First principle


First principle

:"First Principles is also the title of a work by Herbert Spencer."In philosophy, a first principle is a basic, foundational proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption. In mathematics, first principles are referred to as axioms or postulates.

First principles in formal logic

In a formal logical system, that is, a set of propositions that are consistent with one another, it is probable that some of the statements can be deduced from one another. For example, in the syllogism, "All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; Socrates is mortal" the last claim can be deduced from the former two.

A first principle is one that cannot be deduced from any other. The classic example is that of Euclid's (see Euclid's Elements) geometry; its hundreds of propositions can be deduced from a set of definitions, postulates, and common notions: all three of which constitute "first principles."

Aristotle's contribution

Aristotle, author of the earliest surviving text on logic, formulated a principle (the Aristotelian tautology denoted A=A ) that later achieved the historical distinction of being called the first principle as a proper name. It occurs in those of his writings that have come to be called the Metaphysics. The principle in Greek, and its transliteration, is ("Meta ta physica", 1005b):

:"τὸ γὰρ αὐτὸ ἅμα ὑπάρχειν τε καὶ μὴ ὑπάρχειν ἀδύνατον τῷ αὐτῷ καὶ κατὰ τὸ αὐτό":"to gar auto hama hyparchein te kai me hyparchein adynaton to auto kai kata to auto."

and in English translation:

:"For the same (characteristic) simultaneously to belong and not belong to the same (object) in the same (way) is impossible."

This principle is the first expression of consistency in western thought. Any defining and reasoning in any language on any topic assumes it a priori. It cannot be doubted, as all doubting is based on inconsistency, which assumes consistency a priori.

Descartes

Profoundly influenced by Euclid, Descartes, the "father of modern philosophy", was a rationalist who invented the foundationalist system of philosophy. He used the "method of doubt", now called Cartesian doubt, to systematically doubt everything he could possibly doubt, until he was left with what he saw as purely indubitable truths. Using these self-evident propositions as his "axioms", or "foundations", he went on to deduce his entire body of knowledge from them. (The foundations are also called "a priori" truths.) His most famous proposition is "I think, therefore I am", or "Cogito ergo sum".

John Duns Scotus

"A Treatise On God As First Principle" is about the First Cause, or the Prime Mover, that is eternal, and exists, prior to the order of beings, and prior to creation.

In physics

In physics, a calculation is said to be "from first principles", or ab initio, if it starts directly at the level of established laws of physics and does not make assumptions such as model and fitting parameters.

For example, calculation of electronic structure using Schrödinger's equation within a set of approximations that do not include fitting the model to experimental data is an "ab initio" approach.

See also

* A priori
* Ab initio
* Axiom
* First Cause
* Fuzzy Logic
* Intuitionism
* Law of excluded middle
* Law of noncontradiction
* Metaphysics
* Prime Mover
* proposition

External links

* [http://aleph0.clarku.edu/~djoyce/java/elements/elements.html Euclid's Elements]
* [http://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/GODASFIR.HTM A TREATISE ON GOD AS FIRST PRINCIPLE by John Duns Scotus]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • first principle — first′ prin′ciple n. any axiom, law, or abstraction assumed and regarded as representing the highest possible degree of generalization …   From formal English to slang

  • first principle — noun the elementary stages of any subject (usually plural) he mastered only the rudiments of geometry • Syn: ↑rudiment, ↑first rudiment, ↑alphabet, ↑ABC, ↑ABC s, ↑ABCs • Usage Domain: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • first principle — any axiom, law, or abstraction assumed and regarded as representing the highest possible degree of generalization. * * * …   Universalium

  • first principle — noun A basic, foundational proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption …   Wiktionary

  • first principle — /fɜst ˈprɪnsəpəl/ (say ferst prinsuhpuhl) noun any law, axiom, or concept which represents the highest degree of generalisation and which depends on fundamental principles …   Australian English dictionary

  • Principle of contradiction — In logic, the Principle of contradiction ( principium contradictionis in Latin) is the second of the so called three classic laws of thought. The oldest statement of the law is that contradictory statements cannot both at the same time be true, e …   Wikipedia

  • Principle of Orthogonal Design — The Principle of Orthogonal Design (abbreviated POOD) was developed by database researchers David McGoveran and Christopher J. Date in the early 1990s, and first published A New Database Design Principle in the July 1994 issue of Database… …   Wikipedia

  • principle — n. 1 a fundamental truth or law as the basis of reasoning or action (arguing from first principles; moral principles). 2 a a personal code of conduct (a person of high principle). b (in pl.) such rules of conduct (has no principles). 3 a general… …   Useful english dictionary

  • first rudiment — noun the elementary stages of any subject (usually plural) he mastered only the rudiments of geometry • Syn: ↑rudiment, ↑first principle, ↑alphabet, ↑ABC, ↑ABC s, ↑ABCs • Usage Domain: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • first floor — ground ground (ground), n. [OE. ground, grund, AS. grund; akin to D. grond, OS., G., Sw., & Dan. grund, Icel. grunnr bottom, Goth. grundus (in composition); perh. orig. meaning, dust, gravel, and if so perh. akin to E. grind.] 1. The surface of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.