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Ideas of Euclid, by Text

[Greek, 330 - 270 BCE, Born in Alexandria. Studied at the Academy in Athens. Died in Alexandria.]

290BCE Elements of Geometry
p.1 An assumption that there is a largest prime leads to a contradiction
     Full Idea: Assume a largest prime, then multiply the primes together and add one. The new number isn't prime, because we assumed a largest prime; but it can't be divided by a prime, because the remainder is one. So only a larger prime could divide it. Contradiction.
     From: report of Euclid (Elements of Geometry [c.290 BCE]) by James Robert Brown - Philosophy of Mathematics Ch.1
     A reaction: Not only a very elegant mathematical argument, but a model for how much modern logic proceeds, by assuming that the proposition is false, and then deducing a contradiction from it.
p.2 Proof reveals the interdependence of truths, as well as showing their certainty
     Full Idea: Euclid gives proofs of many things which anyone would concede to him without question. ...The aim of proof is not merely to place the truth of a proposition beyond doubt, but also to afford us insight into the dependence of truths upon one another.
     From: report of Euclid (Elements of Geometry [c.290 BCE]) by Gottlob Frege - Grundlagen der Arithmetik (Foundations) §02
     A reaction: This connects nicely with Shoemaker's view of analysis (Idea 8559), which I will adopt as my general view. I've always thought of philosophy as the aspiration to wisdom through the cartography of concepts.
p.24 Euclid's parallel postulate defines unique non-intersecting parallel lines
     Full Idea: Euclid's fifth 'parallel' postulate says if there is an infinite straight line and a point, then there is only one straight line through the point which won't intersect the first line. This axiom is independent of Euclid's first four (agreed) axioms.
     From: report of Euclid (Elements of Geometry [c.290 BCE]) by Michèle Friend - Introducing the Philosophy of Mathematics 2.2
     A reaction: This postulate was challenged in the nineteenth century, which was a major landmark in the development of modern relativist views of knowledge.
p.55 Euclid's geometry is synthetic, but Descartes produced an analytic version of it
     Full Idea: Euclid's geometry is a synthetic geometry; Descartes supplied an analytic version of Euclid's geometry, and we now have analytic versions of the early non-Euclidean geometries.
     From: report of Euclid (Elements of Geometry [c.290 BCE]) by Michael D. Resnik - Maths as a Science of Patterns One.4
     A reaction: I take it that the original Euclidean axioms were observations about the nature of space, but Descartes turned them into a set of pure interlocking definitions which could still function if space ceased to exist.
p.87 Postulate 2 says a line can be extended continuously
     Full Idea: Euclid's Postulate 2 says the geometer can 'produce a finite straight line continuously in a straight line'.
     From: report of Euclid (Elements of Geometry [c.290 BCE]) by Stewart Shapiro - Thinking About Mathematics 4.2
     A reaction: The point being that this takes infinity for granted, especially if you start counting how many points there are on the line. The Einstein idea that it might eventually come round and hit you on the back of the head would have charmed Euclid.
p.106 If you pick an arbitrary triangle, things proved of it are true of all triangles
     Full Idea: Euclid begins proofs about all triangles with 'let ABC be a triangle', but ABC is not a proper name. It names an arbitrarily selected triangle, and if that has a property, then we can conclude that all triangles have the property.
     From: report of Euclid (Elements of Geometry [c.290 BCE]) by E.J. Lemmon - Beginning Logic 3.2
     A reaction: Lemmon adds the proviso that there must be no hidden assumptions about the triangle we have selected. You must generalise the properties too. Pick a triangle, any triangle, say one with three angles of 60 degrees; now generalise from it.
p.183 Euclid needs a principle of continuity, saying some lines must intersect
     Full Idea: Euclid gives no principle of continuity, which would sanction an inference that if a line goes from the outside of a circle to the inside of circle, then it must intersect the circle at some point.
     From: comment on Euclid (Elements of Geometry [c.290 BCE]) by Stewart Shapiro - Philosophy of Mathematics 6.1 n2
     A reaction: Cantor and Dedekind began to contemplate discontinuous lines.
p.259 Euclid says we can 'join' two points, but Hilbert says the straight line 'exists'
     Full Idea: Euclid postulates: One can join two points by a straight line; Hilbert states the axiom: Given any two points, there exists a straight line on which both are situated.
     From: report of Euclid (Elements of Geometry [c.290 BCE]) by Paul Bernays - On Platonism in Mathematics p.259
p.404 Modern geometries only accept various parts of the Euclid propositions
     Full Idea: In descriptive geometry the first 26 propositions of Euclid hold. In projective geometry the 1st, 7th, 16th and 17th require modification (as a straight line is not a closed series). Those after 26 depend on the postulate of parallels, so aren't assumed.
     From: comment on Euclid (Elements of Geometry [c.290 BCE]) by Bertrand Russell - The Principles of Mathematics §388
7 Def 1 p.194 A unit is that according to which each existing thing is said to be one
     Full Idea: A unit is that according to which each existing thing is said to be one.
     From: Euclid (Elements of Geometry [c.290 BCE], 7 Def 1)
     A reaction: See Frege's 'Grundlagen' §29-44 for a sustained critique of this. Frege is good, but there must be something right about the Euclid idea. If I count stone, paper and scissors as three, each must first qualify to be counted as one. Psychology creeps in.
72a17 p.149 Euclid's common notions or axioms are what we must have if we are to learn anything at all
     Full Idea: The best known example of Euclid's 'common notions' is "If equals are subtracted from equals the remainders are equal". These can be called axioms, and are what "the man who is to learn anything whatever must have".
     From: report of Euclid (Elements of Geometry [c.290 BCE], 72a17) by David Roochnik - The Tragedy of Reason p.149