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Algebraic ArtMathematical Formalism and Victorian Culture$
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Andrea Henderson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198809982

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198809982.001.0001

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Symbolic Logic and the Logic of Symbolism

(p.62) 2 Algebra
Algebraic Art

Andrea Henderson

Oxford University Press

The difference between the transcendent Coleridgean symbol and the unreliable conventional symbol was of explicit concern in Victorian mathematics, where the former was aligned with Euclidean geometry and the latter with algebra. Rather than trying to bridge this divide, practitioners of modern algebra and the pioneers of symbolic logic made it the founding principle of their work. Regarding the content of claims as a matter of “indifference,” they concerned themselves solely with the formal interrelations of the symbolic systems devised to represent those claims. In its celebration of artificial algorithmic structures, symbolic logician Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno dramatizes the power of this new formalist ideal not only to revitalize the moribund field of Aristotelian logic but also to redeem symbolism itself, conceived by Carroll and his mathematical, philosophical, and symbolist contemporaries as a set of harmonious associative networks rather than singular organic correspondences.

Keywords:   Literary symbol, symbolic logic, algebra, Lewis Carroll, Sylvie and Bruno, symbolists, George Boole, Augustus De Morgan, George Peacock

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