The Principles of Mathematics (1903)

§ 2

The above definition of pure mathematics is, no doubt, somewhat unusual. Its various parts, nevertheless, appear to be capable of exact justification—a justification which it will be the object of the present work to provide. It will be shown that whatever has, in the past, been regarded as pure mathematics, is included in our definition, and that whatever else is included possesses those marks by which mathematics is commonly though vaguely distinguished from other studies. The definition professes to be, not an arbitrary decision to use a common word in an uncommon signification, but rather a precise analysis of the ideas which, more or less unconsciously, are implied in the ordinary employment of the term. Our method will therefore be one of analysis, and our problem may be called philosophical—in the sense, that is to say, that we seek to pass from the complex to the simple, from the demonstrable to its indemonstrable premisses. But in one respect not a few of our discussions will differ from those that are usually called philosophical. We shall be able, thanks to the labours of the mathematicians themselves, to arrive at certainty in regard to most of the questions with which we shall be concerned; and among those capable of an exact solution we shall find many of the problems which, in the past, have been involved in all the traditional uncertainty of philosophical strife. The nature of number, of infinity, of space, time and motion, and of mathematical inference itself, are all questions to which, in the present work, an answer professing itself demonstrable with mathematical certainty will be given—an answer which, however, consists in reducing the above problems to problems in pure logic, which last will not be found satisfactorily solved in what follows.(§ 2 ¶ 1)