Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy

By Bertrand Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE DEFINITION OF ORDER

WE have now carried our analysis of the series of natural numbers to the point where we have obtained logical definitions of the members of this series, of the whole class of its members, and of the relation of a number to its immediate successor. We must now consider the serial character of the natural numbers in the order 0, 1, 2, 3, . . . We ordinarily think of the numbers as in this order, and it is an essential part of the work of analysing our data to seek a definition of "order" or "series" in logical terms.

The notion of order is one which has enormous importance in mathematics. Not only the integers, but also rational fractions and all real numbers have an order of magnitude, and this is essential to most of their mathematical properties. The order of points on a line is essential to geometry; so is the slightly more complicated order of lines through a point in a plane, or of planes through a line. Dimensions, in geometry, are a development of order. The conception of a limit, which underlies all higher mathematics, is a serial conception. There are parts of mathematics which do not depend upon the notion of order, but they are very few in comparison with the parts in which this notion is involved.

In seeking a definition of order, the first thing to realise is that no set of terms has just one order to the exclusion of others. A set of terms has all the orders of which it is capable. Sometimes one order is so much more familiar and natural to our

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