Principia Mathematica - Volume Three: 3 Paperback – 27 Feb 2009
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About the Author
Alfred North Whitehead (1861 1947) was a prominent logician, mathematician and philosopher in the early twentieth century and helped pioneer the 'process philosophy' approach to metaphysics. He was Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University until his retirement in 1937. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The text was completely illegible, probably due to a general coding error. There is any quality control, just flipping through the pages, the error was already visible. It's absolutely unacceptable. It was a completely unusable copy.
Moreover, my copy was completely different that the preview that you can see at amazon.uk web. The preview is from the abridged edition in one volume. But the text that GBBooks sent me seems correspond to the third volume of the complete edition in three volumes. Sorry, but all was a disaster.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Of course there are much more rigurous, succint & elegant treatises on logic and the foundations of mathematics, but they would have been impossible without PM because PM was the first thorough treatment of this subject-matter and, indeed, the first book to use the something like the modern day notation. As another reviewer pointed out, Godel's proof would've been extremely hard to come up with in the absence Principia or a systems such as PM; someone first needed to show that you could axiomatize mathematics to a great extent for there to be possible to reflect on the metalogic of such systems. Russell and Whitehead were aware that their treatment used certain axioms which there was no reason to think were logically true, like the axioms of infinity, reducibility & choice, but were hopeful a solution would be found, perhaps by deducing them from other more plausible axioms. Godel found a solution in a way, it was a negative solution, there could be no complete system PM like (no consistent formal system or theory, in the mathematical sense, strong enough to derive arithmetic from it, such that every proposition in the system is provable if it is true). Many non-trivial mathematical theories, when axiomatized, are such that they are sound i.e. every provable theorem in such theories is true, yet not every true theorem in the theory is provable, such as the Godel sentence(s).
This book together with Frege's gave birth to modern logic, it gave a tremendous boost to research in set theory (Zermelo came up with an axiomatization of set theory more or less at the same time), it influenced the presentation of modern mathematics to the extent that every student has to learn about sets at the beginning of a mathematics course, it showed also the scope of the deductive powers of logic and axiomatic systems which made possible the revolution in computers and AI. It developed an influential and responsive philosophy of mathematics, perhaps the most influential of the XX century, Logicism, which nowadays has been resurrected by such people as Crispin Wright. In PM, Russell's superb theory of descriptions, a cornerstone in logic and philosophy, is applied with success. This theory is tremendously important in logic through its use of quantification to break up much more complex expressions revealing their true logical form. In philosophy it provided a theory which would prove immensely useful and important in epistemology, metaphysics and the philosophies of language and science (think of the ramsey sentence, the theory of knowledge by description, the relevance to ontology, the problem of empty names, etc). Russell's paradox (regarding those sets of sets which are not members of themselves) is disposed through ramified type-theory, now obsolete in logic (though not in computer science), because, thanks to it, other ways to avoid the paradox were developed, such as the subset axioms in the axiomatization of Zermelo-Fraenkl or Ramsey's simple type theory. Carnap, Hilbert, Weiner, Ramsey, Quine, Wittgenstein, Turing, Tarski, Godel etc were, as thinkers, tremendously influenced by it. In short, this work is one of the greatest achievements in the history of thought, its importance for mathematics, logic, philosophy, linguistics and computer science is first rate, suffice to say that none of these studies would be as advanced as they are now, or as complex, or in the same direction were it not for Russell and Whitehead's groundbreaking scientific and philosophical work. Of course, like Newton's Philosophia Naturalis Principia Mathematica it is now, because the subjects it initiated are today tremendously advanced, mostly of historical interest. However, for the philosophers at least, Russell's introduction still holds great philosophical interest and rigourous arguments helpful in the contemporary debate in the philosophy of mathematics. For more details, historical background and a well-documented account check out Ivor Grattan Guiness's great works on the history of mathematics, logic and set theory. For an appropriate understanding of the scope and purpose of this work read Russell's masterpiece "The Principles of Mathematics", his "Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy", or Frank Ramsey's paper on the "Foundations of Mathematics". Even easier is Roger Penrose's account of like projects in his "The Emperor's New Mind" or Shapiro's chapter on logicism in "Thinking about Mathematics. If you want to see the direct influence of Russell and Whitehead's work check the works of Quine, Wittgenstein, Godel, Tarski or some of the papers of Turing in Mind (some are available online); van Heijenoort's "From Frege to Godel" is a superb sourcebook on papers which detail the development of mathematical logic.
Reflection on some of the statements from some mathematicians, who argue for the thesis of the irrelevance of the book based on the fact that probably no mathematician of notice has read the work in the last fifty or so years, shows the misunderstandings to which people who dislike history are prone, and shows some contempt for the history of mathematics and logic. I am reminded of the comment I heard once, that the theories of the Milesians (all is water, etc) are absurd, a view which I am convinced would only be put forward by someone wholly indifferent to historical context and who does not consider those theories as the first step towards the current scientific worldview. It is like saying that Bacon's methodology of science is irrelevant because we now have a deeper understanding of how science works, or even like saying that the study of the work of Adam Smith is worthless since for free-market economies we can now consider Hayek's or Milton Friedman's work. This analogy will, hopefully, show the preposterousness of views which do not consider the historical context of such major works. Indeed one does not need to review the proofs in PM (wanting by modern standards) that 1 plus 1 equals 2, to understand the important place of this book in contemporary thought. It is only necessary to glance at any contemporary book on logic or set theory, most of the ideas there, the notation, as well as many of the developments in both disciplines in the past fifty or so years are intellectually indebted to Principia Mathematica. Developments which owe much to the work done by Zermelo, Hilbert, Quine, Turing, Weiner, Tarski, Godel etc, who, as anyone who has studied a bit of their works (as in authored by them) will know, owe many of their own ideas, developments and work to the study of Principia Mathematica during the first fifty years of the twentieth century. Indeed, I would be the first to suggest that no one should read this book from cover to cover if one wants to learn logic (even Russell used to joke in MPD that he only knew of a couple of poles who had read it and had then perished in WWII), just as I wouldn't suggest anyone interested in contemporary calculus and advanced mathematics to read Newton's Principia, or anyone interested in Set Theory to read Cantor's papers, or again, anyone interested in Einstein's special relativity to read his 1905 paper. In fact I cannot believe anyone would have to stress this point, but I am forced to on account of the various misunderstandings I see here, and by mathematicians, which one would presume would be the most rigurous of thinkers. These days the value of the book is mostly historical (with the introduction, mostly chapters II and III, having philosophical value), but, and I must once again stress this strongly, its tremendously influential and important place in the DEVELOPMENT of logic and set theory (and metatheory with the discovery of Russell's paradox) cannot be doubted, it can indeed be traced, if one takes the time to do so, to the various seminal thinkers it influenced strongly.
The work still inspires robust philosophical reflection on the philosophy of mathematics & logic, their ontology and epistemology, etc. Nowadays, for example, people like Gregory Landini, Kevin Klement, Graham Stevens, Ian Proops, Peter Hylton and Bernard Linsky have gone further in investigating diverse features of Russell's mathematical philosophy. Landini goes as far as to suggest that a new interpretation of PM is needed. He holds that Russell never abandoned the conception of logic as a universal science. The standard interpretation is that Russell's paradox, by forcing the theory of types on Russell, commits him to a hierarcy of types of entities. Landini disputes this, he holds that the unrestricted variable is employed in PM & that type theory does not require an ontological hierarchy of types (but only a syntactical one), which allows for the preservation of an individual entity variable limited in its range of values not for metaphysical reasons, but because of the grammar of the PM system. Landini believes that such a variable is objectual and that any object is a suitable argument value of such variable sans syntactical limitations imposed by the grammar of type theory.
For all of the afore mentioned reasons is that the value of the book should be doubted even less by those academics ignorant of the history of their own disciplines, not because they disagree with me (I could hardly be that vain), but rather because their misunderstandings are on par with diminishing Darwin's importance to contemporary biology on the grounds that his works are not cited in the bibliography of the most important papers written on the subject nowadays.
Let me warn you as to what you are going to receive....
You'll receive the middle of the book. Chapters 3-5 to be exact. You're also paying good money for a scanned copy of a nearly 100-year old work. It is poorly cropped, with smudges everywhere, and many unreadable characters/sections.
I purchased this to enjoy the challenge of the work, as the material itself is quite substantial. However part of that "challenge" should not be trying to determine one smudged symbol from another.
It would also be nice to receive the beginning of the book (?) sort of a given that if you purchase something called "Principia Mathematica" - that one would receive the entire work.
they all lead. Russell and Whitehead are guilty of a number of major philosophical confusions, such as use and mention, between meta- and object language, and their confused notion of "propositional function." Their choice of axioms can be much improved upon. The PM theory of types and orders is a complicated horror; Chwistek, Ramsey, and others later showed that it could be radically simplified. R & W think they can substitute the intensional for the extensional, and ultimately define sets and relations in logical terms. PM does not have a clue about model theory or metatheory. There is no hint of proofs of consistency, completeness, categoricity, and Loewenheim-Skolem. In this sense, the fathers of modern logic are Skolem, Goedel, Tarski, and Church. And Goedel did indeed prove that there must exist mathematical truths that cannot be proved true using the axioms of PM, or any other finite set of axioms.
But this is still one of the greatest works of mathematics and philosophy of all time. The long prose introduction is a philosophical masterpiece. The collaboration between Russell and Whitehead may be the greatest scientific collaboration in British history. Whitehead, who was trained as a mathematician, went on to become one of the shrewder philosophers of the 20th century, and supervised Quine's PhD thesis. PM's treatment of the algebra of relations (a brilliant generalisation of Boolean algebra that
has not received the study it deserves) is perhaps the most thorough ever.
Mathematical logic is indeed the abstract structure that underlies the digital electronics revolution. And PM is still perhaps the greatest work of math logic ever penned.
Sorry, Amazon, but you shouldn't be charging for a junk version of a book that is in the public domain.