„In order to see the difference which exists between… studies,—for instance, history and geometry, it will be useful to ask how we come by knowledge in each. Suppose, for example, we feel certain of a fact related in history… if we apply the notions of evidence which every-day experience justifies us in entertaining, we feel that the improbability of the contrary compels us to take refuge in the belief of the fact; and, if we allow that there is still a possibility of its falsehood, it is because this supposition does not involve absolute absurdity, but only extreme improbability.
In mathematics the case is wholly different… and the difference consists in this—that, instead of showing the contrary of the proposition asserted to be only improbable, it proves it at once to be absurd and impossible. This is done by showing that the contrary of the proposition which is asserted is in direct contradiction to some extremely evident fact, of the truth of which our eyes and hands convince us. In geometry, of the principles alluded to, those which are most commonly used are—
I. If a magnitude is divided into parts, the whole is greater than either of those parts.
II. Two straight lines cannot inclose a space.
III. Through one point only one straight line can be drawn, which never meets another straight line, or which is parallel to it.
It is on such principles as these that the whole of geometry is founded, and the demonstration of every proposition consists in proving the contrary of it to be inconsistent with one of these.“
— Augustus De Morgan British mathematician, philosopher and university teacher (1806-1871) 1806 - 1871
On the Study and Difficulties of Mathematics (1831)