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J, AL B E R T O C OF F A

RUS S E L L AND KANT


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.
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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.
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Russell, B.: 1900, A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz, Cambridge.
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Russell, B.: 1903, The Principles of Mathematics, Norton (2nd edition, 1937).
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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.