Mon . 19 Apr 2019

Calculus ratiocinator

calculus ratiocinator, leibniz calculus ratiocinator
The Calculus ratiocinator is a theoretical universal logical calculation framework, a concept described in the writings of Gottfried Leibniz, usually paired with his more frequently mentioned characteristica universalis, a universal conceptual language


  • 1 Two views
    • 11 The analytic view
    • 12 The synthetic view
  • 2 Notes
  • 3 See also
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links

Two views

There are two contrasting points of view on what Leibniz meant by calculus ratiocinator The first is associated with computer software, the second is associated with computer hardware

The analytic view

  • The received point of view in analytic philosophy and formal logic, is that the calculus ratiocinator anticipates mathematical logic — an "algebra of logic" The analytic point of view understands that the calculus ratiocinator is a formal inference engine or computer program which can be designed so as to grant primacy to calculations That logic began with Frege's 1879 Begriffsschrift and CS Peirce's writings on logic in the 1880s Frege intended his "concept script" to be a calculus ratiocinator as well as a lingua characteristica That part of formal logic relevant to the calculus comes under the heading of proof theory From this perspective the calculus ratiocinator is only a part or a subset of the universal characteristic, and a complete universal characteristic includes a "logical calculus"

The synthetic view

  • A contrasting point of view stems from synthetic philosophy and fields such as cybernetics, electronic engineering and general systems theory It is little appreciated in analytic philosophy The synthetic view understands the calculus ratiocinator as referring to a "calculating machine" The cybernetician Norbert Wiener considered Leibniz's calculus ratiocinator a forerunner to the modern day digital computer:

Leibniz constructed just such a machine for mathematical calculations which was also called a Stepped Reckoner As a computing machine, the ideal calculus ratiocinator would perform Leibniz's integral and differential calculus In this way the meaning of the word, "ratiocinator" is clarified and can be understood as a mechanical instrument that combines and compares ratios

Hartley Rogers saw a link between the two, defining the calculus ratiocinator as "an algorithm which, when applied to the symbols of any formula of the characteristica universalis, would determine whether or not that formula were true as a statement of science" Hartley Rogers, Jr 1963; p 934

A classic discussion of the calculus ratiocinator is Couturat 1901: chpts 3,4, who maintained that the characteristica universalis—and thus the calculus ratiocinator—were inseparable from Leibniz's encyclopedic project chpt 5 Hence the characteristic, calculus ratiocinator, and encyclopedia form three pillars of Leibniz's project


  1. ^ Fearnley-Sander 1982: p164

See also

  • Gottfried Leibniz
  • Characteristica universalis


  • Louis Couturat, 1901 La Logique de Leibniz Paris: Felix Alcan Donald Rutherford's English translation of some chapters
  • Hartley Rogers, Jr 1963, An Example in Mathematical Logic, The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol 70, No 9, pp 929–945
  • Norbert Wiener, 1948, "Time, communication, and the nervous system," Teleological mechanisms Annals of the NY Acad Sci 50 4: pp 197–219
  • -- 1965, Cybernetics, Second Edition: or the Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, The MIT Press
  • Desmond Fearnley-Sander, 1982 Hermann Grassmann and the Prehistory of Universal Algebra, The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol 89, No 3, pp 161–166

External links

  • Language as Calculus versus Language as Universal Medium

calculus ratiocinator, leibniz calculus ratiocinator

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Calculus ratiocinator

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