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 (_Gedankendinge_) 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)
A theory of magnitudes involves criteria for their equivalence, comparison and addition. In this article we examine these aspects from an abstract viewpoint, by focusing on the so-called De Zolt’s postulate in the theory of equivalence of plane polygons (“If a polygon is divided into polygonal parts in any given way, then the union of all but one of these parts is not equivalent to the given polygon”). We formulate an abstract version of this postulate and derive it from some (...) selected principles for magnitudes. We also formulate and derive an abstract version of Euclid’s Common Notion 5 (“The whole is greater than the part”), and analyze its logical relation to the former proposition. These results prove to be relevant for the clarification of some key conceptual aspects of Hilbert’s proof of De Zolt’s postulate, in his classicalFoundations of Geometry(1899). Furthermore, our abstract treatment of this central proposition provides interesting insights for the development of a well-behaved theory ofcompatiblemagnitudes. (shrink)
Since the application of Postulate I.2 in Euclid’s Elements is not uniform, one could wonder in what way should it be applied in Euclid’s plane geometry. Besides legitimizing questions like this from the perspective of a philosophy of mathematical practice, we sketch a general perspective of conceptual analysis of mathematical texts, which involves an extended notion of mathematical theory as system of authorizations, and an audience-dependent notion of proof.
A theory of magnitudes involves criteria for their comparison, equivalence and addition. We examine these aspects from an abstract viewpoint, stressing independence and definability. These considerations are triggered by the so-called De Zolt’s principle in the theory of equivalence of plane polygons.