consideration of some leading topics of the science will exemplify both the plausibility and inadequacy of the above definition. Arithmetic, algebra, and the infinitesimal calculus, are sciences directly concerned with integral numbers, rational (or fractional) numbers, and real numbers generally, which include incommensurable numbers. It would seem that “the general theory of discrete and continuous quantity” is the exact description of the topics of these sciences. Furthermore, can we not complete the circle of the mathematical sciences by adding geometry? Now geometry deals with points, lines, planes and cubic contents. Of these all except points are quantities: lines involve lengths, planes involve areas, and cubic contents involve volumes. Also, as the Cartesian geometry shows, all the relations between points are expressible in terms of geometric quantities. Accordingly, at first sight it seems reasonable to define geometry in some such way as “the science of dimensional quantity.” Thus every subdivision of mathematical science would appear to deal with quantity, and the definition of mathematics as “the science of quantity” would appear to be justified. We have now to consider the reasons for rejecting this definition as inadequate.
Types of Critical Questions.—What are numbers? We can talk of five apples and ten pears. But what are “five” and “ten” apart from the apples and pears? Also in addition to the cardinal numbers there are the ordinal numbers: the fifth apple and the tenth pear claim thought. What is the relation of “the fifth” and “the tenth” to “five” and “ten”? “The first rose of summer” and “the last rose of summer” are parallel phrases, yet one explicitly introduces an ordinal number and the other does not. Again, “half a foot” and “half a pound” are easily defined. But in what sense is there “a half,” which is the same for “half a foot” as “half a pound”? Furthermore, incommensurable numbers are defined as the limits arrived at as the result of certain procedures with rational numbers. But how do we know that there is anything to reach? We must know that √2 exists before we can prove that any procedure will reach it. An expedition to the North Pole has nothing to reach unless the earth rotates.
Also in geometry, what is a point? The straightness of a straight line and the planeness of a plane require consideration. Furthermore, “congruence” is a difficulty. For when a triangle “moves,” the points do not move with it. So what is it that keeps unaltered in the moving triangle? Thus the whole method of measurement in geometry as described in the elementary textbooks and the older treatises is obscure to the last degree. Lastly, what are “dimensions”? All these topics require thorough discussion before we can rest content with the definition of mathematics as the general science of magnitude; and by the time they are discussed the definition has evaporated. An outline of the modern answers to questions such as the above will now be given. A critical defence of them would require a volume.
Cardinal Numbers.—A one-one relation between the members of two classes α and β is any method of correlating all the members of α to all the members of β, so that any member of α has one and only one correlate in β, and any member of β has one and only one correlate in α. Two classes between which a one-one relation exists have the same cardinal number and are called cardinally similar; and the cardinal number of the class α is a certain class whose members are themselves classes—namely, it is the class composed of all those classes for which a one-one correlation with α exists. Thus the cardinal number of α is itself a class, and furthermore α is a member of it. For a one-one relation can be established between the members of α and α by the simple process of correlating each member of α with itself. Thus the cardinal number one is the class of unit classes, the cardinal number two is the class of doublets, and so on. Also a unit class is any class with the property that it possesses a member x such that, if y is any member of the class, then x and y are identical. A doublet is any class which possesses a member x such that the modified class formed by all the other members except x is a unit class. And so on for all the finite cardinals, which are thus defined successively. The cardinal number zero is the class of classes with no members; but there is only one such class, namely—the null class. Thus this cardinal number has only one member. The operations of addition and multiplication of two given cardinal numbers can be defined by taking two classes α and β, satisfying the conditions (1) that their cardinal numbers are respectively the given numbers, and (2) that they contain no member in common, and then by defining by reference to α and β two other suitable classes whose cardinal numbers are defined to be respectively the required sum and product of the cardinal numbers in question. We need not here consider the details of this process.
With these definitions it is now possible to prove the following six premisses applying to finite cardinal numbers, from which Peano has shown that all arithmetic can be deduced:—
i. Cardinal numbers form a class.
ii. Zero is a cardinal number.
iii. If a is a cardinal number, a + 1 is a cardinal number.
iv. If s is any class and zero is a member of it, also if when x is a cardinal number and a member of s, also x + 1 is a member of s, then the whole class of cardinal numbers is contained in s.
v. If a and b are cardinal numbers, and a + 1 = b + 1, then a = b.
vi. If a is a cardinal number, then a + 1 ≠ 0.
It may be noticed that (iv) is the familar principle of mathematical induction. Peano in an historical note refers its first explicit employment, although without a general enunciation, to Maurolycus in his work, Arithmeticorum libri duo (Venice, 1575).
But now the difficulty of confining mathematics to being the science of number and quantity is immediately apparent. For there is no self-contained science of cardinal numbers. The proof of the six premisses requires an elaborate investigation into the general properties of classes and relations which can be deduced by the strictest reasoning from our ultimate logical principles. Also it is purely arbitrary to erect the consequences of these six principles into a separate science. They are excellent principles of the highest value, but they are in no sense the necessary premisses which must be proved before any other propositions of cardinal numbers can be established. On the contrary, the premisses of arithmetic can be put in other forms, and, furthermore, an indefinite number of propositions of arithmetic can be proved directly from logical principles without mentioning them. Thus, while arithmetic may be defined as that branch of deductive reasoning concerning classes and relations which is concerned with the establishment of propositions concerning cardinal numbers, it must be added that the introduction of cardinal numbers makes no great break in this general science. It is no more than an interesting subdivision in a general theory.
Ordinal Numbers.—We must first understand what is meant by “order,” that is, by “serial arrangement.” An order of a set of things is to be sought in that relation holding between members of the set which constitutes that order. The set viewed as a class has many orders. Thus the telegraph posts along a certain road have a space-order very obvious to our senses; but they have also a time-order according to dates of erection, perhaps more important to the postal authorities who replace them after fixed intervals. A set of cardinal numbers have an order of magnitude, often called the order of the set because of its insistent obviousness to us; but, if they are the numbers drawn in a lottery, their time-order of occurrence in that drawing also ranges them in an order of some importance. Thus the order is defined by the “serial” relation. A relation (R) is serial when (1) it implies diversity, so that, if x has the relation R to y, x is diverse from y; (2) it is transitive, so that if x has the relation R to y, and y to z, then x has the relation R to z; (3) it has the property of connexity, so that if x and y are things to which any things bear the relation R, or which bear the relation R to any things, then either x is identical with y, or x has the relation R to y, or y has the relation R to x. These conditions are necessary and sufficient to secure that our ordinary ideas of “preceding” and “succeeding” hold in respect to the relation R. The “field” of the relation R is the class of things ranged in order by it. Two relations R and R′ are said to be ordinally similar, if a one-one relation holds between the members of the two fields of R and R′, such that if x and y are any two members of the field of R, such that x has the relation R to y, and if x′ and y′ are the correlates in the field of R′ of x and y, then in all such cases x′ has the relation R′ to y′, and conversely, interchanging the dashes on the letters, i.e. R and R′, x and x′, &c. It is evident that the ordinal similarity of two relations implies the cardinal similarity of their fields, but not conversely. Also, two relations need not be serial in order to be ordinally similar; but if one is serial, so is the other. The relation-number of a relation is the class whose members are all those relations which are ordinally similar to it. This class will include the original relation itself. The relation-number of a relation should be compared with the cardinal number of a class. When a relation is serial its relation-number is often called its serial type. The addition and multiplication of two relation-numbers is definedby taking two relations R and S, such that (1) their fields have no
- Cf. The Principles of Mathematics, by Bertrand Russell (Cambridge, 1903).
- Cf. Formulaire mathématique (Turin, ed. of 1903); earlier formulations of the bases of arithmetic are given by him in the editions of 1898 and of 1901. The variations are only trivial.
- Cf. Russell, loc. cit., pp. 199-256.