Jaakko Hintikka


The history of mathematics might not seem a promising field for conspiracy theories. Yet such a theory was rampant in the seventeenth century. No less a thinker than Descartes believed that the geometers of antiquity employed a sort of analysis which they went on to apply to the solution of every problem, though they begrudged revealing it to posterity (Regulae, Adam & Tannery vol.1, p. 373)

Equally surprisingly, Descartes’s paranoid belief was shared by several contemporary mathematicians, among them Isaac Barrow, John Wallis and Edmund Halley. (Huxley 1959, pp. 354-355.) In the light of our fuller knowledge of history it is easy to smile at Descartes. It has even been argued by Netz that analysis was in fact for ancient Greek geometers a method of presenting their results (see Netz 2000). But in a deeper sense Descartes perceived something interesting in the historical record. We are looking in vain in the writings of Greek mathematicians for a full explanation of what this famous method was. And I will argue for an answer to the question why this lacuna is there: Not because Greek geometers wanted to hide this method, but because they did not fully understand it. It is instructive to note the ambivalent attitude of the most rigorous mathematician of the period, Isaac Newton, to the method of analysis. He used it himself in his own mathematical work and in the expositions of that work. Yet when the mathematical push came to physical and cosmological shove, he formulated his Principia entirely in

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synthetic terms. In his mathematical heart of hearts he clearly thought that modern mathematicians indulge far too much in speculations about analysis. He was not only critical of its uses by Descartes and others, but suspicious of the method itself. It will in fact turn out that, if I am right, ancient Greek mathematicians were in their practice more keenly attuned to what is involved in the method of analysis conceptually and logically than their recent interpreters, even though they did not have a framework to describe the method in general logical terms. (This lack is not surprising, if I am right in arguing that certain crucial elements of this framework were recognized only a few years ago.) By saying this, I am placing an onus on myself of giving a better analysis of this famous method of analysis. Before tackling this task, a number of preliminary remarks are in order. First, in a birds-eye historical perspective, the method of analysis (or perhaps of analysis and synthesis) has two aspects, if not two meanings. Sometimes analysis seems to mean assuming the desired result, be it a proof or a construction, and reasoning from it backwards until a bridge to already known results is established. I will call this the directional sense of analysis. It is what Pappus seems to be describing in the most extensive surviving ancient account of analysis.

Now analysis is a method of taking that which is sought as though it were admitted and passing from it through its concomitants ( α κολο υ θων ) in order to something which is admitted as a result of synthesis; for in analysis we suppose that which is sought to be already done, and we inquire what it is from this comes about, and again what the antecedent cause of the latter, and so on until, by retracing our steps, we light upon something already known or ranking as a first principle; and such a method we call analysis, as being a reverse solution. But in synthesis, proceeding in the opposite way, we suppose to be already true that which was last reached in the analysis, and arranging in their natural order as
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consequents what were formerly antecedents and linking them one with another, we finally arrive at the construction of what was sought; and this we call synthesis. Now analysis is of two kinds, one, whose object is to seek the truth, being called theoretical, and the other, whose object is to find something set for finding, being called problematical. In the problematical kind we suppose that which is set as already known, (γνωσθ ε ν), and then pass through its concomitants in order, as though they were true, up to something admitted; then, if what is admitted be possible and can be done, (ποριστον) that is, if it be what the mathematicians call given, what was originally set will also be possible, and the proof will again be the reverse of the analysis (Hultsch 634, 3636.30, Thomas 1941, vol. 2, pp.596-599.)

For earlier interpretations of this passage, see Tannery (1903), Cornford (1932), Gulley (1958), Mahoney (1968-69) and Hintikka and Remes (1974). On the other hand, analysis seems to mean (or at least emphasize) something else, viz. a study of the interrelations of different geometrical objects in certain figures, that is, in certain geometrical configurations. (Cf. Hintikka and Remes 1974.) This sense might be called analysis as an analysis of configurations. This is the sense of “analytic” in analytic geometry, which came about when interdependencies of different geometrical objects in a given configuration began to be expressed algebraically. How these two notions of analysis are related to each other (if they are) is examined below. This interrelation is one of the most interesting features of the saga of the analytic method. Another matter that can be disposed of is the question of the direction of analysis. Interpretationally, this is largely a pseudo-problem. In theoretical analysis, the steps are mediated by relations of logical consequence. Pappus makes it clear that in them we inquire into what the conclusion comes from. Hence, in them the direction is unequivocal; from the desired theorem backwards what is already known. In problematical analysis, the steps are mediated by dependence relations between


especially pp. (See Becker 1959. let alone what they were needed for. In the history of Greek mathematics. its precise argumentative structure must be identified.) Another preliminary observation is that the role of the method of analysis in mathematical practice makes little difference to the framework that should be used in analyzing it. Why not? In later periods. In that sense. For instance. formulated and theorized about in as explicit “fully formal” terms as rules of proof. although only the Data has survived. But if so. 20-25. Whether it was a method of proof.geometrical objects. (Needless to say. It is far from obvious even what their subject matter is. they can be construed as strategic methods. Euclid wrote an entire book on each of these topics. a heuristic method of finding proofs and constructions. it may and should be asked which in principle formalizable strategies 4 . in so far as heuristic techniques can be rationally discussed. Such equations can usually be solved for either term. or a method of exposition. It is also relevant to note that understanding the ancient method of analysis is not an isolated problem in the history of mathematics and in the history of thought even more generally. They have no obvious counterparts in modern mathematical practice. related problems concern the understanding of such studies as pertained to what were known as data or known as porismoi. they can in principle be examined. the direction usually does not matter. for instance relations expressed by algebraic equations. the history of the method of analysis is connected with the development of algebra and with its uses in analytic geometry. Some scholars have even seen in the idea of “an analytical experiment” the methodological Leitmotif of early modern science.

For similar reasons. Precisely the same rules as govern steps of deduction ipso facto govern the search for premises. p. This is a gross misunderstanding.are heuristically better or worse than others. We merely have to apply the same rules in the opposite direction. p. In his very first presentation of this method (Beth 1955. Beth. If such practice is not haphazard. Netz thinks that the direction makes a difference whether analysis is considered as a method of reasoning or a method of exposition. With these methodological precepts in mind. known as the tableau method of E. first-order logic. Sometimes this mistake is merely an instance of the common prejudice that strategic rules of deduction or of other kinds of reasoning can only be heuristic rules of thumb and not as precise in principle as definitory rules of deduction. 319) the historically perceptive Beth noted that his 5 . 356). some scholars think that if we interpret analysis as a search for premises.) Hence analytic argumentation will be examined here in the same terms as deductive argumentation. The fact that the structural analysis of the ancient Greek method is largely independent of its pragmatic uses has not always been recognized. intuitive procedure” (Rehder 1982. one can suggest that there is an excellent explicit model of analytic reasoning in mathematics already in existence. It is the technique of argumentation in our usual basic logic. For instance. For another example. W. It has in fact been available for more than half a century. it does not make much difference if an interpreter tries to evoke the famous holy cow called mathematical practice. it must be governed by some tacit rules which must be discussed on a par with explicitly codified ones. it becomes “a nondeductive.

2) (∀z) (∃u) Nzu in words.1) (∃x) (∀y) Nxy which you can think of as saying “someone in envied by everybody”.approach realizes to a considerable extent the conception of a purely analytical method. which has played such an important role in the history of logic and philosophy. “everyone envies somebody”. Interpreters have not paid enough attention to Beth’s suggestion. On the left side we take the premise F and see what the world must be like if it is true. and so is its connection with the ideas of analysis and synthesis. But what precisely is Beth’s approach and what is the extent to which it realizes the old Greek idea of analytical method in geometry? Let’s deal with the first question first. let G be (1. let F be (1. Likewise. The tableau could then look as follows (1) (∃x) (∀y) Nyx (2) (∀z) (∃u) Nzu (3) (∀y) Nyα from (1) (4) (∃u) Nβu from (2) (5) Nβα from (3) (6) Nβα from (4) What happens here is almost self-explanatory. The tableau construction is a kind of combination of synthesis and analysis. As an example. On the right side we take the conclusion and see what the world 6 . say F. The tableau method is a procedure for looking for a proof that a certain first-order proposition G is a logical consequence of another one.

The steps (5) and (6) are merely applications of general truths to particular instances. to make it true. we are reasoning about certain given or postulated individuals. pp. Hence the step to (3). 129-131. steps (3) and (4) would be cases of ekthesis while (5) and 6) would be parts of apodeixis.) By symmetry. the fact that both sides of a tableau can be thought of as exemplifying analytic reasoning in the analysis-of-configurations sense.) Thus on the right side we reason backwards from the desired conclusion to the conditions that would make it true. call it α. in Heath 1926. vol. we need not know who α is otherwise. we have built a bridge and run up the right side in order to reach the conclusion G = (2) from the premise F = (1). (Of course. then (2) is true. The right side thus exemplifies analytic reasoning in the directional sense while the left side can be thought of as synthetic reasoning in the directional sense. This division is explained e.g. we considered the configuration formed by the individual α who was assumed to 7 .1. Once we have the same proposition on both sides. For instance. (This necessitates considering some instantiating terms like β in (2) playing the role of a variable bound to a universal quantifier. however. if (1) is true. Thus in this traditional terminology. On both sides. if (4) is true for any arbitrary individual β of whom we need not know anything else. Similar examples are easily found in geometrical reasoning. This geometrical comparison illustrates an integral aspect of Beth’s rational reconstruction of the analytic method viz. They would be more complicated than this one. A comparison between an explicitly logical argument and an ordinary mathematical one is facilitated by the fractional division of a geometrical theorem in Euclid (or elsewhere in the classical tradition).might be like if it were to make the conclusion G true. In the sample tableau. there must exist some individual or other.

you might for instance construct a tableau for the inference from “someone is envied by all unmarried persons” to “every unmarried person envies somebody”. In more complicated arguments. There are plenty of perfectly valid rules of logical inference that do not lead themselves to such an interpretation for instance. the reasoning might have to branch into two or more disjunctive lines of thought. The idea of analysis as an analysis of configurations requires that 8 .be envied by everyone and by the postulated individual β who was hoped to envy someone or else. (As an example. We are asking what envying relations there might obtain between them. The introduction of such representative individuals into a geometrical argument was a routine part of ancient mathematicians’ practice. In a geometrical case. Moreover. individuals other than those instantiating the premise and the conclusion might have to be introduced. The naturalness of this interpretation of the method of analysis can be seen in several different ways. the corresponding relations might be expressible by algebraic equations. in steps (5) and (6) we are in an obvious sense analyzing the configuration formed by α and β. Such additions might even help an argument significantly. They were called by the ancients “auxiliary constructions”. This was what the ekthesis part of the argument establishing a geometrical proposition mentioned above. Furthermore.) Such further introductions are common in geometrical arguments. adding a disjunction of the form (S v ~S) as an extra premise (for instance to the left side of a tableau) preserves truth and hence constitutes a valid inference. However. they cannot be interpreted as dealing with some particular configuration of individuals so far postulated or introduced in the course of the argument in question.

Of the two main rules of inference needed. Existential instantiation means enriching the configuration in question by introducing a new “arbitrary” sample object into one’s line of reasoning. The possibility of viewing each step of an argument as “analytically” as pertaining to an already given configuration of geometrical objects is virtually tantamount to the requirement that the logically explicit argument satisfies what is called the subformula property.) Since in the usual Gentzen – type formulations of first-order logic the rules that do not 9 . (See Szabo 1969. Now the subformula principle is the most important logical feature characterizing the tableau method. The possibility of transforming any first-order proof into a form in which the subformula principle is satisfied is the first and foremost result of modern proof theory. including substitution-instances of open subformulas. Its first version is known as Gentzen’s first Hauptsatz. not only in what are technically known as their analyses. universal instantiation with respect to names already present in the argument means simply applying an assumed or already established general truth to an object in the given configuration.each step of an analytic argument can be interpreted as saying something about some given and/or constructed figure. This is of course what Greek geometers routinely did. sometimes pertaining to the interrelations of the ingredients and sometimes adding a new geometrical object to it. What this principle requires is that each new sentence propounded in the course of an argument is a subformula of an earlier one. It is not difficult to see how the subformula requirement makes it possible to consider a geometrical (or any other logical) argument as pertaining to a given configuration. Even though this practice has prompted little comment. the possibility of doing so consistently is not at all obvious from a logical point of view.

in our sample tableau a step from (6) to (4) would be valid. 10 . but it would not satisfy the subformula principle. For instance. application of modus ponens cannot be so considered in any natural way. In this sense. Cognitive psychologists apparently considered it initially as an interesting novelty that human deductive reasoning sometimes uses figure-like “mental models”. This vantage point offers also an insight into the relation of the two ingredients of the method of analysis. see Johnson-Laird (1983). if so. the analysis-of-configurations sense practically implies the directional sense. synthetic as well as analytic. For instance. These remarks deserve elaboration.satisfy the subformula principle are condemned into what is known as the cut rule. It is not hard to see that we can maintain the subformula principle in all proofs from premises only if some of the argumentation proceeds from the hopedfor consequences backwards toward the premises. Now it is far from obvious and indeed false that any proof in elementary geometry can be so considered. There is a remarkable connection between the entire tableau method and the Greek geometrical practice. This practice involved considering geometrical arguments. this fundamental result is also known as the cut elimination theorem. suppose that the right side of a tableau is in effect a deductive argument proceeding from bottom up. by reference to certain geometrical configurations illustrated by figures. that deductive argument could not satisfy the subformula principle. This insight in turn enhances the interest and value of the tableau reconstruction of the method of analysis. For instance. Greek geometers’ analytical practice thus relied tacitly on the possibility of cut elimination.

What it says is that each step in explicit formal reasoning must be a subformula (or a substitution-instance of one) of a previous formula. Only if this principle is satisfied can each step of reasoning be construed either as a statement about previously considered objects or else as an introduction of a new individual bearing a certain definite relation to the earlier ones. Without the subformula property. The name of this principle describes it. many individuals. Hence the interpretation of the method of analysis and synthesis as a tableau procedure shows that there is an actual connection between the two 11 . a deductive argument in geometry cannot always be interpreted as being about a certain figure. the analysis-of-figures sense also leads to the directional sense of analysis. As a consequence. which manifests the directional sense of analysis. unpredictably. This method naturally results as soon as we assume the two-column format (premises in the left or “true” column and the conclusion in the right or “false” column) and then require that the subformula property holds in each column. Hence they were in effect assuming the subformula property.In order to be interpretable as dealing with a specific figure. And this is how Greek geometers looked upon their proofs. For from logical theory we know that in a tableau proof we typically have to consider on each side more individuals mentioned in the initial premise or in the conclusion — indeed. But if so. there will usually have to be a large number of steps also on the right-hand side. What this means for the interpretation of the method of analysis is that the analysis-of-figures sense of analysis virtually leads us to some variant of the tableau method. deductive reasoning must satisfy what is known as the subformula principle. Now the subformula property can be considered as the characteristic mark of the tableau method.

that is. that is. What was pointed out above is that the deduction that inverts the analytic reasoning as it were on the right side of a tableau cannot itself satisfy the subformula principle. this rational reconstruction shows the subtlety of the relation between analysis and synthesis. But the converse also holds. (See Mäenpää 2006. Indeed. Geometrical invention does not mean that one geometrical statement somehow suggests another statement. but can be discrete figures as in the pebble configurations of the Pythagoreans. Since the tableau approach and the method of analysis and synthesis are closely related. We might express that by saying that analyticity in the analysis-of-figures sense presupposes analyticity in the directional sense. If by analysis one means looking for premises from which the conclusion can be derived deductively. Moreover. be analytic in the analysis-of-figures sense. the idea of “arguing about figures” has an obvious connection with the heuristic usefulness of analysis.apparently unrelated senses of analysis.) Among other things. What follows is that 12 . Such an invention typically amounts to an insight into the interrelations of geometrical configurations. it can be said that analysis in the directional sense is needed if we are to implement the analysis-of-figures sense. these considerations strongly suggested that the method of analysis and synthesis is deeply rooted in the Greek practice of thinking of geometric arguments as arguments about some one figure or kind of figure. be “analytic”. such configurations need not even be geometric in a narrow sense. As a synthesizing slogan. One cannot conduct the entire argument analytically in the directional sense. this search cannot satisfy the subformula principle. For on the left hand side we cannot proceed upwards without violating the subformula principle.

Rather. It seems that we can see traces of the complementary relation of analysis and synthesis in the texts. It can be avoided by using indirect proofs. it must contain both an analytic and a synthetic component. Hence analysis and synthesis are structurally not just movements in opposite directions. This would be like switching from the tableau method of deductive proof to the wellknown tree method which was discovered at the same time as the tableau method. Thus. much less (pace Netz) as an expository device. It is unnatural to take these phrases to refer 13 . he says that analysis ends when the analyst has reached “things already known or having the status of a first principle” or reached “something admitted”. This interpretation would enable us to view the entire argument as being a kind of picture construction and hence as dealing with figures. It was a consequence of their practice of viewing geometrical arguments as arguments about geometrical figures. construct an isomorphic picture of – the world as it would have to be if the premise(s) were true but the conclusion false. certain kinds of geometrical configuration). Interpretationally. such an interpretation seems to have been foreign to the Greeks. Analysis was not practiced by Greek mathematicians merely as a heuristic technique. A visualizable geometrical argument normally has to have both an analytic and a synthetic component.if a geometrical argument from a premise to a conclusion is to be interpretable as an argument about certain figures (i. It may for instance be significant that Pappus never says that analysis should always be carried back to the first principles. This consequence is not unavoidable.e. And obviously Greek mathematicians wanted their arguments to be about figures in this sense. this switch would mean considering a table construction as an attempt to describe – one can even say.

even in a synthetic argument. For even on the left side of a tableau. It is very dubious whether a philological exegesis of 14 . Rather. Only their existential closures are such consequences. a phrase like “what is admitted” is relative to a stage of an ongoing argument and cannot naturally refer to its potential ultimate premises. the disjuncts being left hand sides of a subtableau) are not logical consequences of the premise.to earlier theorems. Similar comments pertain to what is going on on the right hand side of a tableau. The tableau reconstruction also throws some light on the problem concerning the direction of a step of analysis as compared with the direction of a deductive inference. the tableau interpretation yields the interesting answer: None of the above. But what this means is that the existential closure of (3) is (1). akolouthein] in order. (3) is not a deductive consequence of (1). Rather.) In view of such subtle distinctions. the successive lines (which may be disjunctive. we do not just draw deductive inferences. it illustrates it through the “arbitrary object” α. we examine what the consequences of those inferences amount to in the case of a sample configuration of individuals. In our sample analysis above. In intuitive terms. This is ever clearer in the case of a problem-solving analysis. some of which may be what has been called “arbitrary individuals”. it perhaps is not surprising if Pappus did not manage to give us an unequivocal explanation of the relationship of steps of analysis to deductive inference relations. in analysis we hypothesize “what is sought as being and as true” and then proceed “through the things that follow [or accompany. (More will be said on this matter below. Rather.” Is such a procedure a series of steps in deductive inferences or their increases? In the strictest logical sense possible. According to Pappus.

It is no accident that these two notions have been central in recent discussions about Greek mathematics in general. 321) claimed that the use of symbols for unknowns in algebra was inspired by such a legal usage. whether or not it is historically accurate.” A judge in a court of law might likewise say of an unknown perpetrator. “Call him John Doe. These labels are problem and construction. such new individuals are introduced on the left side by existential instantiation and on the right side by a mirror image rule of universal instantiation.Pappus’s words promises any real illumination. p. “Let us consider one case in point and call it α. 66. the most interesting and constructive feature of the tableau reconstruction is that it fails – or more specifically the ways in which it fails in the form in which it has just been presented. quoted by Klein 1968. See Hintikka 1962.) An approach to the method of analysis and synthesis by reference to tableau proofs thus throws important light on the method. where should we place it in the tableau scheme? Constructions were taken in Greek geometrical reasoning to introduce new objects into the argument. What are introduced are not objects constructed out of the familiar ones. is suggestive in that 15 . Wallis (1683. p. In the tableau technique of logical proof. Nevertheless. In a left-hand existential instantiation the argument has reached the tentative conclusion that there exist individuals of a certain kind.” In fact in the early modern period. The principal shortcomings of the tableau reconstruction can be given labels. but John Doe-like “arbitrary individuals”. To take the notion of construction first. This comment. The arguer then in effect says (to himself and/or to others). (It may none the less be relevant to note that the key word akolouthein elsewhere in the Greek philosophical texts sometimes means accompanying (“going together”) rather than consequence. But such instantiations are not constructions.

Hence in this sense constructions yield too much information. his view has been trenchantly criticized by Knorr (1986. Recently. in other kinds of mathematical reasoning. for instance how they are constructed out of the known ones. However. Hence the tableau interpretation cannot explain or even accommodate the crucial role of constructions in analysis or. In any case. They also yield too little information. in that geometrical objects can be known to exist that cannot be introduced by any obvious construction. as Wilbur Knorr among others has argued. 360) and others. Nor does it have anything to say about what problems were and how they differed from theorems. for instance know how they are related to objects already known or postulated. Zeuthen (1896) already suggested that Greek geometrical problems were in effect existence theorems. in spite of the fact that it is generally agreed that the main use of analysis was in problem-solving. not just as constructions in a geometrical sense. The intuitive meaning of such a variable in terms of a figure is to stand for an arbitrary sample object. but more generally as instantiations in the sense of modern logic. 74-80. on the right side of a tableau new individuals instantiate universally quantified variables. especially pp. the use of such arbitrary individuals presupposes that we do not know or assume anything about them except which existential proposition they instantiate. Greek mathematicians were familiar with examples of such nonconstructive existence. as if another Jane Doe or Richard Roe.it shows that an early modern algebraist thought of the introductions of new individuals into an argument. a 16 . for that matter. Moreover. Moreover. It makes no prima facie sense to think of the new objects to be actually constructed. for the construction would have to start from merely notional and possibly impossible entities.

the configuration instantiating the conclusion should include the hoped-for construction. more explicitly as a framework for looking for an answer to a question in the same sense as it can be used as a framework for looking for a proof of a logical consequence relation. the logic of questions and answers is a part of epistemic logic. The logic of ancient Greek mathematicians is not the usual firstorder logic. The tableau method can be used as a framework of problem-solving. The question whether the tableau interpretation can be extended so as to cover problems is a special case of the wider question whether the logical techniques of epistemic logic can yield a logic of problem solving. It is what is put on the top of the right side. This seemingly makes the tableau procedure completely useless in discussing the analytical method in its directional sense. In order to practice the tableau method. This is in effect the logical gist of Meno’s paradox. for the method was supposed to consist in analyzing the desired conclusion. But in problem solving this conclusion is precisely what it is sought for. The reason for this absence of a recorded answer is perhaps that the answer is too obvious. The main difficulty is obvious. and their logic is the logic of questions and answers. an analyst must know the desired conclusion to be established. In the case of a problem. But how can one possibly analyze an unknown configuration? The systematic logical problem we are facing here has recently been solved. And since questions are requests of information. This can be done by 17 . Problems are questions.convincing positive answer to the question as to what problems were is not found in the literature. It is epistemic logic (or equivalent).

this element is often tacit. It turns out that quantifiers ranging over known individuals are those that are independent of the K operator. 18 . This is indicated by writing them as (∃x/K) or (∀y/K). In mathematical practice. Furthermore. a distinction must be made between known and (possibly) unknown individuals. That an individual b is known is expressed by K (∃y / K)(b = y). If the question is. In the tableau method it can always remain sentenceinitial. It can be made explicit by adding to the usual first-order logic an “it is known that” operator K. which expresses the epistemic state which the questioner aims at. K (∃y / K)(y murdered R. Such quantifiers can be instantiated only by known individuals. the desideratum is “it is known who murdered Roger Ackroyd”.A. if the question is “Who murdered Roger Ackroyd?”. For instance. we can now always form its desideratum. which is equivalent with K (∃g / K)(∀x)(f(x) = g(x)). I will spare you the technical details and indicate only their manifestation. Given a question.introducing the epistemic element into the reasoning.). “How does the area of a square depend on the length of its sides?” the desideratum is of the form K (∀x)(∃y / K)(x is the length of a side of a square ⊃ y is the area of the same square). in symbols. That a function f(x) is known is likewise expressed by K (∀x)(∃y / K)(f(x) = y).

“Given an individual x. The following is an example of such a tableau argument. 19 . the question might be. what individual y is related to it as in D(x. if g(x) is a known function. problem-solving tableau arguments do not look very different from familiar first-order tableau arguments.) This procedure bears an obvious similarity to what Pappus described as “hypothesizing what is sought as being and as true” and more than mere similarity with what Pappus refers to as supposing “that which is set as already known”. “How is distance covered by a freely falling body related to time?” The argument shows that a functional dependence y = g(x) is an answer to this question. especially when the sentence-initial K’s are left tacit. In practice. However. The main difference is that we now have to keep track of which individuals are known and which quantifiers range over known individuals. the right interpretation can be reached only by means of the concept of desideratum and by relying to that extent on epistemic logic. (Naturally the premises must be thought of as being preceded by the K operator.y)?” For instance. Beth was on the right track in seeing a connection between the idea of a purely analytic method and tableau proofs.Now the tableau method can be applied to problem-solving simply using the desideratum of the question to be answered as the desired conclusion. The desideratum is that crucial hypothesis. The question in question is of the form. The possibility of being so is the genuine secret of the method of analysis.

y) from (3) (5) K D(α.β) from (4). step (4) of our argument is an ekthesis and step (7) a kataskeue. Assumption (2) says that the fraction g(x) is given. (7) Here the desideratum says that it is known what individual y is related to any given x by the relation D(x. If the epistemic operators K are omitted. (8) (6) K (∃y/K)(g(α) = y) from (2) (7) K (g(α) = β) from (6) (8) K (∃y / K)(β = y) from (6).g(x)) (assumption) (3) K (∀x)(∃y/K)D(x. This small sample argument illustrates the nature of the epistemic tableau method.y).y) (desideratum) (2) K (∀x)(∃y/K)(g(x) = y) (assumption) (4) K (∃y/K)D(α. Moreover. which enables it to be substituted for the variable y in (4) so as to obtain (10). even though y is slashed in (4). the tableau looks very much like an ordinary nonepistemic tableau. similar geometrical arguments are easy to find.g(α)) from (1) (10) K D(α. This guarantees that g(α) in (6) is given.β) from (5). Again. (7) (9) K D(α.(1) K (∀y)D(x. The only exception are the slashes indicating which 20 . (8) says that β is given. In Euclidspeak.

it cannot be substituted for the slashed variable y in (4). From the argument it is seen that this assumption (1) does not alone entail (3). Hence it can be substituted for the slashed variable y in (4). only because g(x) is assumed to be a known function. However. 21 . It can be substituted for the x in (3) or for the y in (1). that is. Modest though this little example is.g(x)>. it illustrates an important feature of the conceptual situation. The premise (1) says that it is known that. since g(α) is not assumed to be known. In contrast. There is no similar syntactical indicator for names and/or dummy names like α and β. Hence it cannot be substituted for a variable bound to a slashed quantifier. the class of ordered pairs <x. If you look at the tableau. Formally. These instantiations cannot be with respect to “arbitrary” John Doe individuals. that is. β is introduced as an instantiation of the slashed variable y in (6). That it refers to an individual hypothesized to be known is expressed in (8). Hence what separates an epistemic tableau from an ordinary one is essentially that some of the instantiations will have to be with respect to known individuals. but a similar idea does not explain the introduction of new individuals in a Greek analysis. The desideratum follows only with the help of the assumption (2).g(x)). entail that it is known how g(x) depends on x. it could not be substituted for the y in (4). for each x. This α is therefore not assumed to be known. you can see that α is introduced to instantiate an unslashed quantifier. Wallis may have been right about the parentage of algebraic instantialization. which is a mere set-theoretical entity. Here g(x) is what used to be called “function-in-extension”. g(x) satisfies the condition D(x.quantifiers range over known individuals.

For this methodology is precisely the business of that important part of the Greek mathematical corpus that dealt with what were known as data. What matters is not so much that the object in question can be produced as of whether it is determined (known. (See Berggren and van Brummelen 2000. But 22 . clearly constructions were not the only way of proving the existence of a geometrical object in Greek mathematics. Later. But the intended meaning is obviously what for the purposes of some particular argument is assumed to be known. And such rules are needed as soon as we have to deal with an epistemic element in mathematical reasoning. as we do in explicit problem-solving.Hence. as the usual literal translation.) Whatever qualifications this assimilation needs will be commented on below. What is my evidence for saying so? The main characteristic of the epistemic tableau method is the need of keeping track of known individuals in arguments. Arabic mathematicians in fact spoke in so many words of “the known” instead of “the given”. and assumed that this is what their Greek predecessors meant. This is the purpose of the entire “data” literature. “given”). The need of tracking down individuals in an epistemic tableau argument necessitates the formulation of explicit rules of what is “given” in a geometrical argument where something else is “given” (known). Euclid’s so-called book is only the best known example of this preoccupation with “the given”. Now not only can we find a methodology for doing so in Greek mathematics. Realizing the logical function of this methodology solves one of the main open problems concerning the interpretation of Greek mathematics in general. The rules concerning what is “given” are logically speaking rules authorizing instantiations. It is now my main thesis that the epistemic tableau method is logically speaking the analytic method of Greek geometers.

In spite of this apparent importance of porismoi. such presuppositions are existential propositions. porismoi attracted a great deal of attention on the part of Greek geometers. he also wrote a book on the porismoi. This expectation is fulfilled. The true conclusion in a problematic analysis is not an existence theorem. And the presupposition of a question is the proposition obtained from its desideratum by omitting all slashes. Like data. But before one can legitimately ask a question. that Greek geometers should have paid special attention to these existential propositions that served as presuppositions of their problems. Hence it must be expected. one has to establish the presupposition. Simson 1806). which is what we are dealing with here. Problems are naturally construed as questions. is known to have written on the subject. In the case of general wh-questions. We can first of all see how Zeuthen went wrong. but the desideratum of the problem in question. their nature and their role in geometrical argumentation has not been previously understood adequately. which unfortunately has been almost completely lost. It is fulfilled by what were known as porismoi. if I am right. Such existential propositions hence play an important role in analytic problem-solving as prerequisites of the enterprise. Pappus says that 23 . as we know from the logic of questions and answers. they guarantee the existence of a solution. not only did Euclid write a book called literally Data (See Ito. Diophantus. But this does not mean that existential propositions do not play a role in solving geometrical problems analytically. This may have been the situation already in antiquity. More specifically.the interpretation of the method of analysis as the epistemic tableau technique also solves another outstanding general problem concerning Greek geometrical theory. For instance. 1980. too.

nor a construction. Hence porisms are naturally taken to be existence theorems. porisms were not necessarily proved independently of the analytic arguments by means of which problems were solved. When a question is explicitly asked. what is a porismos supposed to be like? Pappus tells us that the aim of a porism is not a demonstration as in a theorem. the falsity of the presupposition. First. 24 .many geometers understand them (sc. that is. The epistemic tableau procedure now helps us to understand what is implied. Proclus also explains the notion of porism by using the notion of finding in so many words. A successful analysis proves the existence of the solution. porisms) only in a partial way and are ignorant of the essential textures of their contents. as in a problem. in other words. saying that porism is the name given to things that are sought but need some finding and are neither pure bringing into existence nor simple theoretical argument. the existential statements that are the presuppositions of problems when they are considered as questions. In contrast.” But what is a production that is not a construction? The natural interpretation is that what is meant is the finding of the object sought. but “the producing of the thing proposed. but an analysis may also end up showing the impossibility of a solution. And to show that something can be found is tantamount to showing that it exists. It is in this role that the very word ποριστóν occurs in Pappus’s statement (see above). its presupposition is normally presented as an earlier result that serves to guarantee the existence of an answer. This role of porisms as establishing the presuppositions of the questions that problems are is somewhat obscured by the conventions of exposition. in Greek mathematical practice.

vol. These insights into the nature of the Greek method of analysis help to confirm the interpretation of this method as being in effect an epistemic tableau technique. 25 . Rather. Mahoney (1968-69. 96. 13) puts it. In order to understand what is involved. the notion is sound. But what about the idea of construction? In a loose sense all introductions of new objects (including John Doe-like “arbitrary objects”) into an argument can sometimes be called “auxiliary construction” in the sense of Euclidian kataskeue. it can be noted that in a solution of a problem by the epistemic tableau method what is established is the existence of a known individual. 344) notwithstanding. p. 1. p. whether one has actually produced it or not (Hogendijk. What is puzzling is the role of the porismoi in the overall process of problem-solving. as Heath (1926. p. whereas in the corresponding existence theorem it is only shown that there exists (“can be found”) a sought-for individual. Speaking of what is knowable he writes: The essence of the knowable notions does not require that one perceives them or that they are actually produced. 2000. the content and meaning of any one porism “lends itself to unambiguous description in purely mathematical language”. quoted by Berggren and Van Brummelen. p. A medieval Arab mathematician is even more explicit. But in a more specific sense. the usual form of a porism was “to prove that it is possible to find a point with such and such a property” In several languages.Indeed. 26). “can be found” or some equivalent locution is in fact used to express existence. if the proof of the possibility of the notion has been provided. Yet this role was in practice understood better by the Greeks than by their latter-day commentators.

the analysis-of-figures sense and the directional (backwardsmoving) sense. at a closer look there lurks a scary skeleton in the closet of Greek analysis. However. Theirs is not a coherent model-theoretical interpretation of the tableau method. Such merely notional individuals cannot serve as inputs into a construction in any clear sense. The correct one is that an a tableau analysis the mathematician is trying to describe (and in a sense construct) a 26 . the source of puzzles in them is in effect the idea that in the right side the looked-for solution is already known. including known ones. They were looking at the method of analysis in a wrong way. Typically. It was a problem for the Greek geometers themselves. are introduced by universal instantiation. Hence constructions in this specific sense. The notion of construction fits well in what happens on the left side of a problem-solving tableau. What is supposed to happen on the right side is a coexistence and cooperation of the two aspects of the analytic method. It now seems that this coexistence is impossible.the construction of a from b and c is what serves to make sure that when b and c are given. the same does not hold of the right side. are vital in a solution of a problem in the same sense as considerations of what is given. However. not in any natural sense given or known ones. This conundrum is reflected in the confusions and paradoxes that actually beset discussions about data in antiquity. There new individuals. But this is not a difficulty for an interpreter like myself. while not being needed in the proof of a theorem. But what universally quantified variables represent intuitively speaking are hypothesized individuals. Once again the tableau framework serves well in spelling out the situation. Thus everything seems to be explained neatly by the interpretation of the method of analysis in terms of epistemic tableaux. a is also given.

27 . On this interpretation a search for a tableau proof is viewed as an experimental attempt to construct a counter model for the consequence relation. the consequence is valid. The individuals hypothesized on the right side are therefore no the individuals that would make the conclusion known. steps on the right side cannot be understood as part of a construction of an actual figure.model(scenario. If the attempt is frustrated. it cannot serve as a starting point of a construction in any natural sense. This conundrum manifests itself also in the natural model-theoretical interpretation of the tableau method. the term β does not refer to any particular object in the kind of figure that can be used to illustrate a geometrical argument. but the ones that would make it unknown. not like a name. configuration) that is in fact impossible. As a consequence. As was noted above. They have to be viewed as steps in an attempted construction of a model (figure. By definition. that is to say. of the problem in question. But in such a proof. they cannot be thought of as being known. it operates formally like a universally quantified variable. they are the unknowns. Are such signs real constructions? In what sense? The same problematic is in evidence already in the sample analyses presented above. to construct a model in which the premise is true but the conclusion false. situation or “possible world”) in which the premise is true but the conclusion false. in the jargon of modern mathematics. not the data. In the first one. In the epistemic case. the conclusion is seen to be valid and the tableau which shows this serves as the proof of the conclusion. an analyst is likewise trying to describe a situation in which the premise is known but the conclusion is not. If such an attempted construction leads to an overt contradiction in all directions.

It cannot serve as the basis of a construction. Thus Descartes and his contemporaries had in fact something to be paranoid about. It. To formulate the same problem in other words. The method of analysis is understood and used correctly only when the unknowns are treated on a par with known entities. can only be thought of as standing for an “arbitrary object”. even if they misconstrued Greek mathematicians’ motivation. this means allowing universal instantiation on the right side to operate just like existential instantiation on the left side. I believe that this failure of Greek mathematicians to understand fully the logic of the analytic method is what made them reluctant to explain it. too. This presupposes that the links between individuals. it is perfectly possible to consider conclusions from a merely postulated theorem. A merely postulated entity apparently cannot be “given”. the Greeks could not accommodate what happens on the right hand side with the idea that geometrical arguments and geometrical analyses should be thought of as dealing with certain figures (configurations). that make them “given” or “known” in the sense manifesting itself in their being 28 .Somewhat similar things can be said of the term α of the second (epistemic) sample analysis. as is witnessed by the fact that it cannot be substituted for the variable of a slashed quantifier. they could not fully understand what happens in the backwards-moving part of the procedure of analysis and synthesis. But one cannot carry out constructions starting from a merely postulated geometrical object. In sum. Insofar as the Greeks emphasized actual constructions as the way in which new objects are introduced into a geometrical arguments. for instance between geometrical objects. In formal terms.

the same dependencies are expressed by equations that relate the unknowns to the known objects. It may in any case be noted that the idea (and practice) of unknown entities could not have found a slot in an Aristotelian science. they never reached a full-fledged notion of an unknown. (See here Hintikka 1972. In this sense. In formal logic. It remains to be examined whether we are here dealing with more widespread characteristics of ancient Greek thought. as was pointed out above. need not be constructions creating new known objects from previously known ones. each such science deals with a genus of entities of which it is at the outset assumed that they are and what they are. This insight was never reached by the Greeks. the functions that embody that dependence are known as Skolem functions. For the new individual must depend on the given ones in a specific way. to analytic geometry and to infinitesimal analysis. On the contrary. Such relations can of course obtain between unknown and known entities. And it was only when this idea was realized that the analytic method could give rise to algebra. this possibility means representability of the logical reasoning 29 . except that the arbitrariness is not complete. be considered as a construction of a new individual from known ones. the introduction of a anew individual on the right side should not. The constructive character of this process will then lie in its very possibility. and cannot. They can be merely relations of dependence.acceptable substitution-values of slashed variables.) These insights put the very notion o construction and its history to a new light. As was seen. Such relations can be known even when their terms are unknown. It is just the introduction of a John Doe arbitrary individual after all. In mathematics. And.

At this point. especially the uninhibited application of algebraic operations to the unknowns. enabled them to by-pass the difficulties of the Greeks. This insight gives the entire notion of construction and constructivity a new twist. This could be expressed formally as (∃x)(x=b & K(a=x)) whose logical force is different from (a=b) (or from K(a=b)) and which can be used to guarantee that certain objects are “given”. including the need of considering “data” and proving porisms. it may be impossible to use unknown (merely postulated) objects as a basis of the geometrical constructions needed in a problematic analysis. What we have seen is that the logic they were using is in effect epistemic logic. why didn’t the new analysts have to do the same? How could they avoid the problems of what is “given”? The main part of an answer is that the use of algebraic methods.in question in a cut-free form. If it was the character of analytic arguments as problem-solving exercises that brought in epistemic elements. What has been found here also throws light on the use of definitions as premises in Greek mathematics. In a nutshell. we seem to have left with a serious problem. (How do you draw a circle around an arbitrary point?) Or at least it was 30 . In such a logic we have to distinguish numerical identities like (a = b) from definitory identities whose function is to identify the bearer of a name (or equivalent). Mathematicians of the early modern period were problem-solvers quite as much as the Greeks.

solving precisely the difficulty that was found in this paper to bother the ancients’ understanding of the analytic method. However. 31 . not of its history. But there is nothing awkward in the idea of applying algebraic operations to unknown numbers. Hence the epistemic element apparently was not needed at all. What precisely is the logic of algebraic problem-solving that can dispense with the epistemic element? But this question belongs to studies of the logic of the analyticmethod. This answers the historical question. as little as there is of applying logical operations to arbitrary propositions.difficult to understand what the Realgeholt of such ideas was. it leaves a logician still puzzled.

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