Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: AXIOM from A Dictionary of Philosophical Logic

An axiom is a formula used as a starting assumption and from which other statements – theorems – are derived. Thus, many statements are proved using axioms, but axioms need not, and given their definition cannot, be proved. In the past, axioms were meant to be self-evident and thus in need of no additional support or evidence. Now, however, an axiom is any principle that is assumed without proof.

See also: Axiom Schema, Axiomatized Theory, Finitely Axiomatizable, Recursively Axiomatizable Theory

Summary Article: axiom from The Columbia Encyclopedia

in mathematics and logic, general statement accepted without proof as the basis for logically deducing other statements (theorems). Examples of axioms used widely in mathematics are those related to equality (e.g., "Two things equal to the same thing are equal to each other"; "If equals are added to equals, the sums are equal") and those related to operations (e.g., the associative law and the commutative law). A postulate, like an axiom, is a statement that is accepted without proof; however, it deals with specific subject matter (e.g., properties of geometrical figures) and thus is not so general as an axiom. It is sometimes said that an axiom or postulate is a "self-evident" statement, but the truth of the statement need not be evident and may in some cases even seem to contradict common sense. Moreover, a statement may be an axiom or postulate in one deductive system and may instead be derived from other statements in another system. A set of axioms on which a system is based is often wished to be independent; i.e., no one of its members can be deduced from any combination of the others. (Historically, the development of non-Euclidean geometry grew out of attempts to prove or disprove the independence of the parallel postulate of Euclid.) The axioms should also be consistent; i.e., it should not be possible to deduce contradictory statements from them. Completeness is another property sometimes mentioned in connection with a set of axioms; if the set is complete, then any true statement within the system described by the axioms may be deduced from them.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article axiom
Philip's Encyclopedia

Assumption used as a basis for deductive reasoning. The axiomatic method is fundamental to the philosophy of modern mathematics. It was used by...

Full text Article axiom
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

An assumption or principle, used to prove a theorem, that is itself accepted as true without proof. Some mathematicians reserve the term for...

Full text Article axiom
The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology

A principle or fundamental assumption in a theoretical system, from which other more specific propositions are derived. ...

See more from Credo