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http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2010/entries/principia-mathematica/ from the Summer 2010 Edition of the
First published Tue May 21, 1996; substantive revision Tue Mar 30, 2010
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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Principia Mathematica, the landmark work in formal logic written by Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell, was first published in three volumes in 1910, 1912 and 1913. Written as a defense of logicism (the view that mathematics is in some significant sense reducible to logic) the book was instrumental in developing and popularizing modern mathematical logic. It also served as a major impetus for research in the foundations of mathematics throughout the twentieth century. Along with the Organon written by Aristotle and the Grundgesetze der Arithmetik written by Gottlob Frege, it remains one of the most influential books on logic ever written. 1. History of Principia Mathematica 2. Significance of Principia Mathematica 3. Contents of Principia Mathematica Bibliography Other Internet Resources Related Entries Interested readers may wish to view the Title page of the first edition of Principia Mathematica, Volume 1 (1910) Cover of the first edition of Principia Mathematica to *56 (1962).
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Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Copyright c 2010 by the publisher The Metaphysics Research Lab Center for the Study of Language and Information Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305 Principia Mathematica Copyright c 2010 by the author A. D. Irvine All rights reserved. Copyright policy: https://leibniz.stanford.edu/friends/info/copyright/
1. History of Principia Mathematica
Logicism is the view that (some or all of) mathematics can be reduced to (formal) logic. It is often explained as a two-part thesis. First, it consists of the claim that all mathematical truths can be translated into logical
who would usually modify it considerably. both men were in the initial stages of preparing second volumes to their earlier books on related topics: Whitehead's 1898 A Treatise on Universal Algebra and Russell's 1903 The Principles of Mathematics. Irvine of the claim that all mathematical truths can be translated into logical truths or. However. Niels Abel. By agreement. Even so. Since their research overlapped considerably. that still left a 100-pound deficit. both Whitehead and Russell had reached this same conclusion. in other words. But this only applies to first drafts. after almost a decade of difficult work on the part of both men. Karl Weierstrass. When one of us had produced a first draft. by Frege's day. Unfortunately. he would send it to the other. Thus. As for the mathematical problems. There is hardly a line in all the three volumes which is not a joint product. Only by each contributing 50 pounds were the authors able to see their work through to publication. it appeared that additional resources would need to be postulated if logicism were to succeed. As Russell tells us. Russell worked primarily on the philosophical parts of the project (including the book's philosophically rich Introduction. it was generally recognized that a large portion of mathematics could be derived from a relatively small set of primitive notions. during the 1890s. William Hamilton had also introduced ordered couples of reals as the first step in supplying a logical basis for the complex numbers. During the critical movement initiated in the 1820s. the one who had made the first draft would put it into final form. Using work by H. After which.Principia Mathematica A. I did most of the work concerned with series and Whitehead did most of the rest. when Frege developed the necessary logical apparatus. he worked on many of the essential derivations. In Bertrand Russell's words. D. Following another five years' work. 74). it consists of the claim that all mathematical proofs can be recast as logical proofs or. that the vocabulary of mathematics constitutes a proper subset of the vocabulary of logic. the theory of descriptions. in other words. Grassmann and Richard Dedekind. In its essentials. that the theorems of mathematics constitute a proper subset of the theorems of logic. Later. with the discovery of paradoxes such as Russell's paradox at the turn of the century. 74) Initially. mathematicians such as Bernard Bolzano. Whitehead invented most of the notation. Cambridge University Press concluded that publishing Principia would result in an estimated loss of approximately 600 pounds. Guiseppe Peano had then gone on to develop a theory of the rationals based on his now famous axioms for the natural numbers. Second. Richard Dedekind and Georg Cantor had also all developed methods for founding the irrationals in terms of the rationals. Every part was done three times over. it was thought that the project might take a year to complete. while the two men collaborated on the technical derivations. Today there is not a major academic library anywhere in the world that does not possess a copy of this landmark Summer 2010 Edition 3 . except in so far as it was taken over from Peano. Although the press agreed to assume half this amount and the Royal Society agreed to donate another 200 pounds. By this time. that the project of logicism could be said to have become technically plausible.G. (1959. By the late 1800s. By 1903. it was not until 1879. the idea was defended in greater detail by Gottlob Frege. it is the logicist's goal “to show that all pure mathematics follows from purely logical premises and uses only concepts definable in logical terms” (1959. they began collaborating on what would eventually become Principia Mathematica. it appeared that additional resources would need to be postulated 2 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy century. logicism was first advocated in the late seventeenth century by Gottfried Leibniz. and the no-class theory). Louis Cauchy and Karl Weierstrass succeeded in eliminating much of the vagueness and many of the contradictions present in the mathematical theories of their day. Frege arrived at the definitions necessary for logicising arithmetic and. In much the same spirit.
” which contains sections on “The Theory of Deduction. thereby avoiding paradoxes such as Russell's paradox. Principia Mathematica proved to be remarkably influential in at least three other ways. 2. Third. First. mathematics. Principia Mathematica reaffirmed clear and interesting connections between logicism and two of the main branches of traditional philosophy. and type theory). Although Principia succeeded in providing detailed derivations of many major theorems in set theory. Whitehead and Russell were able to show how powerful the modern idea of a formal system could be. Today there remains controversy over the ultimate substantive contribution of Principia. Significance of Principia Mathematica Achieving Principia's main goal proved to be controversial. The axiom of infinity in effect stated that there exists an infinite number of objects. and elementary measure theory.” and “Products and Sums of Classes”. Whitehead and Russell managed to convey the remarkable expressive power of modern predicate logic in a way that previous writers had been unable to achieve. with some authors holding that. Irvine anywhere in the world that does not possess a copy of this landmark publication.Principia Mathematica A. linguistics. Linsky (1999). Thus.” “Theory of Apparent Variables. Primarily at issue were the kinds of assumptions that Whitehead and Russell needed to complete their project. thus initiating new and interesting work in both of these areas. economics and computer science.” and “Incomplete Symbols. thus opening up new work in what was soon to be called 4 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy system could be. and Hintikka (2009). thus opening up new work in what was soon to be called metalogic. Thus. finite and transfinite arithmetic. Together these three volumes are divided into six parts. Second. it also set the stage for the discovery of classical metatheoretic results (such as those of Kurt Gödel. the theory that Russell and Whitehead used to restrict the notion of a well-formed expression. with the appropriate modifications. By using a notation superior in many ways to that of Frege. Alonzo Church. entitled “Prolegomena Summer 2010 Edition 5 . entitled “Mathematical Logic. Alan Turing and others) and initiated a tradition of common technical work in fields as diverse as philosophy. Despite these criticisms. The axiom of reducibility was introduced as a means of overcoming the not completely satisfactory effects of the theory of types.” “The Theory of Logical Types. or whether it could be reduced only to set theory. it made the kind of assumption that is generally thought to be empirical rather than logical in nature. namely metaphysics and epistemology. Volume 1 begins with a lengthy Introduction containing sections entitled “Preliminary Explanations of Ideas and Notations. D.” It also contains Part I. logical construction. As a result. the question of whether mathematics could be reduced to logic. not only did Principia introduce a wide range of philosophically rich notions (such as propositional function. many critics concluded that the axiom of reducibility was simply too ad hoc to be justified philosophically. Hale and Wright (2001). Although technically feasible. Quine (1966b). and Part II. Others hold that the philosophical and technical underpinnings of the Whitehead/Russell project simply remain too weak or confused to be of great use to the logicist. Landini (1998). 3. Interested readers are encouraged to consult Quine (1966a). two axioms in particular were arguably non-logical in character: the axiom of infinity and the axiom of reducibility. logicism remains a feasible project. it popularized modern mathematical logic to an extent undreamt of by its authors.” “Logic of Relations. by exhibiting so clearly the deductive power of the new logic.” “Classes and Relations. Contents of Principia Mathematica Principia Mathematica originally appeared in three volumes. remained open.
Amsterdam: Elsevier/North Holland. Rational Series.” It then continues with Part III. Copi. and the Product of Two Relations. Band I (1893). Philosophy of Mathematics. and the Multiplication and Exponentiation of Relations. Irvine (ed. Frege. Church. Stretches. “A Comparison of Russell's Resolution of the Semantical Antinomies with that of Tarski. 1964. Berkeley: University of California Press. Hintikka.” and “Arithmetic of Relation-Numbers”..” in Irvine. Many-One and One-One Relations. Bibliography Chihara.” which contains sections on “Unit Classes and Couples. Irving (1971).” and “Compact Series. entitled “Prolegomena to Cardinal Arithmetic. and Crispin Wright (2001).D. entitled “Cardinal Arithmetic.” “Sub-Classes. Part IV. and the first half of Part V. the book remains one of the great scientific documents of the twentieth century. Even so. Repr. New York and London: Routledge. Gregory (1998).” “OneMany. those who have learned logic in the last few decades of the twentieth century or later) will find the book's notation somewhat antiquated. Furth in part as The Basic Laws of Arithmetic. Gabbay. Charles (1973). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.” and “Inductive Relations. and Derivatives. Jaakko (2009). and the Limits of Functions. Alonzo (1978). Hale.” A fourth volume on geometry was planned but never completed (1959. One Hundred Years of Russell's Paradox.).” which contains sections on “Ordinal Similarity and Relation-Numbers. and Relative Types. “Russellian Simple Type Theory.” which itself contains sections on “Definition and Logical Properties of Cardinal Numbers. (ed. Landini. Amsterdam: Elsevier/North Holland. Bertrand Russell: Critical Assessments.” “Measurement. entitled “Series.D. 2.” “Finite and Infinite Series and Ordinals. Sub-Relations. Handbook of the History of Logic: Volume 5 — Logic From Russell to Church. A. entitled “Quantity.” It also contains Part VI.” which itself contains sections on “Generalization of Number. Alonzo (1974).” “Addition of Relations. Godehard (2004). Contemporary readers (i. The Theory of Logical Types.” “Selections. Russell's Hidden Substitutional Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Ontology and the Vicious Circle Principle. Link.” Journal of Symbolic Logic.” which contains sections on “General Theory of Series.” “On Sections.D. in A. Gottlob (1893. and Part II.” and “Finite and Infinite”. Multiplication and Exponentiation. and Continuous Series. Segments.” “The Principle of First Differences. Church. 47: 21–33.” “Vector-Families.” and “On Convergence. Amsterdam: Elsevier/North Holland. Band II (1903). by M. The Reason's Proper Study. Irvine. 96–112. Dov M. Irvine and “Products and Sums of Classes”. (ed. D. 271–290.” Volume 3 continues Part V with sections on “Well-Ordered Series. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. 99). Grundgesetze der Arithmetik.e.). Summer 2010 Edition 7 6 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy .” Volume 2 begins with a “Prefatory Statement of Symbolic Conventions.” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association. vol. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter.” “Addition.” and “Cyclic Families. Philosophy of Mathematics. A. Jena: Verlag Hermann Pohle. Ed.) (2009). “Logicism. 41: 747–760. 1903). 1999.. Bob. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. and trans. entitled “Relation-Arithmetic.Principia Mathematica A. and John Woods (eds) (2009).
V (1966a). and New York: Simon and Schuster. 1925 (Vol. Crispin (1983). New York: Random House. Bertrand (1919). Principles of Mathematics. Wright. and Bertrand Russell (1910. Gottlob | Frege. Other Internet Resources Principia Mathematica. Alfred North (1906). (1931). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1913). 1927 (Vols 2. 1). Whitehead. 1925 (Vol. Bertrand | Russell's paradox | type theory | Whitehead. 3). New York: Random House. Rodriguez-Consuegra. Bernard (1999). “Russell's Reasons for Logicism. Russell.” Mind. A Treatise on Universal Algebra. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Russell.) (2005). Abridged as Principia Mathematica to *56. Quine. Francisco (1991). theorem. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. W. Paul. Urquhart. Shapiro. London: George Allen and Unwin. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press. My Philosophical Development.V (1960). Alasdair (1988). Abridged as 8 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Press. Ramsey. Principia Mathematica: Whitehead and Russell. “Whitehead and Principia Mathematica. Stanford: CSLI Publications. Proops. Waterloo) Related Entries Frege. Russell. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic.” Russell. W. On Mathematical Concepts of the Material World. Word and Object. 57: 137–138. Quine. Gottlob: logic. London: George Allen and Unwin. Frege's Conception of Numbers as Objects. Irvine Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter. by Stanley Burris (Mathematics. Alfred North Summer 2010 Edition 9 . U. 1927 (Vols 2.Principia Mathematica A. 1962. Bertrand (1959). 3). Principia Mathematica. Oxford: Oxford University Press. The Foundations of Mathematics. Cambridge: MIT Press. Linsky. and foundations for arithmetic | Leibniz. Russell's Metaphysical Logic. Bertrand (1948). D. Boston: Birkhäuser Press. Frank P. 8: 82–91. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ways of Paradox. Alfred North.V (1966b).” Journal of the History of Philosophy. Trubner. Stewart (ed. “Russell's Zig-Zag Path to the Ramified Theory of Types. Quine. Ian (2006). 44: 267–292. London: Dulau. Second edition. Russell. Whitehead. 3 vols. Alfred North (1898). London: Kegan. Gottfried Wilhelm | logic: classical | logicism | Principia Mathematica: notation in | propositional function | Russell. Bertrand (1903). 1). Selected Logic Papers. reproduced in the University of Michigan Historical Math Collection. 1912. Second edition. Whitehead. The Mathematical Philosophy of Bertrand Russell. W. Trench. Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy.
Principia Mathematica A. D.) Supplement to Principia Mathematica Supplement to Principia Mathematica Title page of the first edition of Principia Mathematica. Volume 1 (1910) Cover of the first edition of Principia Mathematica to *56 (1962) (This image appears courtesy of the Bertrand Russell Archives at McMaster University. Irvine (This image appears courtesy of the Bertrand Russell Archives at McMaster University.) 10 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Summer 2010 Edition 11 .
Russell (1955). D. 57. Irvine 12 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy . Copyright © 2010 by the author A. p.Principia Mathematica Notes to Principia Mathematica 1.
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