The Frege–Hilbert controversy in context

Synthese 202 (1):1-30 (2023)
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This paper aims to show that Frege’s and Hilbert’s mutual disagreement results from different notions of Anschauung and their relation to axioms. In the first section of the paper, evidence is provided to support that Frege and Hilbert were influenced by the same developments of 19th-century geometry, in particular the work of Gauss, Plücker, and von Staudt. The second section of the paper shows that Frege and Hilbert take different approaches to deal with the problems that the developments in 19th-century geometry posed for the traditional Kantian philosophy of mathematics. Frege maintains that Anschauung is a source of knowledge by which we acknowledge geometrical axioms as true. For Hilbert, in contrast, axioms provide one of several correct “pictures” of reality. Hilbert’s position is thereby deeply influenced by epistemological ideas from Hertz and Helmholtz, and, in turn, influenced the neo-Kantian Cassirer.

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Tabea Rohr
Friedrich Schiller Universität, Jena

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References found in this work

Critique of Pure Reason.I. Kant - 1787/1998 - Philosophy 59 (230):555-557.
The foundations of arithmetic.Gottlob Frege - 1884/1950 - Evanston, Ill.,: Northwestern University Press.
Uber Sinn und Bedeutung.Gottlob Frege - 1892 - Zeitschrift für Philosophie Und Philosophische Kritik 100 (1):25-50.
Kant and the exact sciences.Michael Friedman - 1992 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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