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As ever yone knows, Russell thought that his logicism conflicted with

Kant ' s phi l osophy of mathematics. The quest i ons I should like t o

examine here are (i) which specific Kant i an claims was Russel l ' s

logicism intended t o refut e?, and (ii) did Russell succeed in engaging

Kant, or was his challenge grounded on a misunderstanding of Kant ' s

thought? These quest i ons are wort h raising not so much for the sake

of historical accur acy but because, as we shall see, t hey elicit a train

of thought that discloses the dual nature of Russel l ' s early logicism

and t her eby lead to a bet t er understanding of the pl ace of Principles

in the history of foundat i onal r esear ch]

The answer which is usually given to our first question is that

Russel l ' s logicism was designed to conflict with the Kantian claim that

mathematical proposi t i ons are synt het i c a priori; for the reduct i on of

mat hemat i cs to l ogi c- we are t o l d - aims to establish the analyticity

of mathematical st at ement s. This was certainly Frege' s position

concerni ng arithmetic; but it wasn' t Russell' s. Let us begin by making

sure that this is so.

1. T HE S YNT HE T I C C HAR AC T E R OF L OGI C

It is a relatively well known fact that at least until his first collisions

with Wittgenstein, Russel l t hought that the axi oms of mat hemat i cs

(and, indeed, t hose of logic) are synt het i c a priori. In The Philosophy

of Leibniz (1900), for exampl e, Russell argued that

t he pr oposi t i ons of Ar i t hmet i c are, as Kant di scovered, one and all synt het i c (1900; p.

21);

in Principles (1903) he noted that

Kant never doubt ed for a moment t hat t he pr oposi t i ons of logic are anat yt i c wher eas he

ri ght l y per cei ved t hat t hose of mat hemat i cs are synt het i c, t t has si nce appeared t hat

logic is j ust as synt het i c as all ot her ki nds of t r ut h (1903; p. 457);

and t wo years after the publication of Principia, Vol ume I, Russell

Synthese 46 (1981) 247-263. 0039-7857181/0462-0247 $01.70.

Copyright 1981 by D. Reidel Publishing Co,, Dordrecht, Holland, and Boston, U.S.A.

~8 J. ALBERTO COFFA

still t hought that

Kant undoubtedly deserves credit , . . for having perceived that we have a p r i o r i

knowledge which is not purely ' analytic' (1912: p. 82)

and also for having

perceived that , , . all the propositions of arithmetic and geometry are ' synthetic' , i.e.,

not analytic: in all these propositions, no analysis of the subject will reveal the

predicate (1912; pp. 83-4).

It is less widely recognized that Russell also thought that logical

inference is ampliative or synthetic. That the axioms of logic are

themselves synthetic is acknowledged in the preceding quotation

from Principles. Evidence of Russell' s belief in the synthetic charac-

ter of logical inference is also plentiful, timespread and conclusive. In

his 1905 review of Poincar~' s Science and Hypothesis, for example,

Russell blames Poincar6 for assuming principles that

are at the extreme of one side of time-honoured controversies. Such are: Deduction can

never give new truth . . . (1905; p. 412).

"Poincar6, " he adds,

gives no reasons for the view that deductions can never give new truths. The fact is

that the general principles of deduction are analogous in this respect, to what he

conceives mathematical induction to be . . . (1905; p. 414).

Five years later, in a note written in reply to criticism by Bradley,

Russell says

The view advocated by Mr, Bradley, that what can be inferred is always in some sense

already contained in the premiss, is one which I cannot accept (1910b; p. 375)

and he later adds, concerning one of Bradley' s claims:

Such a view involves the assumpt i on-i mpl i ci t in many such argument s-t hat all

inference is essentially analytic, that whatever can be inferred from a proposition is

necessarily part of that proposition. This view appears to me to be er r oneous. . .

(1910b; p. 377) 2

The error, he implies, derives from the idealist' s failure to distinguish

between that which is merely implied by premisses and that which i~

part of the cont ent of the premisses.

Finally, in The Problems of Philosophy (1912) Russell writes:

It is an old debate whether deduction ever gives n e w knowledge. We can now see that

in certain cases, at least, it does so. If we already know that two and two always make

RUSSELL AND KANT 249

four, and we know that Brown and Jones are two, and so are Robinson and Smith, we

can deduce that Brown and Jones and Robinson and Smith are four. This is new

knowledge not contained in our pr emi sses. . . (I912; p. 79)

One may safely concl ude from this string of quotations 3 that

nothing Russell wrot e until, say, 1912 could have been intended to

refut e the claim that mat hemat i cs is synthetic. Whence our problem:

What was, in Russell' s eyes, t he conflict bet ween logicism and Kant ' s

philosophy?

2. LOGI CI SMS

Our solution comes in two stages:

(2a) What was Russell's conception of logicism ?

Logicism is t he doct ri ne that mat hemat i cs is reducible to logic. This

cel ebrat ed aphorism hides at least two distinguishable doctrines.

There is, to begin with, what we might call the standard version of

logicism, the thesis that ever y mat hemat i cal t heorem can be stated in

t erms of purel y logical concept s and proved on the basis of purel y

logical premisses and rules of inference. When "mat hemat i cs" is

i nt erpret ed as meaning arithmetic broadly const rued (including,

roughly, all truths about finite and transfine numbers, funct i ons on

t hem and so on) this thesis had been def ended by Frege and it would

event ual l y become the domi nant t heme in Principia Mathematica.

The standard version of logicism also makes its presence felt in

Principles, for example, in Part II (on Number) which contains an

account of the reduct i on of the Peano-Dedeki nd axioms to logic, and

in Russell' s t reat ment of real numbers and cont i nui t y in Part V.

There is, however, a radically different version of the thesis that

mat hemat i cs is logic, one whi ch is intended to apply to all of

mat hemat i cs and not onl y to arithmetic. This version, and not the

standard one, is t he form of logicism whi ch Russell describes and

endorses in Par t I of Principles (the part, one may recall, that he kept

rewriting until the manuscri pt of Principles was finally submitted to

the printer).

Part I of Principles does, of course, put fort h the view that "all

pure mat hemat i cs deals excl usi vel y with concept s definable in terms

of a ver y small number of fundament al logical concept s, and that all

250 J. ALBERTO COFFA

its proposi t i ons are deduci bl e from a very small number of fun-

damental logical pri nci pl es" (1903; p. xv). This sounds exact l y like the

standard versi on of logicism, until one not i ces the way in which pure

mat hemat i cs has been defined in the opening st at ement of Principles:

Pure mathematics is the class of all propositions of the form "p implies q' , where p

and q are propositions containing one or more variables, the same in both propositions,

and neither p nor q contains any constants except logical constants. (1903; p. 3) 4

There are, as far as I know, t wo reasons why Russell came to

endorse this conditional view of pure mat hemat i cs according to which

ever y mathematical sent ence has a (formal) "hor seshoe" as its main

connect i ve. The first one was related to Russel l ' s conviction that

mat hemat i cs embodi es a demand for generality. A properl y mathe-

matical proposition, he thought, must be given the maximal degree of

generality of whi ch it is capable. It is poor mathematics, for example,

to pr ove a t heorem for this or that group when it happens to be true

of all groups. How can that desideratum be achi eved?

Let P be a true proposi t i on about some specific mathematical

obj ect . Since the logical vehicle of generality is the variable, the

obvi ous first at t empt at a generalization of P is to de-materialize it by

replacing ever y mat t er-t erm or non-logical word (i.e., ever y word

capabl e of more than one interpretation) by a variable. The pro-

positional funct i on P* which we obtain as the out come of this

process is, Russell thought, almost inevitably t oo general for the

purposes of mathematics. The reason why he thought so was t wofol d:

(i) Russell bel i eved that the variable, properl y so-called, cannot have

its range in any way rest ri ct ed (see, e.g., 1903; pp. 6-7, 91) 5 and (ii) he

knew of no categoric propositional funct i on which was universally

valid (see, e.g., 1903; p. 20).

P said t oo little, but P* says t oo much. What is needed now is a

met hod to trim-off the excessi ve generality of P*; a met hod, that is,

capabl e of restricting the ext ent of P*' s claim wi t hout attempting t o

t amper with the scope of its variables. Russel l ' s idea was: l ook for

another propositional funct i on A valid preci sel y (or at most) where

P* is valid, and assert A D P*. As a result of this converse-Leni ni st

strategy ( "t wo steps forward and one st ep backwar ds") Russell

obtains the most general proposi t i on associ at ed with the specific

st at ement P, and which is fit for inclusion within mathematics. A

by- pr oduct is Russel l ' s conditional view of pure mathematics.

RUSSELL AND KANT 251

Several passages in Principles as well as a remark in the Intro-

duction to the second edition 6 indicate that there was another major

motivation behind Russell's definition of pure mathematics, one

which was deeper and more enduring than the preceding one since it

did not depend on Russell's oscillating opinions on type theory, This

second motivation was related to his desire to solve the problem of

how to accommodate the various, apparently conflicting geometries

within the body of mathematics. Russell's solution was to view each

geometry as asserting not its theorems but the implications from its

axioms to each theorem. In a similar vein group theory, topology,

measure theory and most mathematical theories (but not arithmetic)

are naturally seen as asserting (formal) implications of the form

A ~ T, where T is a theorem of the corresponding discipline and A

the conjunction of appropriate axioms. "If-thenism, " as Putnam has

designated this aspect of Russell's doctrine, 7 is a generalization of

Russell's conception of geometry to the whole of mathematics.

According to Russell's standpoint, therefore, it is no business of the

mathematician to decide for one or another of apparently conflicting

sets of axioms (arithmetic excluded); his concern, rather, is to decide

the truth value of formal implications which have as antecedents

appropriately dematerialized sets of axioms. This accounts for Rus-

sews celebrated characterization of pure mathematics as "the subject

in which we never know what we are talking about" since all

matter-terms have been replaced by variables, "nor whether what we

are saying is true" because we do not care about the truth values of

either axioms or theorems, only about that of the implication. 8

Now we are in a position to understand the second sense of

logicism, or, as we shall call it, conditional logicism. Conditional

logicism says that logic suffices to formulate and prove all pro-

positions of pure mathematics, and this latter claim, given modus

ponens and a deduction theorem, amounts to the contention that logic

suffices to draw from the premisses of the mathematician' s arguments

all conclusions which he is entitled to draw. If-thenism had defined

the mathematician' s business as (roughly) inference, conditional logi-

cism asserts now that logic suffices for the performance of that task.

There is, of course, no contradiction between standard and con-

ditional logicism. Russell held both doctrines simultaneously, even

though in the course of work leading to Principia he came to focus

almost exclusively on the standard version. In Russell's early

252 J. ALBERTO COFFA

phi l osophy, at any rate, t hese t wo doctrines pl ayed compl ement ary

roles: roughly speaking, t hose mathematical theories for which there

appeared to be no alternative (i.e., arithmetic) were to be reduced to

logic in the standard sense; t hose for which there were colegitimate

alternatives (e.g., geomet ry) were to be reduced to logic only in the

conditional sense. By appealing to bot h logicisms Russell, unlike

Frege, could accommodat e within the doctrine that all mathematics is

logic the prevailing view that in mat hemat i cs "t here is truth only in

arithmetic. "

Havi ng distinguished bet ween t hese t wo versi ons of logicism, it

now becomes apparent that the reasoning in our preceding section

was aimed at dismissing the vi ew that Russel l ' s standard logicism was

intended to refut e Kant ' s thesis concerning the synt het i c charact er of

mathematics. The conflict with Kant must involve, it woul d appear,

Russell' s conditional logicism.

On the face of it, however , the prospect s of finding a conflict

bet ween Russell and anybody on conditional logicism are not good.

For, whereas Russel l ' s characterization of pure mathematics may

have helped him establish the reducibility of all of mathematics to

logic, it appears to have done so at the cost of trivializing the

reductionist thesis. Indeed, if the claim that mat hemat i cs is logic is

basically no more than the claim that each conditional that has an

appropriate set of mathematical axioms as ant ecedent and one of its

t heorems as consequent is provabl e in logic, t hen we can establish the

reducibility to logic not only of mat hemat i cs but of a large number of

obvi ousl y non-logical disciplines as well. Russell seems to be happy

to acknowl edge that "pure physi cs" or, as he calls it, "rational

Dynami cs" is a "branch of pure mat hemat i cs" (1903; p. xxxvii; see

also pp. 112, 497), hence of logic. But also pure biology, pure

economi cs, pure geography and, indeed, any axiomatizable (first-

order) t heory is, in Russel l ' s odd sense, reduci bl e to logic. If this is all

that logicism claims then, it woul d appear, bot h its significance and its

rel evance to any traditional philosophical issues, Kantianism certainly

included, seem to be ver y much in doubt .

We chose to examine the nature of Russell' s early logicism in the

hope of understanding what might possi bl y have been his dis-

agreement with Kant. Now we seem to find oursel ves farther than

ever from an answer to our question since the versi on of logicism

which was f or emost in Russel l ' s mind in his most heat edl y anti-

R US S E L L AND KANT 253

Ka n t i a n d a y s a p p e a r s t o b e a n u t t e r l y t r i v i a l d o c t r i n e wi t h wh i c h Ka n t

c o u l d n o t p o s s i b l y h a v e d i s a g r e e d .

Or c o u l d h e ?

( 2b) What did Russell take to be the objectionable elements in Kant's

philosophy of mathematics ?

I n a c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y p e r c e p t i v e s t u d y o f t h e i n t e l l e c t u a l o r i g i n s o f

i n t u i t i o n i s m Be t h p o i n t e d o u t t h a t

There is one widespread interpretation according to which for Kant the role of intuition

would be restricted to dictating our choice of geometrical axioms. As soon as the

geometrical axioms were chosen, the rote of intuition would become purely heuristic;

the theorems would result from the axioms by an entirely formal deduction and the

intuitive content of the axioms could be ignored (Beth 1966; p. 15)

On t h e c o n t r a r y , he n o t e s , f o r Ka n t

the role or intuition is in no way limited to dictating the axioms; it is also intuition and

not formal logic, which directs the whole of geometric reasoning (1966; p. 15)

F o r e x a mp l e , a s Ka n t d e s c r i b e s t h e p r o o f t h a t t h e s u m o f t h e a n g l e s

o f a t r i a n g l e i s 180 i t b e c o me s c l e a r t h a t

[t]he construction of a triangle and of a straight line parallel with one of its sides is not,

for Kant, a purely heuristic step but forms an integral part of the demonstration . . . . So,

even if we suppressed all Euclid' s axioms, we should come upon all the theorems of

Euclidean geometry through the power of intuition alone. The present-day conception

according to which geometrical theorems result from a formal deduction starting from

certain axioms, then becomes absolutely illusory. (1966; pp. 15-16)

E l s e wh e r e he a d d s :

the construction of a suitable geometric configuration is not merely a heuristic pro-

cedure but an essential element in geometric proof. According to Kant, the result of

such a construction will be determined, not by the choice of certain axioms for

geometry, but rather by the given structure of our spatial intuition (1959; p. 57)

Be t h c o n c l u d e s t h a t De s c a r t e s a n d Ka n t

agree in placing, side by side with formal or syllogistic reasoning, a new type of

reasoning which will be called intuitive or constructive reasoning" (1966; p. 16) 9

Th e r e i s s t r o n g e v i d e n c e t h a t Ru s s e l l u n d e r s t o o d Ka n t p r e c i s e l y t h e

wa y Be t h d o e s i n t h e s e p a s s a g e s 1 a n d t ha t , mo r e o v e r , h e r e g a r d e d

t h e C a r t e s i a n - Ka n t i a n p o s t u l a t i o n o f a n e x t r a - l o g i c a l , c o n s t r u c t i v e

254 J. ALBERTO COFFA

v a r i e t y of ma t h e ma t i c a l r e a s o n i n g as a ma j o r t a r ge t of hi s p h i l o s o p h y

o f ma t h e ma t i c s . I n t he o p e n i n g p a g e s

Rus s el l n o t e s t ha t

the orthodox accounts of deduction were largely

mathematics. . . In this fact lay the strength of the

mathematical reasoning is not strictly formal, but

priori knowledge of space and time. Thanks to

especially as treated by Professor Peano, this part

capable of a final and irrevocable refutation. By the

and ten other premisses of a general logical nature

and formally deduced (1903; p. 4).

o f P r i n c i p l e s , f o r e x a mp l e ,

or wholly inapplicable to existing

Kantian view, which asserted that

always uses intuitions, i.e., the a

the progress of Symbolic Logic,

of the Kantian philosophy is now

help of ten principles of deduction

. . . all mathematics can be strictly

Ru s s e l l ' s s t a nd o n t hi s i s s ue is e v e n mo r e c l e a r l y di s pl a ye d i n Ch a p t e r

52, o n Ka n t ' s t h e o r y o f s pa c e . Th e r e he t el l s us t ha t

Kant first points out that all the propositions of mathematics are synthetic. He infers

hence that . . . they require . . . certain synthetic a priori propositions which may be

called axioms and even then (it would seem) the reasoning employed in deductions

from the axioms is different from that of pure l ogi c. . . What is essential, from the

logical point of view is that the a priori intuitions supply methods of reasoning and

inference which formal logic does not admit; and these methods, we are told, make the

figure (which may of course be merely imagined) essential to all geometrical proofs.

(1903; 456-7)J l

Thi s Ka n t i a n d o c t r i n e r ai s es , Rus s e l l t hi nks , t wo

questions of chief importance to us . . . : (1) are the reasonings in Mathematics in any

way different from those of Formal Logic? (2) are there any contradictions in the

notions of time and space? (1903; 457)) 2

Th e i deal i s t t r a di t i on ha d gi ve n t o Ru s s e l l ' s q u e s t i o n s af f i r mat i ve

a n s we r s wh i c h we r e l a r ge l y d e p e n d e n t u p o n t he d o mi n a t i n g r ol e t ha t

t he s ens i bi l i t y h a d b e e n a s s i gne d i n t he Ka n t i a n pi c t ur e of ma t h e ma -

t i cal k n o wl e d g e . F o r a whi l e Rus s el l ha d e n d o r s e d t ha t t r a di t i on; but

he s o o n c a me t o see i n t he f o u n d a t i o n a l r e s e a r c h e s of We i e r s t r a s s ,

De d e k i n d , Ca n t o r a n d t hei r f o l l o we r s , t he pot e nt i a l c ol l a ps e o f t he

i dea t ha t a na l ys i s mu s t r e l y o n t he i ma g i n a t i o n i n o r d e r t o deal wi t h

t he ba s i c s p a c e - t i me n o t i o n s o f i nf i ni t y ( bot h i n t he l ar ge a n d i n t he

smal l ) a nd c ont i nui t y. La r g e p o r t i o n s o f P r i n c i p l e s ar e d e v o t e d t o t he

a r t i c ul a t i on o f t he s e t wo n o t i o n s i n p u r e l y l ogi cal t e r ms a nd t o t he

s u b s e q u e n t r e n d e r i n g o f a ne ga t i ve a n s we r t o Ru s s e l l ' s s e c o n d que s -

t i on; as a b y - p r o d u c t he c o u l d pl a us i bl y a r g u e t ha t all ma t h e ma t i c a l

c o n c e p t s ar e l i kel y t o be def i nabl e wi t h o u t a p p e a l i n g t o t he Ka n t i a n

s ens i bi l i t y.

R US S E L L AND KANT 255

Peano, on the ot her hand, had convi nced Russell that the Kantian

sensibility coul d also be banished from the domain of mathematical

i nference, that is, that Kant was wrong in holding "t hat the actual

reasoning of mat hemat i cs [is] different from that of logic" (1903; 458).

Thus, Russel l ' s first quest i on also deser ved a negative answer. Its

articulation, I submit, was Russel l ' s conditional logicism.

From this perspect i ve Principles can be seen as an at t empt to

answer Russel l ' s t wo questions. The t horoughl y anti-Kantian and

anti-idealist intent of that book lies not in its stand on the synt het i c

charact er of mathematical knowl edge or of mathematical i nference

but on the fact that its answers to t hose quest i ons were negative. In

order to j ust i f y his answers Russell had first to exorci ze the human

sensibility and space-time intuitions from the domain of mathematics.

This was the promi se of Principles which Principia was aimed to

fulfill.

3. Hi nt i kka' s Vindication

Until not long ago the mat t er could have been allowed to rest at this

point; for f ew woul d have been inclined to deny that there was a

conflict bet ween Russell and Kant on the issue j ust examined. But in

recent years Hi nt i kka has offered a vindication of Kant ' s phi l osophy

of mat hemat i cs which woul d appear to entail that Russell was

t horoughl y conf used in believing that any of his findings conflicted

with Kant ' s mathematical doctrines. An exami nat i on of this topic will

help us deci de on the second of the quest i ons raised in our opening

paragraph.

In a number of Kantian studies remarkabl e for their blend of

Kantian scholarship and logical insight Hintikka has offered an expli-

cation of Kant ' s notion of synt het i ci t y which entails that geomet ri c

(indeed, logical) arguments are oft en synthetic. At his most shocking

Hintikka appears to be arguing that Frege' s and Russel l ' s logical

di scoveri es, far from undermining Kant ' s phi l osophy of mat hemat i cs,

must be underst ood as providing an implicit vindication of it. His

anal yses also appear to entail that t here can be no conflict bet ween

conditional logicism and Kant ' s phi l osophy of mathematics. Let us

begin by briefly surveying the basi c elements of Hi nt i kka' s expli-

cat i on of syntheticity.

256 J. AL B E R T O C OF F A

Accordi ng to Hintikka, the Kantian distinction bet ween analytic

and synt het i c forms of i nference concerns, in effect, no more than the

quest i on whet her the concl usi on of the i nference somehow encom-

passes more const i t uent s than the premiss. "[ F] or Kant , " Hintikka

tells us,

t he r eason why mat hemat i cal ar gument s are synt het i c is t hat t hey are const r uct i ve. By

t hei r c ons t r uc t i vi t y. . . Kant meant t he f act t hat new individual mat hemat i cal obj ect s

are i nt r oduced duri ng t hese ar gument s (1973; p. 206)

As a preci se formul at i on of this vague idea Hintikka introduces the

notion of the "degr ee" of a formul a which is, roughly speaking, the

number of free individual signs occurring in the formula plus the

largest number of nest ed quantifiers in a wel l -formed subformul a. The

degree of a formul a is intended to characterize the actual number of

individuals that the formul a instructs us to consider at any one time in

their relation to each other (1965b; p. 185). This explication t herefore

relies on the assumpt i on that

i ndi vi dual s are i nt r oduced i nt o our pr oposi t i ons [by free i ndi vi dual symbol s and] also

by quant i fi ers . . . . Each quant i fi er t hus i nvi t es us t o consi der exact l y one new in-

dividual, however indefinite t hi s i ndi vi dual may be (1%5b; 185)

The degree of "All men admire Buddha, " for example, is t wo; and

this cor r esponds with the intuitive idea that the sent ence does not

instruct us to consi der all men (or all things) at a time but its

eval uat i on will require that we consi der only t wo things at a time in

their mutual relations. As the degree of a quantified sent ence changes

the individuals under consi derat i on, i.e., the totality of obj ect s in the

Uni verse of the interpretation remain the same. What does change

with the degree is the size of t hose groups of individuals which must

be examined jointly in order to eval uat e the sent ences in question.

Consequent l y, an argument form whose conclusion has a higher

degree than all of the premi sses may plausibly be regarded as syn-

thetic in the put at i ve Kantian sense (1973; pp. 148-9) since the

concl usi on involves an examination of more obj ect s at a t i me than

the premi sses require. Gi ven certain restrictions on what can count as

an admissible i nference rule in logic, Hintikka argues that the first-

order fragment of Frege' s and Russel l ' s logic is synt het i c in the sense

that many of the relevant logical truths can onl y be established

through the use of synt het i c rules. Hence logic itself is, in the

R US S E L L AND KANT 257

explicated Kantian sense, synthetic; and the same holds for the

mat hemat i cs which we can reduce to it.

Surprising as this result may be to most philosophers of mathema-

tics, Hi nt i kka' s concl usi on woul d hardl y have elicited a puzzled

frown from the young Russell since, as we saw, he had reached the

same conclusion even though, no doubt , through altogether different

considerations. There is, however , implicit in Hi nt i kka' s attitude

t owards his analysis a potentially serious conflict with Russel l ' s

views. For if Hi nt i kka' s reconst ruct i on of Kant ' s idea of synt het i ci t y

were regarded as essentially sufficient to provi de a compl et e account

of Kant ' s phi l osophy of mat hemat i cs, then there woul d be no reason

why Kant shoul dn' t have endorsed Russel l ' s thesis that pure logic,

unaided by the human sensibility or the imagination, is capabl e of

account i ng for all mathematical inferences. In ot her words, there

would be no genuine conflict bet ween Kant ' s phi l osophy and Rus-

sell' s conditional logicism.

It is i mport ant to notice that Hintikka distinguishes t wo different

levels in Kant ' s phi l osophy of mathematics. The first l e v e l - wh a t

Hintikka calls "t he preliminary t heor y" - consi st s of doct ri nes de-

scribed in pre-critical writings as well as in the first chapt er of the

Transcendent al Doctrine of Met hod in the first Critique. The second

level includes results deriving from Kant ' s analysis of the human

sensibility and of space-time intuition as descri bed in the Transcen-

dental Aesthetic. Even though in Kant ' s first Critique the doctrines of

the Transcendent al Aest het i c precede the Doctrine of Met hod, Hin-

tikka argues that bot h historically and syst emat i cal l y the former

pr esuppose the latter. These t wo stages t aken t oget her const i t ut e

what Hi nt i kka calls "Kant ' s full t heor y of mat hemat i cs" (1969; pp.

48-9) or his "full-fledged t heory of space, time and mat hemat i cs"

(1967; p. 354).

In a number of papers Hintikka has argued persuasi vel y that if we

ci rcumscri be our attention to the preliminary t heory "everyt hi ng . . .

which in the human mind represent s an individual is an intuition.

There is, we might say, Nothing ' intuitive' about intuitions so defined.

Intuitivity means simply individuality" (1%7; pp. 354-5). More

specifically, "in t he preliminary t heory no connect i on is assumed

bet ween intuitions and sensibility" (t969; pp. 49-50). This gives us

what Hi nt i kka calls the "basi c" (t967; p. 354). or "initial" (1973; p.

208) meaning of ' intuition' for Kant.

258 J. AL B E R T O C OF F A

Kant defines an i nt ui t i on simply as a r epr esent at i ve of an individual. For him, an

i nt ui t i on is al most like a ' pr oper name' in Fr ege' s unnat ural l y wide sense of t he t erm,

except t hat it di d not have t o be a linguistic ent i t y, but coul d also be anyt hi ng in t he

human mi nd whi ch ' st ands f or ' an individual. What made mat hemat i cs synt het i c was

t he i nt r oduct i on of such singular t erms to r epr esent t he i ndi vi dual s t o whi ch cert ai n

general concept s a p p l y . . . (1973; p. 207)

Kant' s claims concerning intuition, however, are crucially expan-

ded as we move to the second level. Here considerations involving

the human sensibility in its relation to space and time lead Kant to the

conclusion that all human intuitions are bound up with the sensibility.

[I]t may be said [that] t he possi bi l i t y of i nt ui t i ons whi ch are not sensi bl e is rul ed out in

t he Tr anscendent al Aest het i c. Kant argues t her e t hat all t he use of i nt ui t i ons in

mat hemat i cs is based on t he i nt ui t i ons of space and t i me, and t hat t hese i nt ui t i ons are

based on t he st r uct ur e of our sensibility. Ther e is t her ef or e no r oom l eft in mat hemat i cs

for i nt ui t i ons t hat are not connect ed wi t h sensi bi l i t y (1967; p. 366).

It is at this stage that Kant "came to make intuitions intuitive again."

(1967; 355)~3

At times Hintikka appears to say that the distinction between these

two levels gives us the difference between what Kant meant by

intuition and what he came to believe about it as a consequence of his

theory of sensibility. In Elsewhere he argues that the distinction also

separates what is defensible in Kant' s doctrines from what is not; for

Kant' s second-level doctrines are said to contain the roots "of the

wildest and vaguest psychologism in general logic and, in particular,

in the philosophy of logic, that one can find at any period of the

history of logic" (1969; p. 62). We must therefore purge Kant' s

doctrines of the errors of the Transcendental Aesthetic; when we do

so, what we are left with is the preliminary theory, the defensible core

of Kant' s philosophy of mathematics. It is this core, and not Kant' s

full doctrine, that is the subject of Hintikka' s vindication, and the

only element in Kant ' s mathematical philosophy that one could

expect to analyze completely on the basis of Hintikka' s explication of

synthetic reasoning.

We are now ready to return to the main question in this section:

was Russell's opposition to Kant based on a misunderstanding? As

we have already seen, Russell drew a sharp distinction between the

synthetic and the intuitive elements in an axiomatic or deductive

theory. In section 1 we concluded that, for Russell, the synthetic

element is always present in a deductive theory in virtue of the

RUSSELL AND KANT 259

synt het i c charact er of logical inference. To that ext ent there is no

conflict bet ween conditional logicism and Kant ' s preliminary t heory,

and Russell would have been guilty of confusi on had he intended to

challenge this portion of Kant ' s doctrine. On the other hand, there is a

clear conflict bet ween Russel l ' s logicism and Kant ' s full t heory, for

the latter calls for an appeal to the human sensibility (Russell' s

"imagination") in geomet ri c reasoning which conditional logicism

regards as unnecessar y and, in fact, confusing. All one need assume

in order to rest ore the conflict bet ween Kant and Russell is that the

latter was addressing his criticism to Kant ' s full t heory rather than to

a fragment thereof. The assumpt i on is, moreover, overwhel mi ngl y

plausible since it was, aft er all, the full t heory that one found

devel oped in Kant ' s maj or philosophical writings; and it was that

same t heor y that, as Hintikka urges, had deci si vel y influenced Rus-

seU's predecessors and cont emporari es, leading them to accept

t horoughl y indefensible logical doctrines. ~s

One can hardly quest i on the significance of an exegetical and

const ruct i ve t ask such as the one Hintikka has undert aken; but, under

the ci rcumst ances, one would be no more justified in accusing Russell

of misunderstanding Kant merel y because he chose to address his

criticisms to Kant ' s full t heory rather than engaging in the t ask of

identifying within that doctrine a defensi bl e kernel.

We may t herefore concl ude that there was, in fact, a conflict bet ween

Russell and Kant and that its subj ect was, in effect, the quest i on

whet her logic is sufficient to account for all of the mathematician' s

arguments. Kant and Russell did not, of course, mean the same thing

by "l ogi c"; but their agreement on the nature of that discipline was

sufficient to make the issue bet ween them genuine and fundamental:

bot h Kant and Russell thought of logic as a purel y concept ual

doct ri ne where neither the Kantian sensibility nor const ruct i ve visu-

alizable pr oof - pr ocedur es have any role to play. The basic conflict

bet ween t hem concerned, thus, the quest i on whet her a (synthetic but)

purel y concept ual and intuition-free discipline can suffice to draw all

of the t heorems a mat hemat i ci an may want to deri ve from mat hema-

tical premi sses; whether, that is, mathematical i nference can be

compl et el y analyzed as a process ruled by concept s which are not

blind, even though unaided by Kantian percept s.

In the end, the issue was one concerning the compl et eness of logic.

260 J. AL B E R T O C OF F A

Russell' s program requi red for its perfect i on nothing less t han a

precise formul at i on of logic followed by a proof of its completeness.

His "proof-st rat egy" (like Frege' s) consisted of t he at t empt to for-

mulate in purel y logical t erms every mat hemat i cal concept a (reason-

able) mat hemat i ci an might want to use and to prove from purely

logical premisses and by means of purel y logical procedures every-

thing a (reasonable) mat hemat i ci an would like to prove. Well . . . not

quite everyt hi ng, of course; but enough to convi nce t he mathemati-

cian that t he job could be done, given patience, a modi cum of

ingenuity and Russell' s concept i on of pure mat hemat i cs. We may

prefer G6del' s ways with compl et eness to Russell' s; but we should

recognize that t he f or mer - and a good deal more - would hardly have

been possible without t he latter.

Indiana University

NOT E S

My mai n debt is to Pr of essor Tom~s Si mpson, who many years ago told me t hat

accordi ng to Russell mat hemat i cs was synt het i c and t hat Russel l ' s logicism (what I here

call ' condi t i onal l ogi ci sm' ) succeeds in r educi ng not onl y mat hemat i cs but al so geog-

r aphy t o logic. He t hus posed t he pr obl em whi ch I at t empt t o sol ve here. I am also

grat eful t o Pr of essor G. G. Tayl or f or t hought f ul and t hought - pr ovoki ng conver sat i ons

on t he subj ect of t hi s paper. Her vi ews on some of t he i ssues di scussed here can be

f ound in ' Anal yt i c and synt het i c in Russel l ' s phi l osophy of mat hemat i cs, ' Philosophical

Studies, f or t hcomi ng.

Bi bl i ographi cal r ef er ences are i ncl uded at t he end of t he paper. Whenever t he aut hor

of a quot at i on is cl earl y identified by t he cont ext we will onl y ment i on t he dat e of

publ i cat i on and t he cor r espondi ng page number .

Thi s shoul d be i nt er pr et ed in t he cont ext of Russel l ' s st at ement in Principles: " I may

as well say at once t hat I do not di st i ngui sh bet ween i nf er ence and deduct i on" (1903; p.

11). It may be wor t h not i ng t hat Russel l ' s charge agai nst Bradl ey appear s unjustified

since Br adl ey' s Principles of Logic i ncl udes a sust ai ned def ense of t he view t hat in

i nf er ence t he concl usi on " mus t convey some pi ece of i nformat i on and must tell us

somet hi ng el se t han t he t r ut hs it depends upon. " Accordi ng t o Bradl ey "we have no

i nf er ence at all, we have si mpl y a fri vol ous show and pr et ense, if t aki ng somet hi ng we

al ready know we asser t t he whol e or part of t hi s once more and t hen sai d ' I have

r easoned and got t o a c onc l us i on' " (Logic, vol. I, p. 246). He concl udes t hat , for

exampl e, t he de omni et nullo is an unsound rule of i nf er ence " f or it does not really

give us any new i nf or mat i on" (vol. I, p. 248; see also t he r ef ut at i on of t he rule in Book

II, Chapt er II).

R US S E L L AND KANT 261

3 See also (Russell 1903) pp. 349, 51 and 100, a remark in (Russell 1902) p. 674, and

Chapter 21 of Jourdain' s The Philosophy of Mr. B*rtr*nd R*ss*ll, Allen & Unwin,

1919.

4 Two qualifications are clearly intended: (1) pure mathematics is the class of all true

propositions of the given form, and (2) the implication is formal and not material, i.e., a

string of universal quantifiers is prefixed to the formula so as to bind all its free

variables. Condition (1) is, of course, a pre-condition of what I call below "conditional

logicism, " a doctrine which entails that the propositions of pure mathematics are

logically true.

5 Russell changed his mind on this subject when he introduced the t heory of types in

Appendix B of Principles, but by 1904 he was apparently holding the old viewpoint

back again (see his letter of May 15 to Jourdain in I. Grattan-Guinness, Dear Russell,

Dear Jourdain, Columbia Uni versi t y Press, 1977, p. 30).

6 Russell wrote:

I was originally led to emphasize this form by the consideration of

Geometry. It was clear that Euclidean and non-Euclidean systems alike

must be included in pure mathematics, and must not be regarded as

mutually inconsistent; we must therefore only assert that the axioms

imply the propositions, not that the axioms are true and t herefore the

propositions are true. (p. vii).

See also (1903) pp. 5, 8, 372-3,429, 430, 441-2. Russell' s if-thenism is further examined in

(Coffa, forthcoming).

7 See Put nam' s ' The t heory that mathematics is logic' in (Putnam 1979) Vol. I, pp.

12-42. The interpretation of Russell' s if-thenism sketched here differs from Putnam' s.

8 A proto-version of if-thenism already occurs in (Whitehead 1898):

Mathematics in its widest signification is the devel opment of all types of

formal, necessary, deduct i ve reasoning. The reasoning is formal in the

sense that the meaning of propositions forms no part of the investigation.

The sole concern of mathematics is the inference of propositions from

propositions (p. vi).

This statement seems to contain the demand for universality (implicit in the remark on

the "meani ng of propositions, " presumably referring only to the meanings of the

non-logical terms) and for exclusive concern with inference. Peano' s odd conception

of universal quantification as only appropriate in the cont ext of formal implications

may also have been influential (see, e.g., Peano' s 1891 revi ew of Schr6der' s Vor-

lesungen in (Peano 1958; p. 119)). But Peano' s conditional interpretation of mathema-

tics differs from Russell' s in one essential respect: the antecedents of Peano' s con-

ditionals are, in effect, intended to determine the range of all variables in the cor-

responding consequents. According to Peano, for example,

a ~ N &b ~ N . D . a b =b a

a,b

is true even though the operation ' ' is defined only in N. See, e.g., Peano' s ' Studii di

262 J. AL BE RT O C OF F A

logica matematica,' 1896-7, in (Peano 1958), especially pp. 206-7 and his letter of

14.10.1896 to Frege in (Frege, 1976), especially p. 189. For Frege' s thoughts on

if-thenism see, for example, (Hirst, 1975) p. 53, and (Coffa, forthcoming).

9 See also (Beth, 1957).

~0 Russell also agrees with Beth in rejecting the widespread interpretation of ' analytic'

as ' derivable from logic and definitions' .

tl See also (1903) pp. 158, 374 and ' Mathematics and the metaphysicians' in (Russell

1963) pp. 72, 74.

~2 There is, we know, no reason to be puzzled about the absence of a third question

concerning the existence of synthetic a priori judgements in mathematics. In fact, two

sentences later we find the passage quoted on p. 247 on the synthetic character of logic and

mathematics.

t3 See also (Hintikka 1969) pp. 4%50.

~4 See, e.g., (Hintikka 1972) pp. 342-3 and (Hintikka 1967; p. 355).

~s One is, therefore, surprised to find Hintikka singling out Russell as a paradigm

instance of how philosophers misunderstood Kant ' s theory of mathematics (see, e.g.,

(Hintikka 1%9) p. 39; (Hintikka 1%7) p. 354; (Hintikka 1%5a) p. 40; (Hintikka 1973) p.

208.) The basic charge leveled by Hintikka against Russell is that he thought that for

Kant

the intuitive and synthetic element of a geometrical argument lies outside

the axiomatic and deductive framework, in an appeal to our geometrical

imagination (1973; p. 208).

But, as pointed out above, Russell thought no such thing of the synthetic element:

geometric reasoning (i.e., logical reasoning) was for Russell synthetic. More to the point,

he praised Kant for recognizing the synthetic character of mathematics, even though he

deplored his failure to see that logic is (as Hintikka urges) also synthetic. As to the

question whether Russell thought that, for Kant, the intuitive element lies within or

outside the axiomatic framework there appears to be no relevant evidence in Russell' s

writings to reach a decision. For even though Russell frequently (and not implausibly)

conjectured that Kant was led by his obscure perception of the gaps in Euclid' s

axiomatics to look for a theory of geometric inference in which the sensibility plays a

domi nant role, this psychological conjecture tells us nothing about what Russell

thought concerning the rote played by the sensibility in Kant ' s full theory.

B I B L I OGR AP HY

Beth, E.: 1957, ' Le savoir d6ductif dans la pens~e Cart~sienne,' in Descartes, Cahiers

de Royaumont, les l~ditions de Minuit, pp. 141-153.

Beth, E.: 1959, The Foundations of Mathematics, North Holland.

Beth, E.: 1966, (with J. Piaget) Mathematical Epistemology and Psychology, Reidel.

Coffa, J. A.: (forthcoming) ' From geometry to tolerance, ' in Pittsburg Series in the

Philosophy of Science.

Frege, G.: 1976, Wissenschaftlicher Briefwechsel, Felix Meiner Verlag Hamburg.

RUS S E L L AND KANT 263

Hintikka, J.: t965a, ' Kant ' s "'New method of thought" and his theory of mathematics,'

Ajatus 27, 37--47.

Hintikka, J.: 1965b, ' Are logical truths analyticT, Philosophical Review 74, 178-203.

Hintikka, J.: 1967, ' Kant on the mathematical method,' The Monist 51,352-375.

Hintikka, J.: 1%9, ' On Kant' s notion of intuition (Anschauung)' in Terence Penelhum

and J. J. Macintosh (eds.) The First Critique, Wadsworth Publishing Co., pp. 38-53.

Hintikka, J.: 1972, ' Kantian intuitions,' Inquiry 15, 351-355.

Hintikka, J.: 1973, Logic, Language Games and Information, Oxford.

Hirst, P.: 1975, ' Freges Analyse der Hilbertschen Axiomatik,' Grazer Philosophische

Studien, I, pp. 47-57.

Peano, G.: 1958, Opere Seelte, Vol. II, Edizione Cremonese, Roma.

Putnam, H.: t979, Mathematics, Matter and Method, Cambridge.

Russell, B.: 1900, A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz, Cambridge.

Russell, B. : 1902, ' Geomet r y- Non Euclidean,' in The New Volumes of the Encyclo-

pedia Britannica, London, 1902, vol. 4.

Russell, B.: 1903, The Principles of Mathematics, Norton (2nd edition, 1937).

Russell, B.: 1905, Review of Poincar6' s Science and Hypothesis, Mind 14, 412-418.

Russell, B.: 1910a, Principia Mathematica, Vol. I, Cambridge,

Russell, B.: 1910b, ' Some explanations in reply to Mr. Bradley,' Mind 19, 373-378.

Russell, B.: 1912, The Problems of Philosophy, London, Williams & Norgate.

Russell, B.: t963, Mysticism and Logic, London, Unwin.

Whitehead, A. N.: 1898, A Treatise on Universal Algebra, Hafner Publishing Co., New

York, 1960.

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