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From Valla to Viète: The Rhetorical Reform of Logic and its Use in Early Modern Algebra

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Lorenzo Valla's rhetorical reform of logic resulted in important changes in sixteenth-century mathematical sciences, and not only in mathematical education and in the use of mathematics in other sciences, but also in mathematical theory itself. Logic came to be identified with dialectic, syllogisms with enthymemes and necessary truth with the limit case of probable truth. Two main ancient authorities mediated between logical and mathematical concerns: Cicero and Proclus. Cicero's 'common notions' were identified with Euclid's axioms, so that mathematics could be viewed as core knowledge shared by all humankind. Proclus' interpretation of Euclid's axioms gave rise to the idea of a universal human natural light of reasoning and of a mathesis universalis as a basic mathematics common to both arithmetic and geometry and as an art of thinking interpretable as algebra.


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