Closure: the discussion of the 1880s

Part of the Science Networks. Historical Studies book series (SNHS, volume 37)


Among philosophers, Venus’ lack of a moon came to attract attention when the German mathematician-philosopher Gottlob Frege in 1884 published Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik. The foundation of arithmetics has nothing to do with either planets or moons, but Frege happened to use the moonless Venus to express the meaning of the number zero: “If I say ‘Venus has 0 moons,’ there simply does not exist any moon or agglomeration of moons for anything to be asserted of; ... a property is assigned to the concept ‘moon of Venus,’ namely that of including nothing under it.”1 Frege wanted to emphasize that zero is a property not of any object, but of a concept. Of course, in the present context this is merely a curiosity. There is no reason to assume that Frege had any interest in Venus’ moon as a possible astronomical body. On the other hand, it is permissible to speculate that his example reflected the contemporary discussion of the satellite of Venus.


Monthly Notice Lunar Satellite Optical Illusion Lunar Eclipse Royal Observatory 
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  1. 2.
    For Bertrand’s review, see below. Schjellerup 1882 was motivated by Schorr’s book to communicate the observation data from the Copenhagen Observatory.Google Scholar
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    William Herschel, the German-Danish astronomer Heinrich Louis d’Arrest (1822–1875) and a few other astronomers had searched in vain for a moon around Mars. According to d’Arrest, there was little hope of seeing a Mars satellite, should it exist (d’Arrest 1865). On the discovery, see Gingerich 1970 and Dick 1988. Earlier in the century four more moons were discovered: the moon around Neptune (William Lassell, 1846), one more Saturn moon (George P. Bond, 1848) and two more Uranus moons (William Lassell, 1851). On Hall’s discovery and its reception, see also Hall 1878 and Nature 16 (1877), pp. 397–398, 427–428.Google Scholar
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