Page:Russell, Whitehead - Principia Mathematica, vol. I, 1910.djvu/18

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vi

PRÉFACE


de croire aux prémisses parce que des conséquences vraies en découlent, que de croire les conséquences parce qu’elles résulte des prémisses.


In constructing a deductive system such as that contained in the present work, there are two opposite tasks which have to be concurrently perfonned. On the one hand, we have to analyse existing luathen1atics, with a view to discovering what premisses are employed, whether these premisses are mutually consistent, and whether they are capable of reduction to mOl"e fundamental pren1isses. On the other hand, when we have decided upon our premisses, we have to build up again as much as may seem necessary of the data previously analysed, and as many other consequences of our premisses as are of sufficient general interest to deserve statement. The preliminary labour of analysis does not appear in the final presentation, which Inerely sets forth the outcome of the analysis in certain undefined ideas and undemonstrated propositions. It is not claimed that the analysis could not have been carried farther: we have no reason to suppose that it is impossible to find simpler ideas and axioms by nleans of which those with which we start could be defined and demonstrated. All that is affirmed is that the ideas and axioms with which we start are sufficient, not that they are necessary.

In making deductions from our premisses, we have considered it essential to carry them up to the point where we have proved as much as is true in whatever would ordinarily be taken for granted. But we have not thought it desirable to limit ourselves too strictly to this task. It is customary’ to consider only particular cases, even when, with our apparatus, it is just as easy to deal with the general case. For example, cardinal arithmetic is usually conceived in connection with finite numbers, but its general laws hold equally for infinite numbers, and are most easily proved without any mention of the distinction between finite and infinite. Again, many of the properties commonly associated with series hold of arl’angernents which are not strictly serial, but have only some of the distinguishing properties of serial arrangements. In such cases, it is a defect in logical style to prove for a particular class of arrangements what might just as well have been proved more generally. An analogous process of generalization is involved, to a greater or less degree, in all our work. We have sought always the most general reasonably simple hypothesis from which any given conclusion could be reached. For this reason, especially in the later parts of the book, the importance of a proposition usually lies in its hypothesis. The conclusion wiJI often be something which, in a certain class of cases, is familiar, but the hypothesis will, whenever possible, be wide enough to admit many cases besides those in which the conclusion is familiar.

We have found it necessary to give very full proofs, because otherwise it is scarcely possible to see what hypotheses are really required, or whether