Berkeley's Philosophy of Mathematics by Douglas M. Jesseph

By Douglas M. Jesseph

In this primary sleek, severe overview of where of arithmetic in Berkeley's philosophy and Berkeley's position within the heritage of arithmetic, Douglas M. Jesseph offers a daring reinterpretation of Berkeley's paintings. Jesseph demanding situations the present view that Berkeley's mathematical writings are peripheral to his philosophy and argues that arithmetic is in truth primary to his inspiration, constructing out of his critique of abstraction. Jesseph's argument situates Berkeley's rules in the higher old and highbrow context of the clinical Revolution.

Jesseph starts off with Berkeley's radical competition to the bought view of arithmetic within the philosophy of the past due 17th and early eighteenth centuries, whilst arithmetic was once thought of a "science of abstractions." on account that this view heavily conflicted with Berkeley's critique of summary principles, Jesseph contends that he used to be compelled to come back up with a nonabstract philosophy of arithmetic. Jesseph examines Berkeley's certain remedies of geometry and mathematics and his well-known critique of the calculus in The Analyst.

By placing Berkeley's mathematical writings within the point of view of his greater philosophical undertaking and analyzing their influence on eighteenth-century British arithmetic, Jesseph makes a big contribution to philosophy and to the heritage and philosophy of science.

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He imagines that "although we can be absolutely sure that the proof would apply to right triangles of any color whatever, we have no right to conclude, from the lone fact that no mention is made of the relative sizes of the three angles and sides, that the proof would apply to triangles of any determinate shape whatever" (Pitcher 1977, 76). This is unconvincing, however. Pitcher overlooks the fact that representative generalization requires that the result be generalized only to cover those figures which share the properties which are used in the course of the demonstration.

36 • Chapter One stood, it is easy to see why he felt that abstract ideas are unnecessary in explaining how general terms can acquire meaning or how a mathematical demonstration can be made to cover an infinite number of cases. These applications of the theory are worth setting forth in a general way before I attend more specifically to Berkeley's account of geometry and arithmetic. By using the figures or symbols in mathematical demonstration as representatives of other perceivable objects, Berkeley dispenses with abstract ideas in accounting for our ability to grasp demonstrations.

Or applicable copyright law. • 26 • Chapter One directly against Locke's treatment of abstraction, Berkeley challenges the reader to frame the abstract general idea of a Lockean triangle: If any man has the faculty of framing in his mind such an idea of a triangle as is here described, it is in vain to pretend to dispute him out of it, nor would I go about it. All I desire is, that the reader would fully and certainly inform himself whether he has such an idea or no. And this, methinks, can be no hard task for anyone to perform.

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