Bergen, Norway

Master's

Language: English

Subject area: economy and administration

University website: www.nhh.no/en/

Analysis is the process of breaking a complex topic or substance into smaller parts in order to gain a better understanding of it. The technique has been applied in the study of mathematics and logic since before Aristotle (384–322 B.C.), though analysis as a formal concept is a relatively recent development.

The investigation of difficult things by the method of analysis ought ever to precede the method of composition.

Isaac Newton, reported in Austin Allibone ed. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. (1903), p. 34

Now analysis is of two kinds, the one directed to searching for the truth and called theoretical, the other directed to finding what we are told to find and called problematical. (1) In the theoretical kind we assume what is sought as if it were existent and true, after which we pass through its successive consequences, as if they too were true and established by virtue of our hypothesis, to something admitted: then (a), if that something admitted is true, that which is sought will also be true and the proof will correspond in the reverse order to the analysis, but (b), if we come upon something admittedly false, that which is sought will also be false. (2) In the problematical kind we assume that which is propounded as if it were known, after which we pass through its successive consequences, taking them as true, up to something admitted: if then (a) what is admitted is possible and obtainable, that is, what mathematicians call given, what was originally proposed will also be possible, and the proof will again correspond in reverse order to the analysis, but if (b) we come upon something admittedly impossible, the problem will also be impossible.

Pappus, (c. 330 AD) as quoted by Thomas Little Heath, The Thirteen Books of Euclid's Elements (1908) Vol. 1, Ch. IX. §6.

By this way of Analysis we may proceed from Compounds to Ingredients, and from Motions to the Forces producing them; and in general, from Effects to their Causes, and from particular Causes to more general ones, till the Argument end in the most general. This is the Method of Analysis: and the Synthesis consists in assuming the Causes discover'd, and establish'd as Principles, and by them explaining the Phænomena proceeding from them, and proving the Explanations.

Isaac Newton, Opticks (1704) {pp. 380-381 in 4th edition (1730)}