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Artigo aritmética e geometria matemática

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cept of Complementarity

M. OTTE

Federal Republic of Germany

concerning the relationship of intuition and axiomatic proof. Section I illustrates the basic

concepts of the paper, while Section II presents opposing accounts of intuitionJst and

axiomatic approaches to mathematics. Section III analyzes one of Einstein's lecture on

the topic and Section IV examines an application of the issues in mathematics and

science education. Section V discusses the idea of complementarity by examining one of

Zeno's paradoxes. This is followed by presenting a few more programmatic suggestions

and a brief summary.

INTRODUCTION

about objects to relational thinking. Theoretical thinking, accordingly, is not

concerned with concrete objects, nor with intrinsic properties of such objects,

and theoretical terms, in particular, are not just names of objects. Rather, science

is concerned with the relationships existing between objects or phenomena. As

this historical transition took place, it became increasingly obvious that a

theoretical term will receive its solid content, its clear form, only fxom its

relationship to other concepts. Hence, questions of meaning are decided by a

concept's position with the theoretical structure.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the conception German

Naturphilosophie had formed of theory enhanced this contextual notion of

meaning by claiming, first, that a theory determines the intensions of its terms,

and, second, that intensions determine extensions. This post-Kantian approach

was not only holistic, but also attempted to bridge the gap between analytic and

synthetic truths in the Kantian sense. (The above two propositions are in fact

counterparts to the "two dogmas of empiricism" formulated by Quine in his

rejection of empiricism.)

It became just as obvious, however, that every pertinent piece of theoretical

9 1990 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.

38 M. OTrE

knowledge, being part of some idea or model of the real world, will in some way

or other take into account that the person having the knowledge is part of the

system this knowledge represents. All knowledge presupposes a subject and an

object and relations between these two (which are established by the subject's

activity). And as the multiplicity of subjective perspectives grew with the

increasing division of labor, it could no longer be overlooked that the subject is

not only the dynamical source of knowledge and change but also its object or

task. In as much as all knowledge is concerned with either of these aspects of the

subject's role it has a distinctly bipartite structure.

This dimorphism shows up on the psychological or practical level just as well

as it is present in all epistemological reflections. I shall call it

"complementarity", a term Niels Bohr introduced to characterize the

phenomenon described within the particular context of the physical sciences,

although he was quite aware of its general importance. The complementarist's

point of view is expressed in multiple ways: all models, theories, theoretical

terms etc. show a complementarity of object and method, of descriptive and

constructive aspects, of representational and instrumental properties. Knowledge

is always both environment and scheme of action. Every scientific explanation

simultaneously contains a meta-communication, i.e. represents, in an exemplary

way, an answer to the question what it means to explain an object or a fact at a

certain historical point in time.

Can it thus be said that the dispute between Newtonian substantivalism and

Leibnizian relationalism, concerning the ontology of space and time, already

showed the complementarity we have in mind? Must it not even be said that the

Cartesian variable 'x' that denotes the still unknown, thereby introducing it into

mathematical activity while at the same time fixing it in a general way, as the

unknown number, and thus describing it, can be understood in this sense of

complementarity? This is indeed possible in our day and from a genetic

perspective whose starting point is the dynamics of objective activity (instead of

a metaphysical consideration of knowledge as a given product).

One of the main problems in the philosophy of mathematics as well as

mathematical education concerns the relationship of intuition and logical

reasoning, as two different sources of mathematical knowledge. Knowing or

awareness as immediate perception on the one hand, and as discursive procedure

on the other, are two kinds of thought that seem to remain in tension. This

tension is real and fictitious at the same time. It is real insofar as the cognitive

subject has only limited powers, is finite, "time" being the source of that tension

(Otto, 1984, 65). It seems at the same time not essential, as intuition and logic

together define just one type of mathematics, namely synthetic constructive

mathematics in the Cartesian sense.

During the 19th century the limitations of the Cartesian approach were more

and more felt and mathematicians sought, thereby creating what is nowadays

called "pure" mathematics, to introduce a conceptual analytical element into

mathematics. Mathematics was after Kant like all other academic disciplines

defined more in contrast and in relationship to philosophy instead of being one

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