Is there any evidence that axiomatic reasoning has been used prior to Thales of Milet (624-547BC), who is generally credited for the "invention" of axioms.

In this context I understand axioms in the original interpretation as checkable facts, whose truth is beyond doubt.

The motivation for my question is the following:

Siddharta Gautoma (563-483BC) based his religion (Buddhism) on "4 Noble Truths" of which the first three are related to observable "truths beyond doubt".

So, assuming that Thales of Milet and Siddharta Gautoma developed their ideas independently, it seems likely that the idea of basing arguments on checkable "truths beyond doubt", has been around for some time and may also have been in use in other cultures.

To clarify: I am not interested in religious debates; therefore I did not list the Noble Truths of Buddhism.

  • $\begingroup$ Why would a "truth beyond doubt" require checking? $\endgroup$ – Steven Landsburg Jul 19 '13 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ Because there are skeptics everywhere. Some of them came together in groups and formed mathematics departments. Others formed boards of education. I'm sure you've encountered similar groups. (No, I'm not from Missouri.) $\endgroup$ – The Masked Avenger Jul 19 '13 at 21:56
  • $\begingroup$ It seems clear to me that you will a) either find second or third hand evidence, e.g. some 12th century Arab scholar talking about a writing a couple of millenia old, or b) you will have to glean inferences from artifacts of that age. I would choose b) and start with whatever tax records there were from that era, or whatever records used algebra in whatever form. Good luck. $\endgroup$ – The Masked Avenger Jul 19 '13 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ Also, the Vedanta are based on some old discoveries. You might check with scholars of ancient Indian history. $\endgroup$ – The Masked Avenger Jul 19 '13 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ Unless you are interested in the use of axiomatic reasoning in mathematics (which doesn't seem to be the case) I think this question is more suitable for Philosophy or History. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 20 '13 at 4:32

You'll find an extensive overview of early uses of the axiomatic method in Axiomatic Philosophy, by Pritam Sen (1996). One of the earliest sources is the Upanishad of the Hindu faith, written in the period 1000-500 BC.


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