Bolzano’s Mathematical Infinite

Review of Symbolic Logic:1-80 (forthcoming)
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Bernard Bolzano (1781-1848) is commonly thought to have attempted to develop a theory of size for infinite collections that follows the so-called part-whole principle, according to which the whole is always greater than any of its proper parts. In this paper, we develop a novel interpretation of Bolzano's mature theory of the infinite and show that, contrary to mainstream interpretations, it is best understood as a theory of infinite sums. Our formal results show that Bolzano's infinite sums can be equipped with the rich and original structure of a non-commutative ordered ring, and that Bolzano's views on the mathematical infinite are, after all, consistent.
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First archival date: 2021-02-22
Latest version: 2 (2021-02-24)
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