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Syntactic

reduction in Husserl's early phenomenology of


arithmetic

Mirja Hartimo, University of Jyvskyl, Finland

and

Mitsuhiro Okada, Keio University, Japan
Accepted for publication in Synthese

Introduction
In this paper we will discuss what we call syntactic reduction in the early writings of
Edmund Husserl (18561938). Clarifying Husserls notion(s) of reduction sheds light on the
role of a constructive aspect in Husserls early conception of mathematics. The concept is also
interesting because it shows how and in what context various ideas commonplace to the
present-day proof-theory and logical theory of (equational) computation, such as term
rewriting and equational proof-reduction, were conceived already in the 19 th century. Our
aim in this paper is to identify various kinds of syntactical reduction, to examine how Husserl
develops them from his Philosophy of Arithmetic (1891) to the notorious Double Lecture held
in Gttingen in 1901, and finally to explain the role of the reduction in Husserls conception
of mathematics.
Husserl developed various kinds of reductions in his attempts to clarify Hermann Hankels
(18391873) principle of permanence under which algorithms are extended. He found
Hankels principle problematic in two respects: first Hankel equated the sign and the signified
and second, Husserl held that Hankel had not properly justified the coherence of the extended
algorithm. To ensure the correctness of the extended technique of calculation, he held, the
technique had to be reducible to the identities between the signs. The present paper details
Husserls indebtedness to Hankel in detail for the first time. 1 The earliest occurrence of the
term reduction can be found in Husserls text in a manuscript dated to around 188990. 2 The
end of Husserls Philosophy of Arithmetic (1891) can then be read as offering Husserls
putative improvement of Hankels principle. In it Husserl distinguished between the systems
of signs and systems of concepts, a distinction he had already made in his Habilitationsschrift
(see p. 14 below), but which in the Philosophy of Arithmetic is ultimately conceived as two
1

Previously it has been discussed in Hartimo 2007. In addition to that discussion, the present paper elaborates
Hankels view in more detail and shows in particular that where Hankel used mathematical induction to define
various number systems, Husserls strategy was to examine their correctness with a reduction-based
computational approach.
2
He uses the term reduzierbar in Die wahren Theorien dated to around 18891890 (Husserl 1983, 35, see also
Arithmetik der Reihen dated to around 18891891, Husserl 1983, 167168). Note that Husserl also sometimes
uses the word reduction for another sense, such as for a reduction from n-ary addition to binary addition so
that a + b + c is reduced to (a +b) + c (e.g., Husserl 2003, 279). Such a notion is not a topic of primary interest
for us here. To be sure, the reduction under examination has nothing to do with Husserls notorious
transcendental phenomenological reduction either.

ways of understanding the signs. Husserl defines systematic numbers with the decimal
system. To ensure the coherence of the use of complex expressions, the notion of reduction of
any complex expression to a (unique) canonical or normal number in the system is
introduced in the last section of the book Philosophy of Arithmetic, Psychological and Logical
Investigations (1891). When doing this, Husserl uses what is now called term-rewriting
reduction (or proof reduction) of the underlying equational proof system. Husserl returns to
this topic in his Double Lecture in 1901. In addition to most of the existing literature on
Husserls notion of Definitheit, the present paper draws attention to the notion of syntactic
reduction used in Husserls discussion of mathematical manifolds. 3 While not all manifolds
are mathematical, mathematical manifolds are definite when their elements are syntactically
reducible to the elementary individuals. 4
In section 5 below, we will show how in his Logical Investigations (19001901) Husserl
explains the philosophical motivation for such reduction: the task is to bring mediate
fulfilment to (algebraic) formal mathematics, which could not otherwise receive such
fulfilment.5 Its role is thus to show how (at least part of) formal mathematics is accessible
from our immediate intuition of simple definitions.

1. Hermann Hankel and the principle of permanence


Hermann Hankel (18391873) presented the principle of permanence in his Theorie der
complexen Zahlensysteme. Insbesondere der gemeinen imaginren Zahlen und der
Hamiltonschen Quaternionen nebst ihrer geometrischen Darstellung (1867). As the title
suggests, Hankels treatise attempts to present a theory of functions of a complex variable.
The topic was at the time relatively new; it had been founded by Gauss and Cauchy, and then
further developed by Riemann. Hankels aim was to give it a complete, rigorous, and
scientific presentation (Hankel 1867, v). In the first part of his Theorie der complexen
Zahlensysteme, Hankel intended to give a rigorous treatment of complex number systems. In
the second part he then meant to discuss the theory of functions of a complex variable, but the
second part was never published (Monna 1973, 66).
The work is famous for having made Hermann Grassmanns approach known to the general
public (Monna 1973, 71). In it Hankel also discusses at length Hamiltons approach to
quaternions, which Hankel claims to be rather unknown in Germany (1867, vi). Hankels
work thus may have been instrumental in introducing also Hamiltons work to a German
audience. Conceptually, Hankels work is particularly important for having presented a purely
formal, symbolic conception of mathematics. In it, logic and mathematics are conceived to be
independent of the content of the objects, such as pictures or quantities, or, according to
Hankel, at least so they can be (1867, 1).

With the exception of Okada 2013. Centrones discussion of definite manifolds comes very close to the
present discussion. In distinction from her very detailed and elaborate discussion of Husserls central concepts,
the present approach explains the connection to the equational proof reduction not discussed in those terms
by Centrone, as well as Husserls indebtedness to Hankel in detail (Centrone 2010, 149192; 2011). See also da
Silva 2013a; 2013b. For a detailed account of the development of Husserls early mathematics see (Ierna 2005,
2006).
4
These elementary individuals are what are called in the PA normal numbers [Normalzahlen] (Husserl 1970,
261); i.e., the canonical elements of the domain.
5
To be specific, in Chapter 3 of the sixth logical investigation.

To introduce us to such a purely formal discipline, Hankel starts with an investigation of what
he calls the vulgar foundation of the concept of number that is tied to ordinary intuition
(1867, vii). The combinations in it are either thetic or lytic. The thetic combinations are
addition, multiplication, and the power operation. The lytic combinations are the reverse
operations, such as subtraction and division. Hankel considers the combinations one after
another and discusses their properties. For example, he shows that addition is governed
by two main laws [Hauptgesetze]: associativity and commutativity (1867, 2).
Further, addition is a well-defined operation [eindeutige Operation], so that when one of the
summands changes, the result of the operation also changes. In the modern terms, Hankel
explains that addition is a function. According to him, these properties define the operation
formally:
The properties of addition given here are sufficient for deriving all the further
consequences about the construction of sums, without a need to be reminded
about the real meaning of addition. In this respect, they build the system of
conditions that are necessary and sufficient for defining the operation formally.
(1867, 2)6
Hankels discussion of addition captures his general approach: the aim is to capture the laws
that govern the arithmetical operations so that the operations become defined by means of
laws such as associativity and commutativity. In other words, the calculation rules are given
by combining laws that govern the rules of operation. Multiplication is subsequently defined,
according to Hankel, by means of addition, commutativity, associativity, distributativity, and
a postulation that 1a = a (1867, 3).
The lytic combinations are defined by means of the thetic operations. For example, consider a
summation x + b = c. In accordance with the properties of addition, x has a value, which can
be described as x = b c. When b > c, the value of x is not among natural numbers, and is
thus impossible [unmglich]. Such impossible results necessitate extending the number
concept, in this case with negative numbers (1867, 5). Hankel distinguishes this sense of
impossibility from the logical impossibility. Impossible numbers are not contradictory, but
impossible only in the sense that they cannot be represented intuitively (1867, 67). By means
of this distinction Hankel then distinguishes between purely formal numbers that are those
that cannot be constructed by intuition, and actual numbers that represent actual magnitudes
and their relationships. Between the two types of numbers, there are those numbers that can
be given a complete definition, but about which we do not know whether they can be
represented intuitively. They can be called potential numbers, insofar as they can become
actual numbers, or else they may remain abstract, insofar as they can be only thought and not
intuited. Or they can be simply called formal, in so far as they merely express certain formal
relationships. The division between the transcendent and actual numbers is thus not rigorous
but fluctuating (1867, 78).

Die hier angegebenen Eigenschaften der Addition sind ausreichend, um aus ihnen alle weiteren Folgerungen
ber Summenbildung abzuleiten, ohne dass man sich jemals dabei der realen Bedeutung der Addition erinnern
msste. Sie bilden insofern das System der Bedingungen, welche nthig und ausreichend sind, um die
Operation formal zu definiren (1867, 2). The translations are by the authors, unless otherwise indicated
and/or the text refers directly to the English translation. If the original text includes s p a c e d words they are
here written with italics.

The consideration of the lytic or the reverse operations and the need to extend the number
domain beyond what can be intuited leads Hankel eventually to conclude that general
arithmetic is purely formal, completely removed from all intuition:
The presupposition for setting up a general arithmetic is thus a purely
intellectual mathematics, removed from all intuition, a pure theory of forms,
which has for its objects not the combination of quantities or their images, the
numbers, but intellectual objects, thought-objects, which could correspond to
actual objects or relations, even though such a correspondence is not necessary.
(1867, 910)7
Furthermore, the purely formal mathematics is not a generalization of the usual mathematics.
According to Hankel, it is an entirely new discipline, which does not prove the rules of
ordinary arithmetic, but exemplifies them [Regeln nicht bewiesen, sondern nur
exemplificirt, werden] (1867, 12). To be sure, Hankel does not intend to restrict such a purely
formal account of mathematics to the realm of ordinary arithmetic, but intends it to cover the
entire Organismus der Mathematik (1867, 12).
The generality of the formal mathematics is achieved by the reliance on the principle of
permanence. Hankels formulation of the principle is as follows:
The entailed introductory basic law can be described as the principle of
permanence of the formal laws, and it consists in the following: When two
forms expressed in general signs of the arithmetica universalis are equal, they
must remain equal also when the signs cease to describe simple magnitudes and
the operations receive some other content. (1867, 11) 8
Here, by two forms expressed in general signs of the arithmetica universalis, Hankel seems
to refer to laws such as associativity and commutativity; e.g.,
a + b = b + a,
which hold also when we move from positive whole numbers to negative, irrational and
eventually real numbers. Hankel also remarks that these laws define the operations so that
they cannot yield any contradictions. To ensure this, he claims, the laws have to be
independent from each other (1867, 1011).
The principle of permanence thus requires the algebraic laws to be permanent. The
arithmetical operations are permanent insofar as they are defined by algebraic laws. The
principle allows the use of impossible numbers (i.e., negative, imaginary, and generally
complex numbers) in the purely formal domain and the operations defined therein. As Hankel
later puts it:
7

Die Bedingung zur Aufstellung einer allgemeinen Arithmetik ist daher eine von aller Anschauung losgelste,
rein intellectuelle Mathematik, eine reine Formenlehre, in welcher nicht Quanta oder ihre Bilder, die Zahlen
verknpft werden, sondern intellectuelle Objecte, Gedankendinge, denen actuelle Objecte oder Relationen
solcher entsprechen knnen, aber nicht mssen. (1867, 910)
8
Der hierin enthaltene hodegetische Grundsatz kann als das Princip der Permanenz der formalen Gesetze
bezeichnet werden und besteht darin: Wenn zwei in allgemeinen Zeichen der arithmetica universalis
ausgedrckte Formen einander gleich sind, so sollen sie einander auch gleich bleiben, wenn die Zeichen
aufhren, einfache Grssen zu bezeichnen, und daher auch die Operationen einen irgend welchen anderen
Inhalt bekommen (1867, 11).

By means of this principle, it was possible to replace the initial concept of


number as an expression of actual relationships of objects and their operations
with a more general concept of formal operations that move only in the
domain of logical thought, as well as (replace it) with numbers that result from
the mental linking of objects, which are first thought without content, with
purely abstract forms of the combining thought about the discrete. (Hankel
1867, 47)9
According to Hankel, this principle is used everywhere to define the necessary and sufficient
laws for arithmetical operations. In order not to be too restricted, however, the commutativity
of the operations is not absolutely presupposed (1867, 11). With such an admission Hankel
includes in his treatment Hamiltons theory of quaternions, in which the multiplication is not
communitative (cf. Hankel 1867, 105).
The principle of permanence, to which Hankel above refers to as introductory or
pedagogical [hodegetische], is a metaphysical principle tied to all our intuitions (Husserl
later disagreed with this, see below). Therefore, formal mathematics is a fundamental
discipline that the abstract combinations of magnitudes, as much as those of spatial intuition,
as well as the mechanical magnitudes, all fall under (1867, 1213). Hankels description of
his intentions suggests that he has in mind something like a theory of rings or different kinds
of algebraic structures that have two binary operations (+ and ) that satisfy a set of axioms
that define the properties of the binary operations.
However, for Hankel this is not enough. Following Hermann Grassmanns Lehrbuch der
Arithmetik Hankel also constructs a number system from simple elements, and proves that
they have desired properties such as associativity. Hankel thus wants to work on both fronts at
the same time: he sets up a formal theory of arithmetic and then generates an actual number
system and shows that it has the desired properties.
Motivation for such an approach can be deciphered from the following explanation:
We will then in general proceed as follows: After a domain of objects is given,
we will next ask whether there is an applicable operation that has the properties
of addition. There is no exact method to answer this question, rather it has to be
solved with a creative invention; the principle of permanence serves us well
here. If, however, an operation with the properties of addition is found, then one
will further ask whether there is a corresponding operation for multiplication; to
answer this question one will use the principles of multiplication in more or less
special cases, and so one arrives at an actual definition of multiplication. When
this has taken place, then there remains a task to show in a synthetic way that, in
fact, all fundamental principles of operation that have been taught in this
paragraph are fulfilled, and that only then can one strictly consider the operation
to be multiplication. The principle of permanence is everywhere only in a
9

Mittels dieses Principes war es mglich, an Stelle des zunchst liegenden Begriffs einer Zahl, als des
Ausdrucks der actuellen Relationen von Objecten und deren Operationen, den allgemeineren Begriff formaler,
bloss im Gebiete des logischen Denkens sich bewegender Operationen und aus der mentalen Verknpfung von
Objecten hervorgehender Zahlen zu setzen, welche zunchst inhaltsleer, rein die abstracten Formen des
zu[s]ammenfassenden Denkens des Unstetigen sind. (1867, 47).

methodological sense of this word analytic; a series of arbitrary presuppositions


needs to be made, which it does not prove but only guides. That these
presuppositions are arbitrary is made sufficiently clear by the fact that different
actual operations can be given that all satisfy the general formal rules. (1867,
3334)10
In other words, even though Hankel claims above that the general laws give the necessary and
sufficient conditions for defining an operation formally, this is not enough for him in general.
In addition, we have to exemplify the operations in question and then show that they satisfy
their formal definition. While the formal definition ensures the permanence of the operations,
it will not guarantee the existence of the operation. Hankels explanation suggests that since
the formal definition can be exemplified in many different domains, it does not define the
operation uniquely. Hankel thus distinguishes between the system of algebraic laws and its
models.
Hankels project is thus a combination of an analytic definition of the operations by means of
algebraic laws and a synthetic generation of the system of calculation. For example, by means
of a basic law such as
a + (b + 1) = (a + b) +1,
Hankel defines the calculation rule of addition. 11 However, he then also verifies the inverse,
namely that the operation of addition implies the basic law as a theorem, provable by
mathematical induction. Hankels synthesis (i.e., the generation of the system of calculation)
initially aims at an actual construction of the system. However, the actual execution of the
calculations is soon impossible for the results of operations may be impossible objects and
thus they cannot be intuited. Hankel thus suggests building a number system that contains all
possible results of operations carried out on certain elements, signified by new signs. The
operations are then applied to new signs so that yet new signs will be added to the system.
The process will be continued until no further signs can thus be reached:
Such a system can only be created by starting from certain elements, the units,
and combining them in every possible way through certain operations and
signifying the results of these operations with new signs. These new signs will
10

Wir werden dabei im Allgemeinen so verfahren: Wenn ein Gebiet von Objecten gegeben ist, so wird man
zunchst fragen, ob es eine auf sie anwendbare Operation gebe, welcher die Eigenschaften der Addition
zukommen. Eine stricte Methode zur Beantwortung dieser Frage gibt es allerdings nicht, vielmehr wird die
productive Erfindung sie lsen mssen; das Princip der Permanenz leistet dabei gute Dienste. Ist aber eine
Operation gefunden, welche die Eigenschaften der Addition hat, so wird man weiter fragen, ob es eine
entsprechende Multiplication gebe; um dies zu beantworten, wird man die Principien der Multiplication
wiederum in mehr oder minder speciellen Fllen benutzen, und so dazu gelangen die Multiplication actuell zu
definiren. Ist dies geschehen, so bleibt es dann noch brig, in synthetischem Gange nachzuweisen, dass in der
That alle fundamentalen Principien der Operation, wie sie in diesem . gelehrt sind, erfllt sind, und erst dann
wird man die Operation streng genommen als Multiplication bezeichnen knnen. Das Princip der Permanenz ist
hiebei berall nur ein im methodologischen Sinne dieses Wortes, analytisches; es mssen stets eine Reihe von
arbitrren Annahmen gemacht werden, welche es nicht beweist, sondern nur leitet. Dass jene Annahmen
arbitrr sind, geht gengend daraus hervor, dass verschiedene actuelle Operationen gegeben werden knnen,
welche smmtlich den allgemeinen formalen Regeln gengen. (1867, 3334)
11
Hankel makes a shortcut here. The basic law should be a + (b + c) = (a + b) + c for which this is an instance c =
1.

then be further combined according to the aforementioned rules, thus originating


in new signs, etc. If one continues so far that one does not reach any new signs,
that is, the results of the new operations can always be expressed with the
existing ones, then one calls the constructed series of signs a closed system or
domain, whose order I name according to the number of units that have been
used in its construction. (1867, 35)12
Hankel calls the signs of such a system numbers, thus identifying the numbers with the signs
for them. He then defines a formal number as follows:
A number is the expression of certain formal relationships between arbitrary
objects; a number system represents a systematically ordered series of such
relationships or combinations, whose essence determines the character of the
number system. (Hankel 1867, 36)13
Actual numbers can be subsumed under these formal numbers.
To build a number system of individual elements, he first defines (setzt)
1 + 1 = 2, 2 + 1 = 3, 3 + 1 = 4,
He calls such numbers absolute, and 1 the numerical unit [numerische Einheit]. To
define addition he considers an application of the associative principle:
A + (B + 1) = (A + B) + 1 (1)
which holds for any sum. 14 It is important to note that Hankel uses the associative laws to
obtain the primitive recursive calculation rules, whereas in the usual modern primitive
recursive addition, they are just rules; i.e., rules governed by the primitive recursion format.
The proof of (1) thus seems redundant from the modern point of view.
Hankel does not use the term reduction, but that is essentially what he does with the
calculation rules induced from the algebraic laws; namely the algebraic equation (1) is taken
as the calculation rule from the right hand side to the left hand side. He reduces more complex
formations into a definition in his sequence. Hankel thus seems to try to show that the results
12

Ein solches System kann nur geschaffen werden, indem man von gewissen Elementen, den Einheiten
ausgeht, diese auf alle mgliche Weise durch gewisse Operationen verbindet und die Resultate dieser
Operationen mit neuen Zeichen signirt. Diese neue Zeichen werden dann nach vorstehenden Regeln wiederum
zu verknpfen sein und zu neuen Zeichen Veranlassung geben u.s.f. Fhrt man so fort, bis man zu neuen
Zeichen nicht mehr gelangt, also die Resultate der neuen Operationen durch die schon vorhandenen jedesmal
ausgedrckt werden knnen, so nennt man die gebildete Zeichenreiche ein abgeschlossenes System oder
Gebiet, dessen Ordnung ich nach der Zahl von Einheiten benenne, welche seiner Bildung verwandt worden
sind. (1867, 35).
13
Eine Zahl ist der Ausdruck gewisser formaler Beziehungen beliebiger Objecte zu einander; ein Zahlensystem
stellt eine systematisch geordnete Reihe solcher Beziehungen oder Verknpfungen dar, deren Wesen den
Character des Zahlensystems ausmacht. (Hankel 1967, 36).
14
Hankel proves it for the case where B = 1, by showing that the outcome is a number in the sequence
according to its definition. He then shows that this can be done also when B = 2. If B = 2 then (1) holds; i.e., that
A + (2 + 1) = (A + 2) + 1 or A + 3 = (A + 2) + 1, where (A + 2) and thus also (A + 2) + 1, or A + 3, are also numbers
of the sequence. (1867, 37).

of addition operation belong to the natural number sequence. Hankel then points out that one
can prove a similar result for any two numbers without any intuition and purely mechanically
using the property that each number is defined as the sum of its predecessor and the unit
(Hankel 1867, 37). He then proves the associativity in a very modern fashion by
mathematical induction. He then uses associativity to prove commutativity. 15
Multiplication, according to Hankel, is an operation for which
A 1 = A,
which shows the significance of the unit used for the construction of the number system [den
hierin liegt die Bedeutung der zur Bildung des Zahlensystems verwendeten Einheit] (1867,
38). In general multiplication can be defined recursively [recurrirend definirt werden] by
means of the equation
A (B + 1) = AB + A,
which can be taken as a special case of the distributive law. He then proves the general form
of the distributive law, and then associativity and also commutativity of multiplication
referring to Grassmanns Lehrbuch der Arithmetik (Hankel 1867, 3840).
Finally he defines what he calls the modulus of the operations:
A+0=A
and
A 0 = 0.
With these equations he thus defines a system of natural numbers, as opposed to the earlier,
formal definition that created a more general, algebraic domain. Hankel next moves on to
consider equations that extend the domain to include the negative whole numbers, rational
numbers and complex numbers.
Hankel thus proves that the calculation rules exemplify the formal conditions set up earlier by
means of formal laws. Above he claimed that whereas the formal arithmetic does not consist
in a generalization of ordinary arithmetic; it is a completely new science, whose rules are not
proven, but only exemplified by the latter [ordinary arithmetic] [Regeln nicht bewiesen,
sondern nur exemplificirt, werden] (1867, 12). He further claims that in the ordinary
arithmetic the definitions of operations determine their Regeln [presumably arithmetical
laws], and in the formal mathematics the Regeln define the sense of the operations (ibid.). In
accordance to this claim, Hankel thus first gives a formal, analytic definition of the operations
by means of algebraic laws and then constructs desired systems and shows that in them the
15

Hankels proof of associativity of addition is as follows. Assuming the equation A + (B + ) = (A + B) + (2) and
using (1) twice, we get: A + {B + ( + 1)} = A + {(B + ) + 1} = {A + (B + )} + 1. According to (2), this is {(A + B) + }
+ 1, and according to (1) {A + B} + ( + 1); thus, A + {B + ( + 1)} = {A + B} + ( + 1). So if (2) holds, it also holds
when is replaced by + 1. Where (2) holds for = 1, according to (1), it holds for any case, so (2) holds
according to the known general ways of demonstration [Schlussweise]. He then derives commutativity of
addition from associativity. Let 1 + A = A + 1 (3); then according to (1) and (3), 1 + (a + 1) = (1 + A) + 1 = (A + 1) +
1. Since (3) holds for A = 1, and by replacing A with A + 1, (3) holds in general. Let A + B = B + A (4); then A + (B +
1) = (A + B) + 1 = (B + A) + 1 = B + (A + 1) = B + (1 + A). According to (1), (4), (1), (3) and also (2), A + (B + 1) = (B +
1) + A.

same laws are exemplified. This also explains why Hankel writes in the introduction that the
distinction between transcendent and actual numbers, mediated by the formal numbers, is not
stark, but fluctuating, which will be in the following clearly presented [wird sich him
Folgenden klar genug herausstellen] (1867, 8).
Hankel claims to be everywhere guided by the principle of permanence, which enables the
move from the realm of actual numbers to more general formal concepts:
By means of this principle, it was possible to replace the initial concept of
number as an expression of actual relationships of objects and their operations
with a more general concept of formal operations that move only in the
domain of logical thought, as well as (replace it) with numbers that result from
the mental linking of objects, which are first thought without content, with
purely abstract forms of the combining thought about the discrete. (Hankel
1867, 47).16

The principle of permanence is also crucial for reaching the pure theory of the complex
numbers (ibid., 100). The complex number system eventually defined by Hankel is
categorical in being maximal:
A higher complex number system, whose formal operations of calculating fixed
by the conditions given in 28, and whose products of unity are particular linear
functions of the original unities, and in which no product can vanish without one
of its factors being zero, contains within itself a contradiction and cannot exist.
(Hankel 1867, 107, translation from Detlefsen 2005, 286)17
Detlefsen calls the theorem Hankels theorem and puts it in more modern terms to say that
the field C is, up to isomorphism, the only commutative field obtainable by adding roots of
polynomials with complex coefficients to the field C. The theorem thus claims that the
principle of permanence does not apply to number concepts beyond complex numbers
(Detlefsen 2005, 286). Nevertheless, Hankels principle of permanence preserves the validity
of arithmetical laws as purely formal conditions for the operations.
2. Husserls clarification of Hankels principle and the origins of syntactic reduction
In his Formal and Transcendental Logic (1929), Husserl claims that with his attempts to
formulate a concept of a definite manifold, he tried to clarify Hankels principle of the
permanence of formal laws. He writes,

16

Mittels dieses Principes war es mglich, an Stelle des zunchst liegenden Begriffs einer Zahl, als des
Ausdrucks der actuellen Relationen von Objecten und deren Operationen, den allgemeineren Begriff formaler,
bloss im Gebiete des logischen Denkens sich bewegender Operationen und aus der mentalen Verknpfung von
Objecten hervorgehender Zahlen zu setzen, welche zunchst inhaltsleer, rein die abstracten Formen des
zuammenfassenden [sic.] Denkens des Unstetigen sind (Hankel 1867, 47).
17
Ein hheres complexes Zahlensystem, dessen formale Rechnungsoperationen nach den Bedingungen des
28 bestimmt sind, und dessen Einheitsproducte ins Besondere lineare Functionen der ursprnglichen Einheiten
sind, und in welchem kein Product verschwinden kann, ohne dass einer seiner Factoren Null wrde, enthlt in
sich einen Widerspruch und kann nicht existiren. (Hankel 1867, 107).

The concept of the definite manifold served me originally to a different purpose,


namely to clarify the logical sense of the computational transition through the
imaginary and, in connexion with that, to bring out the sound core of
Hermann Hankels renowned, but logically unsubstantiated and unclear,
principle of the permanence of formal laws. My questions were: Under what
conditions can one operate freely, in a formally defined deductive system (a
formally defined multiplicity), with concepts that, according to the definition
of the system, are imaginary? When can one be sure that deductions that involve
such an operating, but yield propositions free from the imaginary, are indeed
correct that is to say, correct consequences of the defining forms of axioms?
How far does the possibility extend of enlarging a multiplicity, a welldefined deductive system, to make a new one that contains the old one as a
part? (Husserl 1969, 97)18
Husserl notoriously discussed the notion of a definite manifold in his two Gttingen lectures
in 1901. However, it seems that Husserl engaged in clarifying Hankels principle already in
his Philosophie der Arithmetik (1891). Indeed, it seems Husserl was troubled by Hankels
principle already when writing his Habilitationsschrift, at least by July 1887. To habilitate at
the University of Halle, Husserl had prepared to defend publicly eight claims on July 1, 1887.
Two of the theses relate to Hankel, namely thesis VI Hankels Principle of the permanence
of formal laws in arithmetic is neither a metaphysical nor an introductory
[hodegetisches] principle and thesis VII [l]ogical justification of the use of irrational and
imaginary numbers in all mathematical domains has not been demonstrated up to now
(Husserl 2003, 357). Clearly Husserl was not satisfied by Hankels principle of permanence,
but as we will see, despite his critical attitude, Husserl eventually adopts what he above calls
the sound core of the principle.
Husserls Habilitationsschrift On the Concept of Number: Psychological Analyses (1887), 19
and subsequently the first chapters of Husserls first properly published book Philosophy of
Arithmetic, Psychological and Logical Investigations (1891) (hereafter PA), represent
Husserls initial approach applying Brentanian methodology to Weierstrassian problems.
Husserl met the limits of this approach already within the PA, which makes the PA
particularly difficult to assess, as Husserl changes his approach in the middle of the work. In
the secondary literature this has given rise to a variety of stories about the stages Husserl
18

Der Begriff der definiten Mannigfaltigkeit diente mir ursprnglich zu einem anderen Zwecke, nmlich zur
Klrung des logischen Sinnes des rechnerischen Durchgangs durch Imaginres und im Zusammenhang damit
zur Herausstellung des gesunden Kernes des vielgerhmten, aber logisch unbegrndeten und unklaren H.
Hankelschen Prinzips der Permanenz der formalen Gesetze. Meine Fragen waren: an welchen Bedingungen
hngt die Mglichkeit, in einem formal definierten deduktiven System (in einer formal definierten
Mannigfaltigkeit) mit Begriffen frei zu operieren, die gem seiner Definition imaginr sind? Wann kan man
sicher sein, da Deduktionen, die bei solchem Operieren von dem Imaginren freie Stze liefern, in der Tat
richtig sind, das ist korrekte Konsequenzen der definierenden Axiomenformen? Wie weit reicht die
Mglichkeit, eine -Mannigfaltigkeit, ein wohldefiniertes deduktives System zu erweitern in ein neues, das da
salte als Teil enthlt? (Husserl 1974, 85).
19
On the Concept of Number: Psychological Analysis has been published as Husserls Habilitationsschrift in
Halle a. S.: Heynemannsche Buchdruckerey (F. Beyer), 1887; second edition in Husserliana XII, (Husserl 1970,
289338), and translated by Dallas Willard in (Husserl 2003, 305356). Carlo Ierna has argued that the original
Habilitationsschrift went significantly farther than On the Concept of Number (see Ierna 2005, 2330 ).

10

went through before 1891 (e.g., Miller 1982; Willard 1984; and in most historical detail Ierna
2005). The end of the Philosophy of Arithmetic is an outcome of considerable struggle on
Husserls part. Several manuscripts from around 188991 give clues about the nature of
Husserls problems and the kinds of solutions he considered. As will become clear, these
manuscripts seem to revolve around Hankels principle of permanence in one way or another.
The most important indication of Husserls struggle is a letter he sent to his mentor Carl
Stumpf in February 1890. In it, Husserl writes about a shift in his views as follows:
The results which I have obtained are striking enough. The opinion by which I
was still guided in the elaboration of my Habilitationsschrift, to the effect that
the concept of cardinal number forms the foundation of general arithmetic, soon
proved to be false. (The analysis of the ordinal number already made this clear
to me.) By no clever devices, by no inauthentic representing, can one derive
negative, rational, irrational, and the various sorts of complex numbers from the
concept of the cardinal number. The same is true of the ordinal concepts, of the
concepts of magnitude, and so on. And these concepts themselves are not logical
particularizations of the cardinal concept. The fact is that general arithmetic
(including analysis, theory of functions, etc.) finds application to the cardinals
(in number theory), as well as to the ordinals, to continuous quantities, and to
n-dimensional Ausgedehntheiten (time, space, color, force [Kraftkontinua], etc.)
(1994, 13).20
What he thus realizes is that general arithmetic is not tied to any conceptual basis (See also
Die wahren Theorien written around 188990). Husserl was obviously struggling with the
problem of extending the number field. Husserl had realized that it should be possible to
consider calculation entirely devoid of its conceptual basis. However, to Husserl, this means
that instead of extending the number domain, one only extends the arithmetical technique.
No negative, imaginary, fractional numbers can be proved to be generated as
stages of development or combination forms of number concepts. The number
concept permits no extensions; what will be extended and allows extension is
only the arithmetical technique. (Husserl 1983, 4243).21
As mentioned earlier (in 1887), Husserl had prepared to defend the thesis Hankels Principle
of the permanence of formal laws in arithmetic is neither a metaphysical nor an introductory
20

Die Resultate, zu denen ich gelangt bin, sind merkwrdig genug. Die Meinung, von der ich noch bei der
Ausarbeitung der Habilitationsschrift geleitet wurde, da der Anzahlbegriff das Fundament der allgemeinen
Arithmetik bilde, erwies sich bald als falsch. (Schon die Analyse der Ordnungszahl fhrte mich darauf.) Durch
keinerlei Kunststcke, durch kein uneigentliches Vorstellen kann man die negativen, rationalen, irrationalen
und die mannigfachen komplexen Zahlen aus dem Anzahlbegriff herleiten. Dasselbe gilt vom
Ordnungszahlbegriffe, dasselbe vom Grenbegriffe usw. Und diese Begriffe selbst sind keine logischen
Spezialisierungen der Anzahlbegriffe. Tatsache ist, da die allgemeine Arithmetik (inkl. Analysis,
Funktionentheorie etc.) Anwendung findet auf Anzahlen (Zahlentheorie), desgleichen auf Ord[inal]z[ahlen],
auf stetige Quantitten, auf n-fache Ausgedehntheiten (Zeit, Raum, Farbe, kraftkontin[uum] etc.).(1983, 245)
21
Keine negativen, imaginren, gebrochenen Zahlen lassen sich nachweisen, die als Entwicklungsstufen oder
Kombinationsformen der Anzahlbegriffe entstehen knnten. Der Anzahlbegriff lt keinerlei Erweiterungen zu;
was erweitert wird und Erweiterung zult, ist nur die arithmetische Technik (Husserl 1983, 4243).

11

[hodegetisches] principle. Obviously we do not know what would have been the more
detailed content of Husserls thesis. However, we are now in a position to guess: Husserl
probably thought of Hankel as a formalist who relied only on symbolic calculations, and that
the principle of permanence is hence not a metaphysical principle. On the other hand, it
certainly was not a pedagogical or introductory principle either owing to its central role in
Hankels approach. In any case, for such a principle the most important property is that it
yields correct results. Consideration of this takes Husserl to emphasize the need to prove the
consistency of the extended calculations. Husserls own formulation of the principle of
permanence in Die wahren Theorien (around 18891890) is the following:
Principle of Permanence: When, by virtue of the peculiarity of the concepts the
algorithm is founded on, certain algorithmic operations cannot be executed in
full generality without arriving at contradictory constructions of concepts, the
algorithm is extended after detaching it from the conceptual foundation and
regarding it as a conventional one. This is done by experimentally adding every
such construction to the algorithmic domain and by adding the convention that
the old laws remain valid also for the objects that they symbolize (signs). The
old laws should thus be executable in full generality. In any case, one must then
prove the consistency of the extended algorithm. (Husserl 1983, 33) 22
In other words, according to Husserls formulation, the principle allows extending the
algorithm so that one can use the operations by stipulating that the old laws (presumably
associativity, commutativity and so forth) remain valid. Contrary to Hankel, Husserl
emphasizes that the extended algorithm [erweiterten Algorithmus] has to be shown to be
consistent. While Hankel first gives a formal, analytic definition of the operations by means
of algebraic laws and then constructs desired systems by means of mathematical induction,
Husserl investigates the correctness of algorithms by means of term reductions of an
equational proof system. Indeed, Husserl claims that the algorithms produce correct results
when every equation for relations between the signs can be, using the definitions of the signs,
reduced to an identity (Husserl 1983, 35). He writes,
We have so far considered only pure algorithms, if you will, pure game systems.
The importance of this consideration lies in the possibility to control scientific
domains through algorithms. And the usefulness of it is immediately clear:
When a scientific domain is controlled through a restricted algorithm so that
between the two there is a thoroughly investigated and characterized full
parallelism, then, for the scientific purposes of this domain, the limited
algorithm can be substituted salva veritate with an extended and unlimited
algorithm, and it will as such in even higher measure control that domain,
through the greater completeness of its mechanism. All the concepts and
conventions of the extension lack a conceptual grounding that can be verified in
the scientific domain, they are meaningless and, insofar as they provide a formal
22

Princip der Permanez: Wenn vermge der Besonderheit der einen Algorithmus begrndenden Begriffe
gewisse der algorithmischen Operationen nicht in voller Allgemeinheit ausfhrbar sind, ohne da man auf
widerstreitende Begriffsbildungen kommt, so erweitert man den Algorithmus, nachdem man ihm von der
begrifflichen Grundlage losgelst und als einen konventionellen gedacht hat, dadurch, da man jede solche
Bildung versuchsweise dem algorithmischen Gebiete adjungiert und die Konvention hinzufgt, da auch fr die
durch sie symbolisierten Gegenstnde (Zeichen) die alten Gesetze gltig bleiben, also die alten Gesetze
unbeschrnkt ausfhrbar sein sollen. Man mu dann in jedem Fall die Konsistenz des erweiterten Algorithmus
nachweisen. (1983, 33).

12

solution to previously unsolvable problems, indications of contradictory


concepts. The calculation with the help of the technique of the extended domain
must, under all circumstances, produce correct results, because according to our
general investigation, every sign equivalence, which contains and presupposes
only signs and conventions of the more restricted domain, is in this sense correct
[im Sinne dieser eine richtige], thus reducible to one identity. Every
signequivalence of this sort is, however, the necessary expression of a correct
judgment for the considered scientific domain. (1983, 3435)23
Husserl is troubled by the algorithm as a pure game system, whose signs do not correspond to
anything conceptual in the scientific domain. Elsewhere Husserl attributes such a view to
Helmholtz and complains that Helmholtz is not able to explain how such games can have
working applications (Husserl 1994, 14). However, Husserl admits that the calculation is
helpful if it yields correct results. To ensure this, Husserl claims above, every equation of of
signs should be reducible to an identity. This idea seems to have been inspired by the results
of many mathematicians, and in particular Grassmann. Husserl continues his above mentioned
letter to Stumpf:
Arithmeticians who now with hesitation, and now decisively explain
numbers as signs, allow themselves to be guided merely by the study of
algebraic formalisms. These mathematicians (Grassmann above all) have
brought to Evidence the possibility of deriving the whole algorithm of arithmetic
and analysis by means of mere sign definitions (1 + 1 = 2, 2 + 1 = 3, etc.; a a =
a2, ( a)2 = a, etc, all understood in the sense of mere equivalences of signs upon
paper). This occasioned their identification of number and sign. (Husserl 1994,
14)24
Husserl then proceeds to say that this is quite acceptable: there should be nothing to wonder at
in the fact that a system of signs and operations with signs can replace a system of concepts
and operations with judgments, where the two systems run rigorously parallel (ibid. our
23

Wir haben bisher nur reine Algorithmen, wenn man will, reine Spielsysteme betrachtet. Die Bedeutung
dieser Betrachtungen liegt in der Mglichkeit wissenschaftliche Gebiete durch Algorithmen zu beherrschen.
Und der Nutzen daran ist sofort klar: Wenn ein wissenschaftliches Gebiet durch einen begrenzten Algorithmus
dadurch beherrscht wird, da zwischen beiden jener ausfhrlich untersuchte und charakterisierte volle
Parallelismus besteht, dann kann fr die wissenschaftlichen Zwecke dieses Gebiets dem begrenzten auch
irgendein erweiterter und unbegrenzter Algorithmus salva veritate substituiert werden, und er wird als solcher
in noch hherem Mae jenes Gebiet beherrschen, durch die grere Vollkommenheit seines Mechanismus.
Alle Begriffe und Konventionen der Erweiterung ermangeln einer in dem wissenschaftlichen Gebiet
nachweisbaren begrifflichen Fundierung, sie sind sinnlos und, sofern sie sich formell als Lsungen frher
unlsbarer Aufgaben prsentieren, Anzeigen widersprechender Begriffe. Das rechnen mit Hilfe der Technik des
erweiterten Gebiets mu unter allen Umstnden zu richtigen Resultaten fhren, weil nach unserer allgemeinen
Untersuchung jede Zeichen quivalenz, welche nur die Zeichen und Konventionen des engeren Gebiets
einschliet und voraussetzt, im Sinne dieser eine richtige, also auf eine Identitt reduzierbar ist. Jede
Zeichenquivalenz dieser Art ist aber der notwendige Ausdruck eines richtigen Urteils fr das betrachtete
wissenschaffliche Gebiet (1983, 34-35).
24
Die Arithmetiker, welche bald schwankend, bald entschieden die Zahlen als Zeichen erklrten, lieen sich
blo leiten vom Studium des algebr[aischen] Formalismus. Die Mglichkeit, durch bloe Zeichendefinitionen
(1+1=2, 2+1=3, etc.; aa=a2, ( a)2=a etc., alles verstanden im Sinne bloer quivalenzen von Zeichen auf dem
Papiere) den ganzen Algorithmus der Arithmetik und Analysis herzuleiten, haben jene Mathematiker, vor allem
Grassmann, zur Evidenz gebracht. Dies veranlate sie, Zahl und Zeichen zu identifizieren, (Husserl 1983,
245246).

13

italics). 25 Contrary to Hankel and others, Husserl does not want to identify the number and the
sign. Indeed, already in his Habilitationsschrift, Husserl criticized Helmholtz for conceiving
numbers as mere signs, as Stumpf pointed out in his summary of Husserls work (Gerlach and
Sepp 1994, 173). Husserls problem is thus how to establish the existence of the conceptual
system parallel to the symbolic one:
Upon this fact syllogistic and the logical calculus rest, as does the much more
subtle system of ordinary arithmetic. To calculate is not to think (infer), but
rather is to derive sign from sign systematically, in conformity with set rules.
The sign which is obtained at the end is interpreted, and thus the desired thought
results. So we have a method of deriving a judgment from given judgments, not
by means of actual inferring, but rather though a rule-governed procedure in
which, from the arithmetical symbols for the data, the symbol for the result is
obtained in a mechanical fashion.(1994, 14)26
In a letter to Stumpf he accordingly sketches his view of arithmetica universalis at the time.
The sign system of arithmetica universalis divides into a certain sequence of
levels, comparable to that of a system of concentric circles. The lowest level (the
innermost circle) is occupied by the signs 1, 2 = 1 + 1, 3 = 2 + 1, etc.; the next
by fractional signs; and so on. The signs of the lowest level, and they only, are
independent. Those of the higher levels are formally dependent upon those of
the lower levels, and ultimately upon the lowest. To each domain there belong
rules of calculation (formal laws). Those of the higher domains are dependent
upon those of the lower, and include them formally. The rules of calculation are,
then, so formed that each equation (in whatever way it may be set up, i.e., by
means of whatever domain levels) is satisfied as an identity with reference to the
signs and the domain of rules which it actually involves. Thus, for example, if
an equation between whole numbers (or their signs) is proven with the aid of all
the parts of the arithmetica universalis, it nonetheless incorporates into itself
nothing of this route of proof: it is an identity with reference to the signs which
it contains. It is an identity in the sense of the signs and sign rules of the lowest
level. (1994, 16)27
25

Da ein System von Zeichen und Zeichenoperationen ein System von Begriffen und Urteilsoperationen mit
denselben zu ersetzen vermag, wenn beide Systeme streng parallel laufen, hat nichts Verwunderliches
(Husserl 1983, 246).
26
Darauf beruhen Syllogistik und Logikkalkl, darauf das viel feinere System der gemeinen Rechenkunst.
Rechnen ist nicht Denken (Schlieen), sondern systematisches Herleiten von Zeichen aus Zeichen, nach festen
Regeln. Das result[ierende] Zeichen wird gedeutet und so resultiert der gewnschte Gedanke. Also eine
Methode: ein Urteil aus gegebenen Urteilen herzuleiten nicht durch ein wirkliches Schlieensondern durch ein
regelmiges Verfahren, bei dem aus den arithmetischen Signaturen der Daten diejenige des Resultats rein
mechanisch gewonnen ist. (Husserl 1983, 246)
27
Das Zeichensystem der arithmetica universalis gliedert sich in eine gewisse Stufenfolge, vergleichbar
derjenigen eines Systems konzentrischer Kreise. Die tiefste Stufe (den innersten Kreis) fllen die Zeichen 1,
2=1+1, 3=2+1 usw., die nchste die Bruchzeichen usw. Die Zeichen der untersten Stufe und nur sie allein sind
independent; die der hheren sind von den der tiefern und schlielich den der untersten Stufe formal
abhngig. Jedem Kreise kommen Rechenregeln (formale Gesetze) zu, die des hhern sind abhngig von den
des tiefern, schlieen sie formell ein. Die Rechenregeln sind nun so formiert, da jede Gleichung, auf welchem
Wege, d.h. mittelst welcher Stufenkreise sie auch gewonnen sei, identisch erfllt ist mit Beziehung auf die
Zeichen und das Regelgebiet, die sie wirklich impliziert. Ist also z.B. eine Gleichung zw[ischen] ganzen Zahlen
(sc. Zeichen) bewiesen durch Hilfsmittel aller Teile der arithmetica universalis, so haftet ihr doch von diesem

14

Husserl claims that this view is formally consistent with Helmholtzs view, but is
conceptually importantly different for Husserl did not want to adopt Helmholtzs sign
theory (ibid., 16). Arithmetik der Reihen dated to around 18891891 seems to be Husserls
attempt at constructing some such system (Husserl 1983, 154214). In any case, according to
Husserl, arithmetica universalis is a segment of formal logic, which he defines as a symbolic
technique. In Die wahren Theorien Husserl was confident about his approach. He claims
that the principle of permanence is an undoubtedly correct principle that removes all
Dunkelheiten der Arithmetik and fully justifies arithmetical procedures (1983, 35).
However, around the same time Husserl also points out that the solution based on calculation,
even though interesting and useful, does not yield any insight into the essence of arithmetic
(1983, 2223). To this effect, at the end of Die wahren Theorien, Husserl demands further
investigation in the conceptual realms. He thus concludes his manuscript, with a formulation
of the next task:
The clarity that we brought to authentic arithmetic illuminates our way forward
a little. If the algorithm is applicable also outside the number domain, then it can
take place only due to the fact that it either works because the conceptual
domain, even though different from the number concepts, has a formally
analogous structure with the number concepts, or since it simply involves
concrete numbers. The conceptual domains in question must be researched and
the true state of affairs set forth.
Our task will thus be to study the different domains of application of the
numbers and the relations between the numbers, and carefully examine the
concepts which one has generally wanted to use as the basis for arithmetic.
(Husserl 1983, 4344)28
The question with which Husserl proceeds is thus to examine different kinds of domains to
see whether they share the same structure with the number theory. Most of the other
manuscripts from 18891891 accordingly discuss different kinds of domains.
Having written the above mentioned manuscripts (the letter to Stumpf, Die wahren Theorien),
Husserl finished the PA. At this point Husserls clarification of Hankels principle means
that he introduces a distinction between the signs and the objects signified and that he
specifies the condition of consistency of the extended system to rest on the reducibility to
identities.

3. PA and the symbolic reduction


Beweiswege nichts an: sie ist identisch mit Beziehung auf die Zeichen, die sie enthlt. Sie ist eine Identitt in
dem Sinne der Zeichen und Zeichenregeln der untersten Stufe (1983, 247248).
28
Die Klarheit, welche wir in die eigentliche Anzahlenarithmetik brachten, leuchtet unserem weiteren Weg
nun schon ein Stck voraus. Lt der Algorithmus auch auer dem Anzahlgebiet noch Anwendungen zu, dann
kann es nur dadurch geschehen, da er entweder dies leistet, weil die bezglichen Anwendungsbegriffe,
obwohl von den Zahlbegriffen verschieden, doch ein formell analoges System bilden wie diese; oder weil es
sich einfach um konkrete Anzahlen handelt. Es mssen die betreffenden Begriffsgebiete demgem
durchforscht und das wahre Sachverhltnis dargelegt werden.
Unsere Aufgabe wird also sein, die verschiedenen Anwendungsgebiete der Zahlen und Zahlverhltnisse zu
untersuchen und diejenigen Begriffe, welche man sonst der Arithmetik hat zugrunde legen wollen, sorgfltig zu
studieren. (Husserl 1983, 4344)

15

In the last chapter of Philosophy of Arithmetic, Husserl moves beyond the view advocated in
an earlier chapter of the same book. In the final chapter, Husserl defines arithmetic as the
systematic treatment of the techniques of calculation (1970, 257; 2003, 272). In accordance
with his above distinction between the sign and the signified, Husserl distinguishes between
two kinds of construction: one takes place through the formation of concepts, the other by
means of mechanical-exterior sign formation (ibid., 271272).29 Accordingly Husserl
distinguishes between two kinds of method of derivation: as a conceptual operation, or else as
a sense perceptible operation that, utilizing the system of number signs, derives sign from
sign according to fixed rules, only claiming the final result as the designation of a certain
concept, the one sought (ibid., 272).30 Whereas the former method is highly abstract,
limited, and even with the most extensive practice, laborious, the latter is concrete, senseperceptible, all-inclusive, and it is, already with a modest degree of practice, convenient to
work with (ibid., 272).31 Husserls sympathies rest first on the symbolic methods, and he
writes: The method of sensible signs is, therefore, the logical method of arithmetic. (2003,
272).32 Indeed, the main aim of what follows is to guarantee the reliability of the method of
signs, that is, to give foundations for the symbolic calculations.
Husserl then defines calculation as any rule-governed mode of derivation of signs from signs
within any algorithmic sign-system according to the laws or better: the conventions for
combination, separation, and transformation peculiar to that system (2003, 273).33 By
laws in this definition, Husserl refers to calculation rules rather than algebraic basic laws.
According to the definition, calculation consists of three separable stages: Conversion of the
initial thoughts into signs calculation and conversion of the resulting signs back into
thoughts (2003, 273).34 To ensure the reliability of the method of signs, the method has to
be given a logical foundation (2003, 274).35 This means working out the structure of the
system of concepts:
Only the systematic combination of the concepts and their interrelationships,
which underlie the calculation, can account for the fact that the corresponding
designations interlock to form a coherently developed system, and that thereby
we have certainty that to any derivation of signs and sign-relations from given
ones, which is valid in the sense prescribed by the rules for the symbolism, there
must correspond a derivation of concepts and conceptual relations from
concepts given, valid in the sense that thoughts are. Accordingly, for the
grounding of the calculational methods in arithmetic we will also have to go
back to the number concepts and to their forms of combination. (2003, 274)36
29

mechanisch-uerlichen Zeichenbildung (1970, 257)


welche aufgrund des Zahlzeichensystems nach festen Regeln Zeichen aus Zeichen herleitet, um erst das
Resultat als die Bezeichnung eines gewissen, des gesuchten Begriffes zu reklamieren (Husserl 1970, 257).
31
Die Methode der Begriffe ist hochst abstrakt, beschrnkt und selbst bei grter bung mhsam; die der
Zeichen konkret-sinnlich, allumfassend und schon bei miger bung bequem zu handhaben (1970, 257).
32
Die Methode der sinnlichen Zeichen ist also die logische Methode der Arithmetik (1970, 257)
33
jede geregelte Art der Herleitung von Zeichen aus Zeichen innerhalb irgendeines algorithmischen
Zeichensystems nach den diesem System eigentmlichen Gesetzen - oder besser: Konventionen - der
Verknpfung, Sonderung und Umsetzung (1970, 258).
34
Umsetzung der Ausgangsgedanken in Zeichen - Rechnung-, Umsetzung der resultierenden Zeichen in
Gedanken (1970, 258).
35
logisch zu fundieren (1970, 259).
36
Nur an der systematischen Verknpfung der ihr zugrunde liegenden Begriffe und deren Beziehungen kann
es ja liegen, da die korrespondierenden Bezeichnungen sich zu einem konsequent gebildeten System
30

16

The number system for Husserl consists first of all of a series of normative numbers, normal
numbers [Normalzahlen] fixed standards, as it were which all other number forms are
referred back to (2003, 276). The first basic task of arithmetic is to identify the types of
forms (e.g., as an additive, multiplicative or a more complex type), and then to find
calculation rules for each type with which to reduce the given number form into the normal
numbers. He writes,
Accordingly there arises, as the first basic task of Arithmetic, to separate all
conceivable symbolic modes of formation of numbers into their distinct types,
and to discover for each type the methods that are reliable and as simple as
possible for carrying out that reduction. (2003, 277)37
The systematic numbers are systematically formed number series. The systematic formation
of the series could be given by, for example, the series 1, 1 + 1, 1 + 1 + 1, , or perhaps
somewhat more elegantly by a successor function, but at this point Husserl chooses to capture
them with a decimal (base-10) system or representation. The reason for this is that his aim is
to show that the operation on concepts is strictly parallel to the external method of signs and
that thereby the latter is reliable (cf. ibid., 282283). The first sense of reduction Husserl
discusses is the one in which any complex symbolic formation (i.e., any closed term,
Husserls example is 18 + 48) is to be reduced to one of the systematic numbers (66 in
Husserls example). Husserl understands the arithmetical operations to be methods for
carrying out the reduction (cf. ibid., 284).
For each systematic number and the operation on it, there corresponds a univocal sign, and a
parallel reduction on signs that gives the same result:
Thereby is proven, all steps taken one by one, the rigorously univocal
correspondence between the method of addition by thinking in concepts and the
method of addition by calculating in signs; and we can place our complete trust
in the latter. (2003, 282283)38
Husserl then discusses similarly multiplication, subtraction and division. He thus obtains the
logical foundation for mechanical calculation, the logical soundness of which is guaranteed
by means of the rigorous parallelism between the systematic of the numbers and number
relations, on the one hand, and that of the number signs and relations of number signs

zusammenschlieen und dabei die Sicherheit besteht, da jeder im Sinne der Zeichen regeln folgerichtigen
Ableitung von Zeichen und Zeichenbeziehungen aus den gegebenen eine im Sinne der Gedanken folgerichtige
Ableitung von Begriffen und Begriffsbeziehungen aus den hier gegebenen entsprechen msse. Demgem
werden wir auch zur Begrndung der arithmetischen Rechenmethoden zurckgehen mssen auf die
Zahlbegriffe und deren Verknpfungsformen. (1970, 259).
37
Demgem erwchst als die erste Grundaufgabe der Arithmetik, alle erdenklichen symbolischen
Bildungsweisen von Zahlen in ihre verschiedenen Typen zu sondern und fr einen jeden sichere und mglichst
einfache Methoden jener Reduktion aufzufinden (1970, 262).
38
Damit ist allen einzelnen Schritten nach die streng eindeutige Korrespondenz zwischen der in Begriffen
denkenden und der in Zeichen rechnenden Additionsmethode nachgewiesen, und wir drfen der letzteren
volles Vertrauen schenken. (1970, 267).

17

(equivalences of symbols), on the other (2003, 287).39 In this way, the progression along the
sequence of concepts there corresponds, in rigorous parallelism, a progression along the
sequence of names. And the system of names taken by itself is every bit as coherent as that of
the concepts (2003, 265).40
As a consequence of this parallelism, Husserl thinks, each arithmetical operation can be
viewed either as a conceptual operation or as an operation on signs. He thus explains that
addition, for example, can be carried out
by a determinate process of computation, or perhaps by referring to the table of
truths for addition. But the quasi-additions of the signs corresponding to them
are also univocal as to their result, whether carried out through the parallel
external process of enumeration, or through referring to the table of sign
equivalences for addition. Thereby is proven, all steps taken one by one, the
rigorously univocal correspondence between the method of addition by thinking
in concepts and the method of addition by calculating in signs; and we can
place our complete trust in the latter. (2003, 282283) 41
Thus, it seems, the systematic numbers defined above can be viewed either as number
concepts or as signs for them. Likewise, the systematic reduction can be regarded as a
conceptual reduction or else as a symbolic operation on signs. Husserl refers to such
reductions as calculational/formal as opposed to conceptual in a footnote in which Husserl
points out that
the negative, imaginary, fractional, and irrational numbers have not yet
been introduced. Through them there occurs in our number domain a
calculational/formal although by no means a conceptual reduction of the
inverse number forms to the direct ones. (2003, 298)42
Husserl thus thinks that the conceptual calculation cannot be extended to cover the imaginary
numbers. However, one can use them in the calculations on the basis of the system of signs,
which is purely calculational/formal.

39

dessen logische Triftigkeit durch den strengen Parallelismus zwischen der Systematik der Zahlen und
Zahlbeziehungen auf der einen und derjenigen der Zahlzeichen und Zahlzeichenbeziehungen
(Zeichenquivalenzen) auf der anderen Zeite gewhrleistet ist (1970, 271).
40
Dem Fortschritt entlang der Reihe der Begriffe entspricht in strengem Parallelismus ein Fortschritt entlang
der Reihe der Namen, und das System der Namen ist in sich genau so konsequent als das der Begriffe (1970,
250).
41
die Elementaradditionen sind ihrem Resultat nach eindeutig; sie werden ausgefhrt, sei es durch einen
bestimmten Zhlungsproze, sei es durch den Hinweis auf die Tabelle von Wahrheiten der Eins und Eins. Aber
auch die ihnen korrespondierenden Quasi-Additionen der Zeichen sind ihrem Resultat nach eindeutig, sei es
durch den parallellaufenden uerlichen Zhlungsproze oder durch den Hinweis auf die Tabelle von
Zeichenquivalenzen der Eins und Eins. Damit ist allen einzelnen Schritten nach die streng eindeutige
Korrespondenz zwischen der in Begriffen denkenden und der in Zeichen rechnenden Additionsmethode
nachgewiesen, und wir drfen der letzteren volles Vertrauen schenken (1970, 267).
42
die negativen, imaginren, gebrochenen und irrationalen Zahlen noch nicht eingefhrt sind. Durch sie
findet auf unserem Anzahlengebiete eine rechnerisch-formelle - obschon keineswegs begriffliche - Reduktion
der inversen Zahlformen auf die direkten statt. (1970, 282n).

18

In sum, Husserl thus presents systematic numbers as decimal numbers. These systematic
numbers form simultaneously a sign system and a conceptual number system. The reductions
of the complex expressions to the canonical definitions can likewise be regarded as
conceptual or symbolic reductions, or the latter as calculational/formal in terms that Husserl
uses. In the above quote, Husserl also distinguishes between a reduction, which could be
called direct and in which we reduce from a complex form to a canonical natural (or what he
calls normal) number/symbol, and an indirect reduction, in which the reduction takes us
from the inverse number forms to the direct ones.
The first sense of the reduction is the usual reduction as computation/calculation. 43 It is a
reduction inside direct terms or complexities. It seems that Husserl considers only the socalled innermost reduction, which avoids so-called confluence arguments. By the innermost reduction strategy, we mean the reduction strategy, in which an innermost position of
possible reduction is taken first if there is more than one position in the underlying term, for
which reductions are possible. We denote a term or a complex term, say t with free (or
algebraic) variable occurrences, x and y, as t[x,y]. Consider two reduction rules,
t[x,y] s[x,y],
p[x,y] r[x,y],
and consider a term or a complex term t[n,p[m,k]]. Here, t[n,p[m,k]] stands for the term
obtained from t[x,y] by substituting term n with x and substituting term p[m,k] with y. There
are then two possible reducible subterms (called redeces) of this term, namely, the term
t[n,p[m,k]] itself and the subterm p[m,k]. By applying the first rule for the first redex, the
whole term is reduced to s[n,p[m,k]], while by applying the second rule for the second redex,
the whole term is reduced to t[n,r[m,k]].
The outermost reduction strategy means that if there are alternative possible redeces (or
possibly reducible subterms) with the underlying reduction rules, the innermost redex is
chosen fo reduction. In the above example, t[n,p[m,k]] is reduced to t[n,r[m,k]], instead of to
s[n,p[m,k]].44
Husserl considers the reduction rules for the decimal number system or generalized Xexpansion-based number system. For him, the reduction rules are set to reduce any (closed)
term or complex term to a normal number (of a decimal or X-based number system), an
irreducible term of the underlying reduction rules. Now, we denote such normal numbers, n,
43

From the point of view of equational arithmetic based on equational logic, the equation 18 + 48 = 66 has
many different types of proofs including the one in which 66 is traced back to 18 + 48. Instead, the reductionbased proof starts with a complex (compounded term), which reduces to a normal (irreducible) term, 66 in this
case. In the term-rewrite reduction proof-strategy, for a query, say 18 + 48 = 31 + 35, the left-hand term 18 +
48 and the right-hand term 31 + 35 are independently reduced to normal terms, say, n and m, and when n and
m are identically the same term, the whole chain of reductions of both sides is understood as the term-rewrite
reduction proof of the original query (which is now a proved theorem).
44
An example of the inner reduction is a reduction in which the term (18 + 4) x 3 is reduced first with the rules
of addition to 22 x 3 and eventually to a normal term 66. The outer reduction would be one in which there is
reduction with rules of multiplication to (18 + 4) + (18 + 4) + (18 + 4) and eventually to the normal term 66. The
discussion of why different reduction strategies employed to a single term always result in a same normal term
is called the confluence issue. Husserl seems to avoid this issue by considering only the fixed innermost
reduction strategy.

19

m, l, etc. Then, keeping this innermost reduction strategy for the application of rules, after the
first step of reduction resulting in t[n,r[m,k]], where we now assume n, m, and k are normal
numbers (i.e., irreducible), one does not move to apply the first rule (although the first rule
could be applied for reduction to s, [n,r[m,k]]), but keeps reducing the part r[m,k] repeatedly
so that this part eventually terminates with a normal number, say h. Then, the whole term is
t[n,h]. Now, since both n and h are irreducible, there is no inner redex and the first reduction
rule can be applied to t[n,h], which results in s[n,h], and this term is eventually reduced to a
normal term.
Towards the end of his discussion, Husserl discusses the reduction from the indirect to the
direct. At this point Husserl sketches two groups of problems that call for general arithmetic:
The first has to do with an indirect determination of number by means of an
equivalent complex of given conjunctions of known numbers, and the task here
consists in reducing to a minimum the difficulties and complications involved in
the actual execution. The second has to do with a number determination which
is indirect to a yet much higher degree, by means of a complex of operations
that are only incompletely given, inasmuch as the unknown number itself
functions as one term in the conjunctions. (2003, 298299)45
Here, what he called the indirect way of the number determination is the equational definition
(with existential quantifier in the modern logical sense); in this way, the inverse/reverse
function can be defined. It is incompletely given in the sense that the determination is given
only when the equation is solvable. Husserl remarks that in this way the inverse (i.e., the lytic
numbers in Hankels terms), negative, fractional, and irrational numbers can be defined, just
as Hankel did.
Husserl was well aware of the development of set theory and the existence of infinite
cardinals. This enlargement of the conceptual domain should have forced Husserl to give up
the strict parallelism between the system of signs and system of concepts. Admittedly, he does
not consider the X-basis number symbol representation after Philosophy of Arithmetic, but
still in 1905 he insists on strict parallelism between some system of signs and system of
concepts (Daubert 2004, 295).
However, Husserl criticizes the reliance on the mere calculation technique on more
conceptual grounds, as can be read already in his review of Schrders Vorlesungen ber die
Algebra der Logik in 1891. As Bernhard Rang remarks in his introduction to the Husserliana
volume XXII where Husserls review is reprinted, Husserl held that Schrders algorithm
lacks a theoretical basis, the theory of the algorithm (Husserl 1979, xv). Husserl seeks for a
theory of deduction and holds that calculation is not deduction (1994, 55). One could perhaps
see in Husserls criticism increasing appreciation for Hankels idea that there should be an
underlying formal theory that secures the calculations with operations. For Husserl, more than
for Hankel, however, the role of such formal theories is to provide a conceptual foundation for

45

Die erste geht auf eine indirekte Zahlbestimmung durch einen quivalenten Komplex gegebener
Verknpfungen von bekannten Zahlen, und die Aufgabe besteht darin, die wirkliche Ausfhrung auf ein
Minimum von Schwierigkeiten und Verwicklungen zu reduzieren; die zweite geht auf eine in noch viel hherem
Mae indirekte Zahlbestimmung durch einen Komplex nur unvollkommen gegebener Operationen, sofern die
unbekannte Zahl selbst als das eine Fundament der Verknpfungen fungiert, (1970, 283).

20

the calculations. Ultimately, the idea develops into Husserls critique of psychologism in
Prolegomena.
In any case, Husserl was, at least initially, happy with what he achieved in Philosophy of
Arithmetic:
All of the difficulties and doubts encountered in Chapter X with regard to the
understanding of the calculational operations and the arithmetic which treats of
them, we may already at this point regard as resolved. With the modified sense
which the operations acquire in the domain of symbolic number formations, it
has become fully intelligible why scientifically elaborated methods for carrying
out the operations are here required, which seemed pointless there. (2003, 287
288.)46
However, he never came to a final resolution about the general arithmetic. He meant to
discuss it in the second volume of PA, which never appeared. In his Foreword to the
Philosophy of Arithmetic, Husserl explains briefly what he plans to discuss in the second
volume of the book: the first part will consist of a logical investigation of the arithmetical
algorithm, and justification of utilizing, for example, negative and imaginary numbers in
calculations. In its second part, Husserl will discuss the fact that identically the same
algorithm, the same arithmetica universalis, governs a series of conceptual domains that have
to be carefully distinguished (2003, 7). Husserl refers to it also in his Selbstanzeige for
Philosophy of Arithmetic: The higher level symbolic methods, quite different in nature,
which constitute the essence of the general arithmetic of cardinal numbers, are reserved to the
second volume, where that arithmetic will appear as one member of a whole class of
arithmetic, unified in virtue of the homogeneous character of identically the same algorithm
(2003, 300).

4. Double Lecture
About a decade later, in 1901, Felix Klein and David Hilbert invited Husserl to attend the
meetings of the Gttingen Mathematical Society. Husserl complied with the invitation and
soon gave at the Society two lectures known as the Double Lecture [Doppelvortrag], entitled
Der Durchgang durch das Unmgliche und die Vollstndigkeit eines Axiomensystems. The
exact composition of the lectures is not known. There exist several fragments that address the
issues discussed in the lectures. On the basis of these fragments, it can be conjectured what
Husserl said in the lectures. Yet, Elizabeth Schuhmann and Karl Schuhmann, the editors of
the most recent edition for the text of the lectures, assume that the greater part of the
manuscript must have been lost (Schuhmann and Schuhmann 2001, 88).
Husserl begins the lectures with a discussion of the formal nature of mathematics as the
science of theoretical systems in general. It is a study of theory forms defined by a

46

Alle Schwierigkeiten und Zweifel, die wir im X. Kap in dem Verstndnis der Rechnungsoperationen und der
sie behandelnden Arithmetik fanden, drfen wir schon jetzt als gelst ansehen. Bei dem vernderten Sinn,
welchen die Operationen auf dem Gebiet der symbolischen Zahlbildungen erlangen, ist es vllig begreiflich
geworden, warum hier wissenschaftlich ausgebildete Methoden der Operationsvollziehung ntig sind, die dort
gegenstandslos schienen (1970, 272).

21

totality of formal axioms, i.e., by a limited number of purely formal basic


propositions, mutually consistent and independent of one another. Systematic
deduction supplies in a purely logical manner, i.e., purely according to the
principle of contradiction, the dependent propositions, and therewith the entire
totality of propositions that belong to the theory defined. But the object domain
is defined through the axioms in the sense that it is delimited as a certain sphere
of objects in general, irrespective of whether real or Ideal, for which basic
propositions of such and such forms hold true. An object domain thus defined
we call a determinate, but formally defined, manifold (2003, 410).47
The theory forms are defined by the axioms, and the axioms also define the domain of objects
that satisfy the theory in question. These theory forms can be set in relation to one another:
they can be systematically classified; one can broaden or narrow such forms;
one can bring a certain previously given theory form into systematic
interconnection with other forms of determinately defined classes and draw
important conclusions concerning their interrelationship (2003, 410). 48
According to Husserl, the theory forms are abstracted from concrete theories of different
sciences; e.g., Euclidean geometry. An example of an abstracted theory form is a threedimensional Euclidean manifold, which in turn is one among many interconnected manifolds
of varying degrees of curvature (1970, 431; 2003, 410). Such formal mathematics aims to be
the instrument of concrete mathematical discoveries. More importantly, formal mathematics
provides the calculations with a theoretical basis, as what Husserl demanded from Schrder.
Husserl now seems to have adopted the Hankelian approach that there are formal algebras that
are exemplified by more concrete theories. In contrast to the thinking of Hankel, the formal
algebras define formal domains and thus are not understood in a mere symbolic sense as how
Hankel seemed to understand them.
However, according to Husserl, the exact relationship between formal mathematics and its
employment in substantive mathematics or in particular domains of knowledge remains
problematic. In particular, the problem Husserl intends to solve in these lectures is stated as
follows:
Problem: Suppose a domain of objects given in which, through the peculiar
nature of the objects, forms of combination and relationship are determined that
are expressed in a certain axiom system A. On the basis of this system, and thus
on the basis of the particular nature of the objects, certain forms of combination
have no signification for reality, i.e., they are absurd forms of combination. With
what justification can the absurd be assimilated into calculation with what
47

durch einen Inbegriff von formalen Axiomen, d.h. durch eine begrenzte Zahl rein formaler, miteinander
konsistenter und voneinander independenter Grundstze. Die systematische Deduktion liefert rein logisch, d.i.
rein nach dem Prinzip vom Widerspruch, die abhngigen Stze und damit den Gesamtinbegriff von Stzen, die
zu der definierten Theorie gehren. Das Objektgebiet aber ist durch die Axiome in dem Sinn definiert, da es
umgrenzt ist als irgendeine Sphre von Objekten berhaupt, gleichgltig ob realen oder idealen, fr welche
Grundstze solcher und solcher Formen gelten. Ein so definiertes Objekt-Gebiet nennen wir eine bestimmte,
aber formal definierte Mannigfaltigkeit (1970, 431).
48
sie lassen sich systematisch klassifizieren, man kann solche Formen erweitern und verengern, man kann
irgendeine vorgegebene Form in systematischen Zusammenhang mit anderen Formen bestimmt definierter
Klassen bringen und ber ihr Verhltnis wichtige Schlsse ziehen (1970, 431)

22

justification, therefore, can the absurd be utilized in deductive thinking as if it


were meaningful? How is it to be explained that one can operate with the absurd
according to rules, and that, if the absurd is then eliminated from the
propositions, the propositions obtained are correct? (Husserl 2003, 412) 49
Husserls task is thus to tackle, once again, Hankels principle of permanence. In Hankels
picture, a theory form would justify the use of concrete operations even when the results of an
operation are impossible (e.g., negative or rational). Given that Husserl thinks above that the
problem is in the exact relationship between formal mathematics and its concrete applications,
Husserl seems to be thinking about how the theory forms justify the calculations in the
concrete theories, even when the calculations use signs that have no representation in the
concrete theory. Using the example of Euclidean geometry that Husserl frequently mentions,
the question would be, for example, how the three-dimensional Euclidean manifold justifies
the calculations with imaginary elements that are carried out in the Euclidean geometry.
Husserl starts by discussing several approaches to solve the problem, the fifth one being the
one he defends. The solution explicitly uses the principle of permanence. It, he claims,
enables the shift from the specific domain to the formal domain in which one can freely
operate with imaginary numbers. We rise, according to the principle of permanence, above
the particular domain, pass over into the sphere of the formal, and there can freely operate
with 1 (Schuhmann and Schuhmann 2001, 96, Husserl 2004, 417418). Immediately
before this claim Husserl discussed the ideas of manifolds that are defined by means of a
series of stipulations, such as the associative law. According to Husserl, the real domains of
this same form are governed by what he calls an algorithm of the manifold. In Husserls
proposed solution the idea is not to discuss real domains but the formal domain that generates
a formal algorithm:
Now the algorithm of the formal operation is indeed broader than the algorithm
of the narrower operations, which alone are really presupposed in a given
conceptual domain. But if the formal arithmetic is internally consistent, then the
broader operating can exhibit no contradiction with the narrower. Therefore
what I have formally deduced in such a way that it contains only signs of the
narrower domain must also be true for the narrower domain. (Husserl 2003,
418)50
Husserls task is thus to show that the formal arithmetic is internally consistent.
He starts by defining a formal domain called D obtained through abstraction from the real
domain. The formal domain is then extended so that when new axioms are added, the old ones
49

Problem: Es sei ein Gebiet von Objekten gegeben, in welchem durch die besondere Natur der Objekte
Verknpfungs- und Beziehungsformen bestimmt sind, die sich in einem gewisse Axiomensystem A
aussprechen. Aufgrund dieses Systems, also aufgrund der besonderen natur der Objekte, haben gewisse
Verknpfungsformen kein reale Bedeutung, d.h. es sind widersinnige Verknpfungsformen. Mit welchem Recht
darf das Widersinnige rechnerisch verwertet, mit welchem Rechte kann also das Widersinnige im deduktiven
Denken verwendet werden, als ob es Einstimmiges wre? (Schuhmann and Schuhmann 2001, 93).
50
Nun ist der Algorithmus der formalen Operation zwar weiter als der Algorithmus der engeren Operationen,
die allein realen unterlegt sind in einem gegebenen Begriffsgebiet. Ist aber die formale Arithmetik in sich
konsistent, so kann das erweiterte Operieren keinen Widerspruch zeigen mit dem engeren; also was ich formal
so abgeleitet habe, da es nur Zeichen des engeren Gebietes enthlt, mu fr das engere Gebiet auch wahr
sein (1970, 438)

23

are conserved. In other words, the extended system is a conservative extension of the original
system. The axiom system thus defines a domain that Husserl also calls a manifold. The
manifold, as a totality of objects, is therefore defined by means of the relational formal
properties expressed in the axioms (2003, 420). According to Husserl, any axiom system
includes existence axioms. For example, if there is a combination +, then it means that given
a and b,
x (x = a + b),
certain laws (e.g., association and commutativity) remain valid. (Husserl writes that for this
combination such and such laws are valid (2003, 420).) These existence axioms can be
univocal or equivocal. The equivocation can be eliminated by the joint force of the axioms
(2003, 421).
Husserl then continues [i]n the domain belong all univocally determining object forms out of
which constructively arise, through singularization, univocally defined totalities of objects
(2003, 421). The objects of the formal domain are thus object forms. The proper,
univocally produced objects have to be generated constructively. A special case of the formal
domain is one where the entire domain is constructed from a finite number of objects of the
domain (2003, 422). Like Hankel, Husserl considers general axiom systems that create
operation systems in which the number sequence is generated. Accordingly, in one fragment
dated to 1901, he writes Operations: That literally means to generate (2003, 486). 51
In the fragment that Dallas Willard, the translator and the editor of Philosophy of Arithmetic,
has placed next, Husserl discusses the definiteness of manifolds. He discusses three cases, of
which the first two phrases are as follows.
a) A definite manifold is ruled out by the inessential closure axiom.
b) Can a purely algebraic manifold, which defines no individual of the domain
whatever can such a manifold have the character of a definite manifolds? (2003,
422)52
The first case establishes the definiteness by adding to it a closure axiom such as Hilberts
completeness axiom. The second case considers a possibility of definiteness, when the
construction of the manifold is not taken into consideration. According to Husserl, if only one
operation is defined, the associative and commutative laws form a definite combination. If
more operations are added, and the same laws remain valid, and
any sentence which contains only the +, and regardless of how I have derived
it, is decided as to truth and falsehood. Likewise, the well-known laws of
addition and multiplication are definite in this sense, under presupposition of the
said supplementary axiom. (2003, 4223)53

51

Operationen: Das sagt dem Wortlaut nach Erzeugungen. (1970, 482)


a) Definite Mannigfaltigkeit durch das unwesentliche Schlieungsaxiom wird ausgeschlossen. b) Kann eine
rein algebraische Mannigfaltigkeit, welche keinerlei Individuen des Gebietes definiert, kann eine solche den
Charakter einer definiten Mannigfaltigkeit haben? (Schuhmann and Schuhmann 2001, 99-100)
53
jeder Satz, der nur das + enthlt und den ich wie immer abgeleitet habe, ist entschieden in Wahrheit und
Falschheit. Ebenso sind die bekannten Gesetze der Adition und Multiplikation definit in diesem Sinn unter
Voraussetzung des genannten Zusatzaxioms (Schuhmann and Schuhmann 2001, 100). (Schuhmann and
Schuhmann 2001, 100).
52

24

By the said supplementary axiom, Husserl presumably refers to the inessential closure
axiom mentioned under a). Husserl discusses elsewhere (or in another fragment; namely,
VIII Abhandlung dated likewise to 1901) closure axioms, saying, for example, that In the
formal definition of a manifold possibilities remain open under all circumstances, if no
closure axioms of any kind are added (2003, 475).54 Hilbert had, according to Husserls
notes, lectured on his completeness axiom at the Gttingen Mathematical Society on
November 5, 1901, whereas Husserls lectures took place on November 26 and December 10,
1901 (Gutzmer 1902, 147). Hence, Husserl was aware of the completeness axiom and he had
to consider it. However, he does not seem too happy with Hilberts solution. In another
fragment Husserl refers to the closure axioms as producing spurious completeness since we
can make any axiom system quasi-complete with such a closure axiom. He then explains his
next solution that refers to the operational formations of natural numbers and the executability
of the operations so that the identity a = a is produced (2003, 429), to which we will now turn.
The third possibility that Husserl discusses under c) takes up the operation systems (2003,
423; Schuhmann and Schuhmann 2001, 100). There are two subcases. In the first, not every
generally defined and existing operational result belongs in the sphere of the operationally
producible and distinguished individuals. Husserl points out that this would be the case if the
ordering axioms were absent from arithmetic (2003, 424).55
The other is the consideration of the mathematical system for which he also uses the term
constructible system [konstruierbar Mannigfaltigkeit] (1970, 452; 2003, 433). Such
systems are those in which the objects can be determined only through operations and
operationally characterizing concepts (2003, 423)56, and such objects can be determined
operationally so that no further individual that is similarly determined can be added (2003,
424). According to Husserl, the mathematical system is one in which
any individual existing on the basis of the axioms admits of an operational
determination and must belong within the sphere of specific operational results
(which are obtained on the basis of a certain finite number of objects, whether
originally assumed as given in the definition of the manifold, or whether to be
arbitrarily selected and given).(2003, 424)57
Such a system would be defined recursively in Hankels (and others) fashion by generating
the number system from a finite number of objects so that it has certain properties, where the
complex expressions are reducible to the canonical definitions, namely the simplest
irreducible expressions in the number series. Such a constructible reduction system formation
is called a constructor-based rewrite system, in the modern terms of rewriting theory, where
the irreducible or normal terms are pregiven by specific operators (+1 in the case of positive
integers). Thus, like in Hankels approach, for Husserl the mathematical systems generate the
54

In der formalen Definition einer Mannigfaltigkeit bleiben unter allen Umstnden Mglichkeiten offen, wenn
keinerlei Schlieungs-Axiom beigefgt werden (1970, 472).
55
wenn die Ordnungsaxiome in der Arithmetik fehlten (Schuhmann and Schuhmann, 101).
56
in die definierten Individuen mit ihren axiomatischen opertiven Eigenschaften und in die aus ihnen
ableitbaren, d.h. mit bestimmten operativen Eigenschaften auszeichenden (Schuhmann and Schuhmann 2001,
100).
57
jedes aufgrund der Axiome existierende Individuum lt eine operative Bestimmung zu und mu in die
Sphre der speziellen Operationsresultate gehren (die aufgrund gewisser in endlicher Anzahl, sei es in der
Definition der Mannigfaltigkeit ursprnglich als gegeben angenommener, sei es willkrlich herauszugreifender
und zu gebender Objekte gewonnen werden) (Schuhmann and Schuhmann 2001, 101).

25

operation systems. But whereas Hankel defines operation systems recursively by means of
mathematical induction Husserl examines the correctness of the mathematical systems with a
constructor-based rewrite system in modern terminology.
According to Husserl, mathematical systems are definite because all that exists is univocally
determined operationally and has, accordingly, only the properties which arise out of the
operational determinations. (2003, 424). Husserl thus concludes that an axiomatically
defined manifold can have the property that any of its objects is operationally determinable,
and indeed univocally (2003, 425).
The definiteness of mathematical manifolds (i.e., the manifolds that create the corresponding
operation system) resembles the structure of what is called a rewrite equational proof
formation or reduction steps and term-formation steps. Here Hussel uses the word reduce in
the exact computational term-rewriting sense:
By means of the existents stipulated in the given case, one domain is then
marked out, i.e., it is indicated that all magnitudes of the domain which result
operationally if in each step the conditions (restrictions) on existence are
adhered to reduce to the number series in question, i.e., to an ordered totality
of given species. Any operation that adheres to these conditions is executable,
i.e., yields a number of the number series in question. (2003, 448)58
Husserls demand of equational reduction thus corresponds to the notion of convergence in
the modern terms of rewrite theory. A term-reduction-based (equational) system is called
convergent if it is confluent (see above p. 9) and terminating. A term, say t, is terminating if a
reduction sequence according to the reduction rules terminates at a normal term (or
irreducible term). A term-reduction-based system is terminating if every term of the system is
terminating. For Husserl, the normal terms are pre-given; e.g., the +1-based numbers, defined
recursively as we indicated above.
Husserl thus imposes on a mathematical manifold the recursively pre-given normal terms so
that any term reduces to a unique normal term. This ensures confluence and termination.
Now the underlying term rewrite-based reduction system is definite, which means that any
equational query (between closed terms or complexes) is decidable only by virtue of the
rewrite proof. In this sense the definite (rewrite) system is complete and there is no
independent equational axiom that could be added to the system. More precisely, the
convergent rewrite proof system is in fact complete with respect to the underlying equational
system in the sense that the computational reduction strategy is enough for verifying
provability in the underlying arithmetic system. Recall that a rewrite-reduction proof of, say s
= t, is composed of two independent reductions, the reductions of s to a normal term, n, and
the reductions of t to a normal term m. Then, if n and m are identical normal terms, then one
can judge s = t; otherwise s t. (See above.)

58

Durch die jeweils festgelegten Existenzen wird nun ein Gebiet umgrenzt, d.h. es wird gezeigt, da alle
Gren des Gebietes, die opertiv resultieren, wenn in jedem Schritt die Existenzbedingungen (beschrnkungen) festgehalten werden, sich reduzieren auf die betreffende Zahlenreihe, d.i. ein geordneter
Inbegriff von gegebenen Species. Jede Operation, die sich an diese Bedingungen hlt, ist ausfhrbar, d.h.
ergibt eine Zahl der betreffenden Zahlenreihe. (Schuhmann and Schuhmann 2001, 118)

26

In the end, Husserl distinguishes also between relatively and absolutely definite axiom
systems. These definitions seem to hold for all systems, mathematical and otherwise:
Finally, I further distinguish relatively and absolutely definite axiom systems.
An axiom system is relatively definite if, for its domain of existence it indeed
admits of no additional axioms, but it does admit that for a broader domain the
same, and then of course also new, axioms are valid. New axioms, since the old
axioms alone in fact determine only the old domain. Relatively definite is the
sphere of the whole and the factional numbers, of the rational numbers, likewise
of the discrete sequence of ordered pairs of numbers (complex numbers). I call a
manifold absolutely definite if there is no other manifold which has the same
axioms (all together) as it has. Continuous number sequence, continuous
sequence of ordered pairs of numbers (2003, 426).59
Whether definiteness in this passage should be understood similarly for all axiom systems is
left open by the authors of the paper.60 Our aim here has been to draw attention to the way in
which the definiteness of the mathematical manifolds exploits notions nowadays
commonplace to term rewrite reduction theory in computer science.
5. Importance of syntactic reduction. Formal and philosophical?
The syntactic reduction Husserl has in mind seems to ensure the coherence of the system.
From Husserls remarks in LU6, 18, one learns also that the syntactic reduction sheds clarity
upon the mathematical system. According to Husserl,
[t]he formation of every mathematical concept which unfolds itself in a chain of
definitions reveals the possibility of fulfilment-chains built member upon member out
of signitive intentions. We clarify the concept (53)4 by having recourse to the
definitory presentation: Number which arises when one forms the product (53) (53)
(53) (53). If we wish to clarify this latter concept, we must go back to the sense of
(53), i.e. to the formation 5 5 5. Going back further, we should have to clarify 5
through the definitory chain 5 = 4 + 1, 4 = 3 + 1, 3 = 2 + 1, 2 = 1 + 1. (Husserl 2001b,
229)61

59

Endlich unterscheide ich noch relativ und absolut definite Axiomensysteme. Relativ definit ist ein
Axiomensystem, wenn es zwar fr sein Existentialgebiet keine Axiome mehr zult, aber es zult, da fr ein
weiteres Gebiet dieselben und dann natrlich auch neue Axiome gelten. Neue Axiome, denn die blo alten
Axiome bestimmen ja nur da salte Gebiet. Relative definit ist die Sphre der ganzen, der gebrochenen Zahlen,
der rationalen Zahlen, ebenso der diskreten Doppelreihenzahlen (komplexen Zahlen). Absolut definit nenne ich
eine Mannigfaltigkeit, wen es keine andere Mannigfaltigkeit gibt, welche dieselben Axiome hat wie sie (alle
zusammen). Kontinuierliche Zahlenreihe, kontinuierliche Doppelzahlenreiche. (Schuhmann and Schuhmann
2001, 102).
60
In the secondary literature, the notion of Definitheit has been intensely debated. See for example, Hartimo
2007; Okada 2013; see also da Silva 2013a; 2013b. The most detailed discussion and debate around it can be
found in Centrone 2010 and 2011.
61
Jede in einer Definitionskette sich entfaltende mathematische Begriffsbildung zeigt uns die Mglichkeit von
Erfllungsketten, die sich Glied fr Glied aus signitiven Intentionen aufbeauen. Wir machen uns den Begriff
(53)4 klar durch Rckgang auf die definitorische Vorstellung : Zahl , welche entsteht, wenn man das 1 0
Produkt (53) (53) (53) (53) bildet " . Wollen wir diese letztere Vorstellung wieder klar machen, so m ssen
wir auf den Sinn von (53) zurckgehen, also auf die Bildung 5 5 5. Noch weiter zurckgehend, htten wir
dann 5 durch die Definitionskette 5 = 4 + 1 , 4 = 3 + 1 , 3 = 2 + 1 , 2 = 1 + l zu erklren. (Husserl 1984, 601).

27

For Husserl the goal of knowledge is to attain fulfilment that sets the thing itself in front of
us; e.g., the statement It is raining acquires fulfilment when we observe or experience the
rain itself. The fulfilment comes in degrees, so that the goal of absolute knowledge is an ideal
limit of the fulfilment (Husserl 2001b, 227). Typically Husserl discusses perceptual
fulfilment, which is given by an intuitive act. However, in Logical Investigations, Husserl
points out that epistemic fullness to the content of ones thought can, however, be
achieved, in a certain fashion, even by a signitive presentation (Husserl 2001b, 228, italics in
the original).62 Such signitive presentation makes matters self-evident; it will make the thing
itself clear in the same way as the intuitive acts do (ibid.). The above quote shows that when
the mathematical concept is such that it unfolds itself in a chain of definitions, or as we would
say, is syntactically reducible to the canonical definition, signitive fullness can be imparted to
the complex expressions. Husserl thus writes [i]n this manner each ordinary decimal number
points to a possible chain of fulfilments, whose links are one less in number than the number
of their component units, so that chains of indefinitely many numbers are possible a priori
(Husserl 2001b, 229).63 The possibility of the chain of fulfilments thus shows how at least a
part of formal mathematics can be reduced to something immediately meaningful and clear.
The reduction thus enables us to achieve a mediate fulfilment of formal mathematics that
could never be achieved immediately. It shows how a part of formal mathematics (insofar as
the manifolds are mathematical) is accessible from what is immediately intuitive and
thereby connects formal mathematics in a mediate way to our intuition.
In his lecture notes on Husserls lecture course entitled Mathematical Philosophical
Exercises from the summer semester of 1905, Johannes Daubert wrote that [w]ithin the
universal mathesis every manifold is a constructible one (Daubert 2004, 317)64. If Husserl
indeed here means by constructible the mathematical manifolds as discussed above, this
means that Husserls notion of the universal mathesis is indeed very constructive. As Van
Atten and Schuhmann noted, to the extent Husserl suggests that every existence proof in
classical mathematics can be made constructive, there is no reason to think that he is right
(Daubert 2004, 317n). However, as we saw above, Husserl mainly discusses universal
arithmetic as the computationally executable level with the emphasis of reduction to
constructible number sequences. In contrast to Hankel, Husserl does not seem to use
mathematical induction, but rather develops his original argument on rewriting decidability
together with his view of consistent extensions of systems in universal arithmetic. 65 This
computational view of the basic level of mathematics, especially universal arithmetic, is
shared by both classical and constructive mathematics (as shown above, the univocal
reduction system ensures term-rewrite decidability. This means that the law of the excluded
middle holds for the propositions without variables.66) Furthermore, Husserls aspiration to
show the accessibility of classical mathematics by constructive means is what fuels the
present day proof-theory.
It should be added that the signitive intuition is not mechanical. In Logical Investigations,
Husserl also discusses game meanings [Spielbedeutungen] that signs have by virtue of the
62

Dies kann aber in gewisser Weise auch eine signitive Vorstellung leisten(Husserl 1984, 600).
In dieser Art ist brigens auch jede schlichte dekadische Zahl eine Anweisung auf eine mgliche
Erfllungskette, deren Gliederzahl durch die um 1 verminderte Zahl ihrer Einheiten bestimmt ist, so da
derartige Ketten von unbegrenzt vielen Gliedern a priori mglich sind.(1984, 601).
64
Innerhalb der universalen Mathesis ist jede Mannigfaltigkeit eine konstruierbare (Daubert 2004, 316).
65
Husserl's rewriting decidability argument does not work in the system of real numbers. See Okada 2013.
66
Term rewriting theory has been developed as a theory of term-reductions for decision algorithms of
equational systems. See Dershowitz and Jouannaud, 1990.
63

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rules defining the game of calculation. Such signs taken in a certain operational or gamessense do duty for the same signs in full arithmetical meaningfulness (2001a, 211).67 Husserl
calls such thought non-intuitive symbolic thought as opposed to the symbolical thought in
full arithmetical meaningfulness and points out that they are two quite different things
(2001a, 211). Husserl thus maintains the distinction he called for in Philosophy of Arithmetic,
namely, the distinction between symbolic and conceptual calculations. Husserl does not want
to identify himself with the formalists. He finds mere symbolical mathematical thought
helpful but holds that as such it does not capture the nature of symbolic thinking, the purpose
of which is to impart clarity to formal mathematics.
Later on, in Formal and Transcendental Logic (1929), Husserl discovers a new kind of
evidence, the evidence of distinctness [Deutlichkeit] (as opposed to clarity [Klarheit]
discussed here), which is a type of evidence related to formal mathematics and does not
demand reducibility to canonical definitions. Yet even in that work, Husserl discusses the
possibility of reducing the distinct expressions of formal mathematics to clear expressions
about individuals. However, the nature of that reduction is another story.
6. Conclusion
In this paper we first discussed Hermann Hankels principle of permanence and how it is
dependent on the algebraic theories that define the operations formally. However, Hankel also
generated operation systems from individual elements by adding the results of operations into
the system. Hankels approach is thus characterized by both formal algebraic definitions and
primitive recursive computable definitions so that the latter gives content to the former.
Husserl set out to clarify Hankels principle, which initially for him meant making a
conceptual distinction between the signs and concepts, and seeing the syntactic reducibility of
the systems as justifying the correctness of the calculations. In contrast to Hankels use of
mathematical induction, Husserl focused on reduction-based computational mathematics. In
his Double Lecture he then discussed mathematical or constructible manifolds that are
definite by virtue of syntactic reducibility. By this means he is then able to ensure the
unambiguity of the formal objects and to provide clarity to formal mathematics.
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