, Volume 119, Issue 1-2, pp 203-232

Boltzmann on Mathematics

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Boltzmann’s lectures on natural philosophy point out how the principles of mathematics are both an improvement on traditional philosophy and also serve as a necessary foundation of physics or what the English call “Natura Philosophy”, a title which he will retain for his own lectures. We start with lecture #3 and the mathematical contents of his lectures plus a few philosophical comments. Because of the length of the lectures as a whole we can only give the main points of each but organized into a coherent study. Behind his mathematics stands his support of Darwinian evolution interpreted in a partly Lamarckian way. He also supported non-Euclidean geometry. Much of Boltzmann’s analysis of mathematics is an attempt to refute Kant’s static a priori categories and his identification of space with “non-sensuous intuition”. Boltzmann’s strong attention toward discreteness in mathematics can be seen throughout the lectures. Part II of this paper will touch on the historical background of atomism and focus on the discrete way of thinking with which Boltzmann approaches problems in mathematics and beyond. Part III briefly points out how Boltzmann related mathematics and discreteness to music.

This revised version was published online in June 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.