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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index M > Category: Mathematics And Logic

Mathematics And Logic Quotes (27 quotes)

[In mathematics] we behold the conscious logical activity of the human mind in its purest and most perfect form. Here we learn to realize the laborious nature of the process, the great care with which it must proceed, the accuracy which is necessary to determine the exact extent of the general propositions arrived at, the difficulty of forming and comprehending abstract concepts; but here we learn also to place confidence in the certainty, scope and fruitfulness of such intellectual activity.
In Ueber das Verhältnis der Naturwissenschaften zur Gesammtheit der Wissenschaft, Vorträge und Reden (1896), Bd. 1, 176. Also seen translated as “In mathematics we see the conscious logical activity of our mind in its purest and most perfect form; here is made manifest to us all the labor and the great care with which it progresses, the precision which is necessary to determine exactly the source of the established general theorems, and the difficulty with which we form and comprehend abstract conceptions; but we also learn here to have confidence in the certainty, breadth, and fruitfulness of such intellectual labor”, in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 20. From the original German, “Hier sehen wir die bewusste logische Thätigkeit unseres Geistes in ihrer reinsten und vollendetsten Form; wir können hier die ganze Mühe derselben kennen lernen, die grosse Vorsicht, mit der sie vorschreiten muss, die Genauigkeit, welche nöthig ist, um den Umfang der gewonnenen allgemeinen Sätze genau zu bestimmen, die Schwierigkeit, abstracte Begriffe zu bilden und zu verstehen; aber ebenso auch Vertrauen fassen lernen in die Sicherheit, Tragweite und Fruchtbarkeit solcher Gedankenarbeit.”
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~~[Attributed, authorship undocumented]~~ Mathematical demonstrations are a logic of as much or more use, than that commonly learned at schools, serving to a just formation of the mind, enlarging its capacity, and strengthening it so as to render the same capable of exact reasoning, and discerning truth from falsehood in all occurrences, even in subjects not mathematical. For which reason it is said, the Egyptians, Persians, and Lacedaemonians seldom elected any new kings, but such as had some knowledge in the mathematics, imagining those, who had not, men of imperfect judgments, and unfit to rule and govern.
From an article which appeared as 'The Usefulness of Mathematics', Pennsylvania Gazette (30 Oct 1735), No. 360. Collected, despite being without clear evidence of Franklin’s authorship, in The Works of Benjamin Franklin (1809), Vol. 4, 377. Evidence of actual authorship by Ben Franklin for the newspaper article has not been ascertained, and scholars doubt it. See Franklin documents at the website founders.archives.gov. The quote is included here to attach this caution.
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As an individual opinion of mine, perhaps not as yet shared by many, I may be permitted to state, by the way, that I consider pure Mathematics to be only one branch of general Logic, the branch originating from the creation of Number, to the economical virtues of which is due the enormous development that particular branch has been favored with in comparison with the other branches of Logic that until of late almost remained stationary.
In Lecture (10 Aug 1898) present in German to the First International Congress of Mathematicians in Zürich, 'On Pasigraphy: Its Present State and the Pasigraphic Movement in Italy'. As translated and published in The Monist (1899), 9, No. 1, 46.
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Confined to its true domain, mathematical reasoning is admirably adapted to perform the universal office of sound logic: to induce in order to deduce, in order to construct. … It contents itself to furnish, in the most favorable domain, a model of clearness, of precision, and consistency, the close contemplation of which is alone able to prepare the mind to render other conceptions also as perfect as their nature permits. Its general reaction, more negative than positive, must consist, above all, in inspiring us everywhere with an invincible aversion for vagueness, inconsistency, and obscurity, which may always be really avoided in any reasoning whatsoever, if we make sufficient effort.
In Synthèse Subjective (1856), 98. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 202-203. From the original French, “Bornée à son vrai domaine, la raison mathématique y peut admirablement remplir l’office universel de la saine logique: induire pour déduire, afin de construire. … Elle se contente de former, dans le domaine le plus favorable, un type de clarté, de précision, et de consistance, dont la contemplation familière peut seule disposer l’esprit à rendre les autres conceptions aussi parfaites que le comporte leur nature. Sa réaction générale, plus négative que positive, doit surtout consister à nous inspirer partout une invincible répugnance pour le vague, l’incohérence, et l’obscurité, que nous pouvons réellement éviter envers des pensées quelconques, si nous y faisons assez d’efforts.”
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Formal thought, consciously recognized as such, is the means of all exact knowledge; and a correct understanding of the main formal sciences, Logic and Mathematics, is the proper and only safe foundation for a scientific education.
In Number and its Algebra (1896), 134.
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If logical training is to consist, not in repeating barbarous scholastic formulas or mechanically tacking together empty majors and minors, but in acquiring dexterity in the use of trustworthy methods of advancing from the known to the unknown, then mathematical investigation must ever remain one of its most indispensable instruments. Once inured to the habit of accurately imagining abstract relations, recognizing the true value of symbolic conceptions, and familiarized with a fixed standard of proof, the mind is equipped for the consideration of quite other objects than lines and angles. The twin treatises of Adam Smith on social science, wherein, by deducing all human phenomena first from the unchecked action of selfishness and then from the unchecked action of sympathy, he arrives at mutually-limiting conclusions of transcendent practical importance, furnish for all time a brilliant illustration of the value of mathematical methods and mathematical discipline.
In 'University Reform', Darwinism and Other Essays (1893), 297-298.
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It has come to pass, I know not how, that Mathematics and Logic, which ought to be but the handmaids of Physic, nevertheless presume on the strength of the certainty which they possess to exercise dominion over it.
From De Augmentis Scientiaurum as translated in Francis Guy Selby, The Advancement of Learning (1893), Vol. 2, 73.
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It is commonly considered that mathematics owes its certainty to its reliance on the immutable principles of formal logic. This … is only half the truth imperfectly expressed. The other half would be that the principles of formal logic owe such a degree of permanence as they have largely to the fact that they have been tempered by long and varied use by mathematicians. “A vicious circle!” you will perhaps say. I should rather describe it as an example of the process known by mathematicians as the method of successive approximation.
In 'The Fundamental Conceptions And Methods Of Mathematics', Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (3 Nov 1904), 11, No. 3, 120.
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Logic has borrowed the rules of geometry without understanding its power. … I am far from placing logicians by the side of geometers who teach the true way to guide the reason. … The method of avoiding error is sought by every one. The logicians profess to lead the way, the geometers alone reach it, and aside from their science there is no true demonstration.
From De l’Art de Persuader, (1657). Pensées de Pascal (1842), Part 1, Article 3, 41-42. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 202. From the original French, “La logique a peut-être emprunté les règles de la géométrie sans en comprendre la force … je serai bien éloigné de les mettre en parallèle avec les géomètres, qui apprennent la véritable méthode de conduire la raison. … La méthode de ne point errer est recherchée de tout le monde. Les logiciens font profession d'y conduire, les géomètres seuls y arrivent; et, hors de leur science …, il n'y a point de véritables démonstrations ….”
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Logic it is called [referring to Whitehead and Russell’s Principia Mathematica] and logic it is, the logic of propositions and functions and classes and relations, by far the greatest (not merely the biggest) logic that our planet has produced, so much that is new in matter and in manner; but it is also mathematics, a prolegomenon to the science, yet itself mathematics in its most genuine sense, differing from other parts of the science only in the respects that it surpasses these in fundamentally, generality and precision, and lacks traditionality. Few will read it, but all will feel its effect, for behind it is the urgence and push of a magnificent past: two thousand five hundred years of record and yet longer tradition of human endeavor to think aright.
In Science (1912), 35, 110, from his book review on Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell, Principia Mathematica.
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Mathematics … belongs to every inquiry, moral as well as physical. Even the rules of logic, by which it is rigidly bound, could not be deduced without its aid. The laws of argument admit of simple statement, but they must be curiously transposed before they can be applied to the living speech and verified by observation. In its pure and simple form the syllogism cannot be directly compared with all experience, or it would not have required an Aristotle to discover it. It must be transmuted into all the possible shapes in which reasoning loves to clothe itself. The transmutation is the mathematical process in the establishment of the law.
From Memoir (1870) read before the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, printed in 'Linear Associative Algebra', American Journal of Mathematics (1881), 4, 97-98.
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Mathematics, that giant pincers of scientific logic…
From Address to the Ohio Academy of Science, 'Biology and Mathematics', printed in Science (11 Aug 1905), New Series 22, No. 554, 162.
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No irrational exaggeration of the claims of Mathematics can ever deprive that part of philosophy of the property of being the natural basis of all logical education, through its simplicity, abstractness, generality, and freedom from disturbance by human passion. There, and there alone, we find in full development the art of reasoning, all the resources of which, from the most spontaneous to the most sublime, are continually applied with far more variety and fruitfulness than elsewhere;… The more abstract portion of mathematics may in fact be regarded as an immense repository of logical resources, ready for use in scientific deduction and co-ordination.
In Auguste Comte and Harriet Martineau (trans.), Positive Philosophy (1854), Vol. 2, 528-529.
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Pure mathematics was discovered by Boole in a work which he called “The Laws of Thought” (1854).… His book was in fact concerned with formal logic, and this is the same thing as mathematics.
In 'Recent Work on the Principles of Mathematics', The International Monthly (Jul-Dec 1901), 4, 83. Relevant context appears in a footnote in William Bragg Ewald, From Kant to Hilbert: A Source Book in the Foundations of Mathematics (1996), Vol. 1, 442, which gives: “Russell’s essay was written for a popular audience, and (as he notes) for an editor who asked him to make the essay ‘as romantic as possible’. Russell’s considered appraisal of Boole was more sober. For instance, in Our Knowledge of the External World, Lecture II, he says of Boole: ‘But in him and his successors, before Peano and Frege, the only thing really achieved, apart from certain details, was the invention of a mathematical symbolism for deducing consequences from the premises which the newer methods shared with Aristotle.’”
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Symbolic Logic…has been disowned by many logicians on the plea that its interest is mathematical, and by many mathematicians on the plea that its interest is logical.
In 'Preface', A Treatise on Universal Algebra: With Applications (1898), Vol. 1, vi.
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The emancipation of logic from the yoke of Aristotle very much resembles the emancipation of geometry from the bondage of Euclid; and, by its subsequent growth and diversification, logic, less abundantly perhaps but not less certainly than geometry, has illustrated the blessings of freedom.
From Book Review in Science (19 Jan 1912), 35, No. 890, 108. Keyser was reviewing Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell, Principia Mathematica (1910).
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The influence of the mathematics of Leibnitz upon his philosophy appears chiefly in connection with his law of continuity and his prolonged efforts to establish a Logical Calculus. … To find a Logical Calculus (implying a universal philosophical language or system of signs) is an attempt to apply in theological and philosophical investigations an analytic method analogous to that which had proved so successful in Geometry and Physics. It seemed to Leibnitz that if all the complex and apparently disconnected ideas which make up our knowledge could be analysed into their simple elements, and if these elements could each be represented by a definite sign, we should have a kind of “alphabet of human thoughts.” By the combination of these signs (letters of the alphabet of thought) a system of true knowledge would be built up, in which reality would be more and more adequately represented or symbolized. … In many cases the analysis may result in an infinite series of elements; but the principles of the Infinitesimal Calculus in mathematics have shown that this does not necessarily render calculation impossible or inaccurate. Thus it seemed to Leibnitz that a synthetic calculus, based upon a thorough analysis, would be the most effective instrument of knowledge that could be devised. “I feel,” he says, “that controversies can never be finished, nor silence imposed upon the Sects, unless we give up complicated reasonings in favor of simple calculations, words of vague and uncertain meaning in favor of fixed symbols [characteres].” Thus it will appear that “every paralogism is nothing but an error of calculation.” “When controversies arise, there will be no more necessity of disputation between two philosophers than between two accountants. Nothing will be needed but that they should take pen in hand, sit down with their counting-tables, and (having summoned a friend, if they like) say to one another: Let us calculate.” This sounds like the ungrudging optimism of youth; but Leibniz was optimist enough to cherish the hope of it to his life’s end.
By Robert Latta in 'Introduction' to his translation of Gottfried Leibnitz, The Monadology and Other Philosophical Writings (1898), 85. Also quoted (omitting the last sentence) in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 205-206.
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The mathematical conception is, from its very nature, abstract; indeed its abstractness is usually of a higher order than the abstractness of the logician.
In 'Mathematics', Encyclopedia Britannica (1883), Vol. 15, 636.
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The mathematician lives in a purely conceptual sphere, and mathematics is but the higher development of Symbolic Logic.
In Recent Development of Physical Science (1904), 34. The second half of the sentence appears in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica (1914), 206.
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The modern development of mathematical logic dates from Boole’s Laws of Thought (1854). But in him and his successors, before Peano and Frege, the only thing really achieved, apart from certain details, was the invention of a mathematical symbolism for deducing consequences from the premises which the newer methods shared with Aristotle.
From a Lowell Lecture delivered in Boston (Apr 1914), 'Logic as the Essence of Philosophy". Published in Our Knowledge of the External World: As A Field For Scientific Method in Philosophy (1914), Lecture II, 40. Also quoted in William Bragg Ewald, From Kant to Hilbert: A Source Book in the Foundations of Mathematics (1996), Vol. 1, footnote, 442. In the Footnote, Ewalt contrasts a more “romantic” view of Boole written by Russell for a popular audience. Refer to the latter quote elsewhere on this Bertrand Russell webpage, which begins “Pure mathematics was discovered by Boole….”
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The progress of the art of rational discovery depends in a great part upon the art of characteristic (ars characteristica). The reason why people usually seek demonstrations only in numbers and lines and things represented by these is none other than that there are not, outside of numbers, convenient characters corresponding to the notions.
Translated by Gerhard from Philosophische Schriften, 8, 198. As quoted in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 205.
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The totality of our so-called knowledge or beliefs, from the most casual matters of geography and history to the profoundest laws of atomic physics or even of pure mathematics and logic, is a man-made fabric which impinges on experience only along the edges. Or, to change the figure, total science is like a field of force whose boundary conditions are experience. A conflict with experience at the periphery occasions readjustments in the interior of the field. Truth values have to be redistributed over some of our statements. Reevaluation of some statements entails reevaluation of others, because of their logical interconnections—the logical laws being in turn simply certain further statements of the system, certain further elements of the field.
'Two Dogmas of Experience,' in Philosophical Review (1951). Reprinted in From a Logical Point of View (1953), 42.
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The two great components of the critical movement, though distinct in origin and following separate paths, are found to converge at last in the thesis: Symbolic Logic is Mathematics, Mathematics is Symbolic Logic, the twain are one.
In Lecture delivered at Columbia University (16 Oct 1907), 'Mathematics', the first of a series published as Lectures on Science, Philosophy and Art (1908), 19.
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There are notable examples enough of demonstration outside of mathematics, and it may be said that Aristotle has already given some in his “Prior Analytics.” In fact logic is as susceptible of demonstration as geometry, … Archimedes is the first, whose works we have, who has practised the art of demonstration upon an occasion where he is treating of physics, as he has done in his book on Equilibrium. Furthermore, jurists may be said to have many good demonstrations; especially the ancient Roman jurists, whose fragments have been preserved to us in the Pandects.
In G.W. Leibniz and Alfred Gideon Langley (trans.), New Essay on Human Understanding (1896), Bk. 4, Chap. 2, Sec. 9, 414-415.
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We know that mathematicians care no more for logic than logicians for mathematics. The two eyes of science are mathematics and logic; the mathematical set puts out the logical eye, the logical set puts out the mathematical eye; each believing that it sees better with one eye than with two.
Note that De Morgan, himself, only had sight with only one eye.
Review of a book on geometry in the Athenaeum, 1868, Vol. 2, 71-73.
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We may regard geometry as a practical logic, for the truths which it considers, being the most simple and most sensible of all, are, for this reason, the most susceptible to easy and ready application of the rules of reasoning.
From 'De la Géométrie', Pensées de Monsieur d’Alembert (1774), 137. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 203. From the original French, “On peut regarder la géométrie comme une logique pratique, parce que les vérités dont elle s'occupe, étant les plus simples et les plus sensibles de toutes, sont par cette raison, les plus susceptibles d'une application facile et palpable des règles du raisonnement.”
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Whatever advantage can be attributed to logic in directing and strengthening the action of the understanding is found in a higher degree in mathematical study, with the immense added advantage of a determinate subject, distinctly circumscribed, admitting of the utmost precision, and free from the danger which is inherent in all abstract logic—of leading to useless and puerile rules, or to vain ontological speculations. The positive method, being everywhere identical, is as much at home in the art of reasoning as anywhere else: and this is why no science, whether biology or any other, can offer any kind of reasoning, of which mathematics does not supply a simpler and purer counterpart. Thus, we are enabled to eliminate the only remaining portion of the old philosophy which could even appear to offer any real utility; the logical part, the value of which is irrevocably absorbed by mathematical science.
In Auguste Comte and Harriet Martineau (trans.), Positive Philosophy (1858), Vol. 1, 326-327.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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