The Origins of "Philosophy of Mathematics" as a Separate Discipline

Document Type


Presentation Date

Fall 9-3-2011

Conference Name

7th European Congress of Analytic Philosophy

Conference Location

Milan, Italy

Peer Review



Philosophy of Mathematics has become a well-established field of philosophical inquiry. And while it is quite common to attribute philosophers before Kant, from Plato through Locke, a philosophy of mathematics, the term itself was not coined before (roughly) 1800.

A longish paper underlying this talk traces the history of the new term and investigates the reasons philosophers and mathematicians had for adopting a new discipline with that name. In terms of its underlying methodology, the paper combines an evaluation of bibliometric data with an analysis of the philosophic filiations among the various authors.

Due to time constraints, the actual talk focuses primarily on the early history of the discussion as it took place in Germany (roughly 1800–1830), with an emphasis on Fries and Fichte; other authors, like Schelling, Hegel, Krause, and their students, receive mention as well. Earlier developments outside Germany (France, USA) and the development around 1900 find summative treatment only.

At the end, two theses will be defended. First, it can be shown that the new term was introduced around 1800 in response to Kant’s philosophy and that it’s revival around 1900 is again caused by, broadly speaking, Neo-Kantian considerations. Second, some paradigmatic decisions on how to conceive of mathematics philosophically are tied to these earlier, Kantian reflections but have lost their justification in the meantime.


Philosophy of Mathematics, Kant, Fichte, Fries


History of Philosophy | Logic and Foundations of Mathematics | Philosophy

This document is currently not available here.