- type theory is a principle focus of modern computer science,
- its origins are in Bertrand Russel's theory of types,
- Principia Mathematica is both the origin of and is expressed in the theory of types, and
- relational databases are among the highest value, most researched applications of computer science
it seems Russell's "Relation Arithmetic"* (developed in Principia Mathematica Part IV "Relation Arithmetic") would be an active field of study in modern computer science.
In "My Philosophical Development", of Principia Mathematica Part IV "Relation Arithmetic", Bertrand Russell laments:
"I think relation-arithmetic important, not only as an interesting generalization, but because it supplies a symbolic technique required for dealing with structure. It has seemed to me that those who are not familiar with mathematical logic find great difficulty in understanding what is meant by 'structure', and, owing to this difficulty, are apt to go astray in attempting to understand the empirical world[emphasis JAB]. For this reason, if for no other, I am sorry that the theory of relation-arithmetic has been largely unnoticed."
Is Russell's theory of relation-arithmetic still largely unnoticed even in modern computer science based on type theory, despite the critical role computers play in bringing mathematical understanding of the empirical world into practical use? If so, why?
*A good, informal, introduction to relation-arithmetic is in Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, by Bertrand Russell. One must first understand Russell's abstract definition of "number", drawn from Frege (Chapter II "DEFINITION OF NUMBER"). Then one can proceed to Chapter VI "SIMILARITY OF RELATIONS" where he defines relation-arithmetic.
Briefly, there are no "sets" in the sense we think of "set theory" -- there are only "relations" which may be "similar" to one another. All relations that are "similar" to one another comprise a "relation number". Similarity between two relations, P and Q, obtains if there is a one-to-one correspondence between the relata of P and the relata of Q such that if a relationship holds in P, the relationship also holds in Q between its corresponding relata. One can even think of ordinary numbers as relation numbers if one restricts the relations to one place relations (monadic/unary/property/etc.). I emphasize this because although Russell uses the word "class similarity" rather than "relation similarity" in Chapter II, it is apparent that he considers "class" to be a degenerate case of "relation" when one carefully reads Chapter IV. Because of this, and the fact that type theory is considered an alternate foundation for mathematics used in computer science, it may be incorrect to dismiss relation-arithmetic as a degenerate case of category theory or some other more complex mathematical structure in which it may be encoded or modeled. Such modeling or encoding should be the other way around.
"Relation numbers", thus defined, are then defined to have the ordinary arithmetic operators, addition, multiplication and even exponentiation.