1. Whatever is capable of increase or diminution, is called quantity. A sum of money therefore is a quantity, since we may increase it and diminish it. It is the same with a weight, and other things of this nature.
2. From this definition, it is evident, that the different kinds of quantity must be so various as to render it difficult to enumerate them: and this is the origin of the different branches of mathematics, each being employed on a particular kind of quantity. Mathematics, in general, is the science of quantity; or, the science which investigates the means of measuring quantity.
3. Now we cannot measure or determine any quantity, except by considering some other quantity of the same kind as known, and pointing out their mutual relation. If it were proposed, for example, to determine the quantity of a sum of money, we should take some known piece of money, And show how many of these pieces are contained in the given sum. In the same manner, if it were proposed to determine the quantity of a weight, we should take a certain known weight; for example, a pound, an ounce, etc., and then show how many times one of these weights is contained in that which we are endeavoring to ascertain. If we wished to measure any length or extension, we should make use of some known length, such as a foot.
4. So that the determination, or the measure of quantity of all kinds, is reduced to this:
Fix at pleasure upon anyone known quantity of the same species with that which is to be determined, and consider it as the measure or unit; then, determine the proportion of the proposed quantity to this known measure. This proportion is always expressed by numbers; so that a number is nothing but the proportion of one quantity to another arbitrarily assumed as the unit.
5. From this it appears, that all quantities may be expressed by numbers; and that the foundation of all the mathematical sciences must be laid in a complete treatise on the science of numbers, and in an accurate examination of the different possible methods of calculation. This fundamental part of mathematics is called Analysis, or Algebra.
6. In Algebra then we consider only numbers which represent quantities, without regarding the different kinds of quantity. These are the subjects of the other branches of the mathematics.
7. Arithmetic treats of numbers in particular, and is the science of numbers properly so-called; but this science extends only to certain methods of calculation which occur in common practice: Algebra, on the contrary, comprehends in general all the cases which can exist in the doctrine and calculation of numbers.
Not enrolled? Get started today for free!
The Classical Liberal Arts Academy works to research, restore, publish and teach the classical Catholic curriculum that has been enjoyed by wise men and saints through history. We invite you to study in our self-paced online courses and enjoy the benefits of online quizzes, written assignments, progress records and more. Get started with a free 30-day trial.