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Mathematical Knowledge and the Interplay of Practices$
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José Ferreirós

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691167510

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691167510.001.0001

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Ancient Greek Mathematics

Ancient Greek Mathematics

A Role for Diagrams

(p.112) 5 Ancient Greek Mathematics
Mathematical Knowledge and the Interplay of Practices

José Ferreirós

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on the ancient Greek tradition of geometrical proof in light of recent studies by Kenneth Manders and others. It advances the view that the borderline of elementary mathematics is strictly linked with the adoption of hypotheses. To this end, the chapter considers Euclidean geometry, which elaborates on both the problems and the proof methods based on diagrams. It argues that Euclidean geometry can be understood as a theoretical, idealized analysis (and further development) of practical geometry; that by way of the idealizations introduced, Euclid's Elements builds on hypotheses that turn them into advanced mathematics; and that the axioms or “postulates” of Book I of the Elements mainly regiment diagrammatic constructions, while the “common notions” are general principles of a theory of quantities. The chapter concludes by discussing how the proposed approach, based on joint consideration of agents and frameworks, can be applied to the case of Greek geometry.

Keywords:   geometrical proof, Kenneth Manders, elementary mathematics, hypotheses, Euclidean geometry, diagrams, Elements, advanced mathematics, axioms, diagrammatic constructions

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