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881
MATHEMATICS

of classes and relations from the ultimate logical premises. In the course of this process, undertaken for the first time with the rigour of mathematicians, some contradictions have become apparent. That first discovered is known as Burali-Forti's contradiction, ' and consists in the proof that there both is and is not a greatest infinite ordinal number. But these contradictions do not depend upon any theory of number, for Russell's contradiction' does not involve number in any form. This contradiction arises from considering the class possessing as members all classes which are not members of themselves. Call this class w; then to say that x is a w is equivalent to saying that x is not an x. Accordingly, to say that w is a w is equivalent to saying that 'w is not a w. An analogous contradiction can be found for relations. It follows that a careful scrutiny of the very idea of classes and relations is required. Note that classes are here required in extension, so that the class of human beings and the class of rational featherless bipeds are identical; similarly for relations, which are to be determined by the entities related. Now a class in respect to its components is many. In what sense then can it be one? This problem of “ the one and the many ” has been discussed continuously by the philosophers? All the contradictions can be avoided, ancl, yet the use of classes and relations can be preserved as required by mathematics, and indeed by common sense, by a theory which denies to a class-or relation existence or being in any sense in which the entities composing itor related by it-exist. Thus, to say that a pen is an entity and the class of pens is an entity is merely a play upon the word “ entity "; the second sense of “ entity " (if any) is indeed derived from the first, but has a more complex signification. Consider an incomplete proposition, incomplete in the sense that some entity which ought to be involved in it is represented by an undetermined x, which may stand for any entity. Call it a propositional function; and, if ¢x be a propositional function, the undetermined variable x is the argument. Two propositional functions ¢x and x//x are “extensionally identical" if any determination of x in ¢x which converts ¢x into a true proposition also converts gl/x into a true proposition, and conversely for tp and 4>. Now consider a propositional function FX in which the variable argument X is itself a propositional function. If FX is true when, and only when, X is determined to be either ¢ or some other propositional function extensionally equivalent to ¢, then the proposition F4> is of the form which is ordinarily recognized as being about the class determined by 4>x taken in extension-that is, the class of entities for which q$x is a true proposition when x is determined to be any one of them. A similar theory holds for relations which arise from the consideration of propositional functions with two or more variable arguments. It is then possible to define by a parallel elaboration what is meant by classes of classes, classes of relations, relations between classes, and so on. Accordingly, the number of a class of relations can be defined, or of a class of classes, and so on. This theory* is in effect a theory of the use of classes and relations, and does not decide the philosophic question as to the sense (if any) in which a class in extension is one entity. It does indeed deny that it is an entity in the sense in which one of its members is an entity. Accordingly, it is a fallacy for any determination of x to consider “ x is an x " or “ x is not an x " as having the meaning of propositions. Note that for any determination of x, “ x is an x " and “ x is not an x, ” are neither of them fallacies but are both meaningless, according to this theory. Thus Russell's contradiction vanishes, and an examination of the other contradictions shows that they vanish also.

Applied M alhematics.-The selection of the topics of mathematical inquiry among the infinite variety open to it has been guided by the useful applications, and indeed the abstract theory has only recently been disentangled from the empirical elements connected with these applications. For example, the application of the theory of cardinal numbers to classes of physical entities involves in practice some process of counting. It is only recently that the succession of processes which is involved in any act of counting has been seen to be irrelevant to the idea of number. Indeed, it is only by experience that we can know that any definite process of counting will give the true cardinal number of some class of entities. It is perfectly possible to imagine a universe in which any act of counting by a being in it annihilated some members of the class counted during the time and only during the time of its continuance. A legend of the Council of Niceaf' illustrates this point: “ When the Bishops took their 1 “ Una questioner sui numeri transfinite, " Rend. del circolo mat. di Palermo, vol. xi. (1897); and Russell, loc. cit., ch. xxxviii. Z Cf. Russell, loc. cit., ch. x.

(“Cla Pragmatism: a New Name for some Old Ways of Thinking 1907

  • Due to Bertrand Russell, cf. “ Mathematical Logic as based on

the Theory of Types, " Amer. Iourn. of Math. vol. xxx. (1908). It is more fully explained by him, with later simplifications, in Principia malhemalica (Cambridge).

5 C f. Stanley's Eastern Church, Lecture v.

places on-their thrones, they were 318; when they rose up to be called over, it appeared that they were 319; so that they never could make the number come right, and whenever they approached the last of the series, he immediately turned into the likeness of his next neighbour.” Whatever be the historical worth of this story, it may safely be said that it cannot be disproved by deductive reasoning from the premises of abstract logic. The most we can do is to assert that a universe in which such things are liable to happen on a large scale is unfitted for the practical application of the theory of cardinal numbers. The application of the theory of real numbers to physical quantities involves analogous considerations. In the first place, some physical process of addition is presupposed, involving some inductively inferred law of permanence during that process. Thus in the theory of masses we must know that two pounds of lead when put together will counterbalance in the scales two pounds df sugar, or a pound of lead and a pound of sugar. Furthermore, the sort of continuity of the series (in order of magnitude) of rational numbers is known to be different from that of the series of real numbers. Indeed, mathematicians now reserve “ continuity ” as the term for the latter kind of continuity; the mere property of having an infinite number of terms between any two terms is called “ compactness.” The compactness of the series of rational numbers is consistent with quasi-gaps in it-that is, with the possible absence of limits to classes in it. Thus the class of rational numbers Whose squares are less than 2 has no upper limit among the rational numbers. But among the real numbers all classes have limits. Now, owing to the necessary inexactness of measurement, it is impossible to' discriminate directly whether any kind of continuous physical quantity possesses the compactness of the series of rationals or the continuity of the series of real numbers. In calculations the latter hypothesis is made because of its mathematical simplicity. But, the assumption has certainly no a priori grounds in its favour. and it is not very easy to see how to base it upon experience. For example, if it should turn out that the mass of a body is to be estimated by counting the number of corpuscles (whatever they may be) which go to form it, then a body with an irrational measure of mass is intrinsically impossible. Similarly, the continuity of space apparently rests upon sheer assumption unsupported by any a priori or experimental grounds. Thus the current applications of mathematics to the analysis of phenomena can be justified by no a priori necessity. In one sense there is no science of applied mathematics. When once the fixed conditions which any hypothetical group of entities are to satisfy have been precisely formulated, the deduction of the further propositions, which also will hold respecting them, can proceed in complete independence of the question as to whether or no any such group of entities can be found in the world of phenomena. Thus rational mechanics, based on the Newtonian Laws, viewed as mathematics is independent of its supposed application, and hydrodynamics remains a coherent and respected science though it is extremely improbable that any perfect fluid exists in the physical world. But this unbendingly logical point of view cannot be the last word upon the matter. For no one can doubt the essential difference between characteristic treatises upon “ pure ” and “ applied ' ' mathematics. The difference is a difference in method. In pure mathematics the hypotheses which a set of entities are to satisfy are given, and a group of interesting deductions are sought., In “ applied mathematics ” the “ deductions ” are given in the shape of the experimental evidence of natural science, and the hypotheses from which the “ deductions ” can be deduced are sought. Accordingly, every treatise on applied mathematics, properly so-called, is directed to the criticism of the “laws ” from which the reasoning starts, or to a suggestion of results which experiment may hope to find. Thus if it calculates the result of some experiment, it is not the experimentalist's well-attested results which are on their trial, but the basis of the calculation. Newton's Hypotheses non jingo was a proud boast, but it rests upon an entire misconception of the capacities of the mind of man in dealing with external nature.