This story draft by @bertrandrussell has not been reviewed by an editor, YET.

# An essay on the Foundations of Geometry: Chapter III - Section B

An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry, by Bertrand Russell is part of HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post series. The Table of Links for this book can be found here. Chapter III - Section B: The Axioms of Metrical Geometry

## Section B. THE AXIOMS OF METRICAL GEOMETRY.

141. We have now reviewed the axioms of projective Geometry, and have seen that they are à priori deductions from the fact that we can experience externality, i.e. a coexistent multiplicity of different but interrelated things. But projective Geometry, in spite of its claims, is not the whole science of space, as is sufficiently proved by the fact that it cannot discriminate between Euclidean and non-Euclidean spaces. For this purpose, spatial measurement is required: metrical Geometry, with its quantitative tests, can alone effect the discrimination. For all application of Geometry to physics, also, measurement is required; the law of gravitation, for example, requires the determination of actual distances. For many purposes, in short, projective Geometry is wholly insufficient: thus it is unable to distinguish between different kinds of conics, though their distinction is of fundamental importance in many departments of knowledge.

Metrical Geometry is, then, a necessary part of the science of space, and a part not included in descriptive Geometry. Its à priori element, nevertheless, so far as this is spatial and not arithmetical, is the same as the postulate of projective Geometry, namely, the homogeneity of space, or its equivalent, the relativity of position. We can see, in fact, that the à priori element in both is likely to be the same. For the à priori in metrical Geometry will be whatever is presupposed in the possibility of spatial measurement, i.e. of quantitative spatial comparison. But such comparison presupposes simply a known identity of quality, the determination of which is precisely the problem of projective Geometry. Hence the conditions for the possibility of measurement, in so far as they are not arithmetical, will be precisely the same as those for projective Geometry.

142. Metrical Geometry, therefore, though distinct from projective Geometry, is not independent of it, but presupposes it, and arises from its combination with the extraneous idea of quantity. Nevertheless the mathematical form of the axioms, in metrical Geometry, is slightly different from their form in projective Geometry. The homogeneity of space is replaced by its equivalent, the axiom of Free Mobility. The axiom of the straight line is replaced by the axiom of distance: Two points determine a unique quantity, distance, which is unaltered in any motion of the two points as a single figure. This axiom, indeed, will be found to involve the axiom of the straight line—such a quantity could not exist unless the two points determined a unique curve—but its mathematical form is changed. Another important change is the collapse of the principle of duality: quantity can be applied to the straight line, because it is divisible into similar parts, but cannot be applied to the indivisible point. We thus obtain a reason, which was wanting in descriptive Geometry, for preferring points, as spatial elements, to straight lines or planes. Finally, an entirely new idea is introduced with quantity, namely, the idea of Motion. Not that we study motion, or that any of our results have reference to motion, but that they cannot, though in projective Geometry they could, be obtained without at least an ideal motion of our figures through space.

Let us now examine in detail the prerequisites of spatial measurement. We shall find three axioms, without which such measurement would be impossible, but with which it is adequate to decide, empirically and approximately, the Euclidean or non-Euclidean nature of our actual space. We shall find, further, that these three axioms can be deduced from the conception of a form of externality, and owe nothing to the evidence of intuition. They are, therefore, like their equivalents the axioms of projective Geometry, à priori, and deducible from the conditions of spatial experience. This experience, accordingly, can never disprove them, since its very existence presupposes them.

About HackerNoon Book Series: We bring you the most important technical, scientific, and insightful public domain books.

This book is part of the public domain. Bertrand Russell. (1897). AN ESSAY ON THE FOUNDATIONS OF GEOMETRY. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved June 2022, from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/52091/52091-h/52091-h.htm#N141

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org, located at https://www.gutenberg.org/policy/license.html.

L O A D I N G
. . . comments & more!