrumentos, proponiendo una tipología de la actividad experimental, aunque elemental --esperamos-- útil. Tras analizar la estructura del experimento, empleando contribuciones de Pickering y otros, discutiremos la dinámica de la experimentación: los procesos de formación de datos. (...) Ésta es, obviamente, la cuestión más crucial y debatida, de la que depende la especificidad y fiabilidad de los métodos científicos. /// This paper attempts to promote a more widespread reception of recent work on the philosophy of experimental scientific activity. First, we comment on the origins and character of the predominant theoreticist tradition, offering critical remarks on its assumptions and "poverty". Then we analyze the function of instruments, proposing a coarse but hopefully useful typology of experimental activity. After analyzing the structure of experiment, drawing on work by Pickering and others, we discuss the dynamics of experimentation --the processes of data formation. This is obviously the most crucial and disputed issue, on which the specificity and reliability of scientific methods depends. (shrink)
Se plantea y discute una “gran antinomia” entre concepciones teoreticistas o fundacionistas, y concepciones pragmatistas, en relación con una amplia diversidad de enfoques científicos y/o filosóficos. Ilustramos este contraste de manera especial con el concepto de tiempo y algunas consideraciones en torno a los ‘negacionistas’ del tiempo, guiados por visiones teoreticistas.
This is a contribution to the philosophy of experimental work, engaging with questions posed by Hacking, Franklin, Pickering, Schaffer and Collins. It focuses on the dynamics of experimentation and offers a detailed argument that one finds no "regress" of the kind posited by Collins. In particular, we reanalyze the celebrated series of experimental investigations by Newton on optical phenomena, taking into account Schaffer's partial reconstruction, and we show how it must be supplemented to obtain a more complete picture.