The published works of scientists often conceal the cognitive processes that led to their results. Scholars of mathematical practice must therefore seek out less obvious sources. This article analyzes a widely circulated mathematical joke, comprising a list of spurious proof types. An account is proposed in terms of argumentation schemes: stereotypical patterns of reasoning, which may be accompanied by critical questions itemizing possible lines of defeat. It is argued that humor is associated with risky forms of inference, which are essential (...) to creative mathematics. The components of the joke are explicated by argumentation schemes devised for application to topic-neutral reasoning. These in turn are classified under seven headings: retroduction, citation, intuition, meta-argument, closure, generalization, and definition. Finally, the wider significance of this account for the cognitive science of mathematics is discussed. (shrink)
Ralph Johnson argues that mathematical proofs lack a dialectical tier, and thereby do not qualify as arguments. This paper argues that, despite this disavowal, Johnson’s account provides a compelling model of mathematical proof. The illative core of mathematical arguments is held to strict standards of rigour. However, compliance with these standards is itself a matter of argument, and susceptible to challenge. Hence much actual mathematical practice takes place in the dialectical tier.
This paper argues that new light may be shed on mathematical reasoning in its non-pathological forms by careful observation of its pathologies. The first section explores the application to mathematics of recent work on fallacy theory, specifically the concept of an ‘argumentation scheme’: a characteristic pattern under which many similar inferential steps may be subsumed. Fallacies may then be understood as argumentation schemes used inappropriately. The next section demonstrates how some specific mathematical fallacies may be characterized in terms of argumentation (...) schemes. The third section considers the phenomenon of correct answers which result from incorrect methods. This turns out to pose some deep questions concerning the nature of mathematical knowledge. In particular, it is argued that a satisfactory epistemology for mathematical practice must address the role of luck. (shrink)
Is it possible to distinguish communities of arguers by tracking the argumentation schemes they employ? There are many ways of relating schemes to communities, but not all are productive. Attention must be paid not only to the admissibility of schemes within a community of argumentational practice, but also to their comparative frequency. Two examples are discussed: informal mathematics, a convenient source of well-documented argumentational practice, and anthropological evidence of nonstandard reasoning.
Some authors have begun to appeal directly to studies of argumentation in their analyses of mathematical practice. These include researchers from an impressively diverse range of disciplines: not only philosophy of mathematics and argumentation theory, but also psychology, education, and computer science. This introduction provides some background to their work.
This paper considers the application to mathematical fallacies of techniques drawn from informal logic, specifically the use of ”argument schemes’. One such scheme, for Appeal to Expert Opinion, is considered in some detail.
Informal logic is a method of argument analysis which is complementary to that of formal logic, providing for the pragmatic treatment of features of argumentation which cannot be reduced to logical form. The central claim of this paper is that a more nuanced understanding of mathematical proof and discovery may be achieved by paying attention to the aspects of mathematical argumentation which can be captured by informal, rather than formal, logic. Two accounts of argumentation are considered: the pioneering work of (...) Stephen Toulmin [The uses of argument, Cambridge University Press, 1958] and the more recent studies of Douglas Walton, [e.g. The new dialectic: Conversational contexts of argument, University of Toronto Press, 1998]. The focus of both of these approaches has largely been restricted to natural language argumentation. However, Walton’s method in particular provides a fruitful analysis of mathematical proof. He offers a contextual account of argumentational strategies, distinguishing a variety of different types of dialogue in which arguments may occur. This analysis represents many different fallacious or otherwise illicit arguments as the deployment of strategies which are sometimes admissible in contexts in which they are inadmissible. I argue that mathematical proofs are deployed in a greater variety of types of dialogue than has commonly been assumed. I proceed to show that many of the important philosophical and pedagogical problems of mathematical proof arise from a failure to make explicit the type of dialogue in which the proof is introduced. (shrink)
Much work in MKM depends on the application of formal logic to mathematics. However, much mathematical knowledge is informal. Luckily, formal logic only represents one tradition in logic, specifically the modeling of inference in terms of logical form. Many inferences cannot be captured in this manner. The study of such inferences is still within the domain of logic, and is sometimes called informal logic. This paper explores some of the benefits informal logic may have for the management of informal mathematical (...) knowledge. (shrink)
This paper explores some of the benefits informal logic may have for the analysis of mathematical inference. It shows how Stephen Toulmin’s pioneering treatment of defeasible argumentation may be extended to cover the more complex structure of mathematical proof. Several common proof techniques are represented, including induction, proof by cases, and proof by contradiction. Affinities between the resulting system and Imre Lakatos’s discussion of mathematical proof are then explored.
Stephen Toulmin once observed that ”it has never been customary for philosophers to pay much attention to the rhetoric of mathematical debate’ [Toulmin et al., 1979, An Introduction to Reasoning, Macmillan, London, p. 89]. Might the application of Toulmin’s layout of arguments to mathematics remedy this oversight? Toulmin’s critics fault the layout as requiring so much abstraction as to permit incompatible reconstructions. Mathematical proofs may indeed be represented by fundamentally distinct layouts. However, cases of genuine conflict characteristically reflect an underlying (...) disagreement about the nature of the proof in question. (shrink)
The relationship is explored between formal derivations, which occur in artificial languages, and mathematical proof, which occurs in natural languages. The suggestion that ordinary mathematical proofs are abbreviations or sketches of formal derivations is presumed false. The alternative suggestion that the existence of appropriate derivations in formal logical languages is a norm for ordinary rigorous mathematical proof is explored and rejected.
Philosophers have explored objective interpretations of probability mainly by considering empirical probability statements. Because of this focus, it is widely believed that the logical interpretation and the actual-frequency interpretation are unsatisfactory and the hypothetical-frequency interpretation is not much better. Probabilistic assertions in pure mathematics present a new challenge. Mathematicians prove theorems in number theory that assign probabilities. The most natural interpretation of these probabilities is that they describe actual frequencies in finite sets and limits of actual frequencies in infinite sets. (...) This interpretation vindicates part of what the logical interpretation of probability aimed to establish. (shrink)
This paper considers whether philosophy of mathematics could benefit by the introduction of some sociology. It begins by considering Lakatos's arguments that philosophy of science should be kept free of any sociology. An attempt is made to criticize these arguments, and then a positive argument is given for introducing a sociological dimension into the philosophy of mathematics. This argument is illustrated by considering Brouwer's account of numbers as mental constructions. The paper concludes with a critical discussion of Azzouni's view that (...) mathematics differs fundamentally from other social practices. (shrink)
In this paper I explore possibilities of bringing post-positivist philosophies of empirical science to bear on the dynamics of mathematical development. This is done by way of a convergent accommodation of a mathematical version of Lakatos's methodology of research programmes, and a version of Kuhn's account of scientific change that is made applicable to mathematics by cleansing it of all references to the psychology of perception. The resulting view is argued in the light of two case histories of radical conceptual (...) innovations. (shrink)
Two experiments are reported which investigate the factors that influence how persuaded mathematicians are by visual arguments. We demonstrate that if a visual argument is accompanied by a passage of text which describes the image, both research-active mathematicians and successful undergraduate mathematics students perceive it to be significantly more persuasive than if no text is given. We suggest that mathematicians’ epistemological concerns about supporting a claim using visual images are less prominent when the image is described in words. Finally we (...) suggest that empirical studies can make a useful contribution to our understanding of mathematical practice. (shrink)
In this article, we report a study in which 109 research-active mathematicians were asked to judge the validity of a purported proof in undergraduate calculus. Significant results from our study were as follows: (a) there was substantial disagreement among mathematicians regarding whether the argument was a valid proof, (b) applied mathematicians were more likely than pure mathematicians to judge the argument valid, (c) participants who judged the argument invalid were more confident in their judgments than those who judged it valid, (...) and (d) participants who judged the argument valid usually did not change their judgment when presented with a reason raised by other mathematicians for why the proof should be judged invalid. These findings suggest that, contrary to some claims in the literature, there is not a single standard of validity among contemporary mathematicians. (shrink)
Contemporary philosophy of mathematics offers us an embarrassment of riches. Among the major areas of work one could list developments of the classical foundational programs, analytic approaches to epistemology and ontology of mathematics, and developments at the intersection of history and philosophy of mathematics. But anyone familiar with contemporary philosophy of mathematics will be aware of the need for new approaches that pay closer attention to mathematical practice. This book is the first attempt to give a coherent and unified presentation (...) of this new wave of work in philosophy of mathematics. The new approach is innovative at least in two ways. First, it holds that there are important novel characteristics of contemporary mathematics that are just as worthy of philosophical attention as the distinction between constructive and non-constructive mathematics at the time of the foundational debates. Secondly, it holds that many topics which escape purely formal logical treatment - such as visualization, explanation, and understanding - can nonetheless be subjected to philosophical analysis. -/- The Philosophy of Mathematical Practice comprises an introduction by the editor and eight chapters written by some of the leading scholars in the field. Each chapter consists of short introduction to the general topic of the chapter followed by a longer research article in the area. The eight topics selected represent a broad spectrum of contemporary philosophical reflection on different aspects of mathematical practice: diagrammatic reasoning and representation systems; visualization; mathematical explanation; purity of methods; mathematical concepts; the philosophical relevance of category theory; philosophical aspects of computer science in mathematics; the philosophical impact of recent developments in mathematical physics. (shrink)
The seventeenth century saw dramatic advances in mathematical theory and practice. With the recovery of many of the classical Greek mathematical texts, new techniques were introduced, and within 100 years, the rules of analytic geometry, geometry of indivisibles, arithmatic of infinites, and calculus were developed. Although many technical studies have been devoted to these innovations, Mancosu provides the first comprehensive account of the relationship between mathematical advances of the seventeenth century and the philosophy of mathematics of the period. Starting with (...) the Renaissance debates on the certainty of mathematics, Mancosu leads the reader through the foundational issues raised by the emergence of these new mathematical techniques, including the influence of the Aristotelian conception of science in Cavalieri and Guldin, the foundational relevance of Descartes' Geometrie, the relation between geometrical and epistemological theories of the infinite, and the Leibnizian calculus and the opposition to infinitesimalist procedures. In the process Mancosu draws a sophisticated picture of the subtle dependencies between technical development and philosophical reflection in seventeenth century mathematics. (shrink)
In this paper I show that proofs by contradiction were a serious problem in seventeenth century mathematics and philosophy. Their status was put into question and positive mathematical developments emerged from such reflections. I analyse how mathematics, logic, and epistemology are intertwined in the issue at hand. The mathematical part describes Cavalieri's and Guldin's mathematical programmes of providing a development of parts of geometry free of proofs by contradiction. The logical part shows how the traditional Aristotelean doctrine that perfect demonstrations (...) are causal demonstrations influenced the reflection on proofs by contradiction. The main protagonist of this part is Wallis. Finally, I analyse some epistemological developments arising from the Cartesian tradition. In particular, I look at Arnauld's programme of providing an epistemologically motivated reformulation of Geometry free of proofs by contradiction. The conclusion explains in which sense these epistemological reflections can be compared with those informing contemporary intuitionism. (shrink)
The canonical history of mathematics suggests that the late 19th-century “arithmetization” of calculus marked a shift away from spatial-dynamic intuitions, grounding concepts in static, rigorous definitions. Instead, we argue that mathematicians, both historically and currently, rely on dynamic conceptualizations of mathematical concepts like continuity, limits, and functions. In this article, we present two studies of the role of dynamic conceptual systems in expert proof. The first is an analysis of co-speech gesture produced by mathematics graduate students while proving a theorem, (...) which reveals a reliance on dynamic conceptual resources. The second is a cognitive-historical case study of an incident in 19th-century mathematics that suggests a functional role for such dynamism in the reasoning of the renowned mathematician Augustin Cauchy. Taken together, these two studies indicate that essential concepts in calculus that have been defined entirely in abstract, static terms are nevertheless conceptualized dynamically, in both contemporary and historical practice. (shrink)
In this paper, we try to establish that some mathematical theories, like K-theory, homology, cohomology, homotopy theories, spectral sequences, modern Galois theory (in its various applications), representation theory and character theory, etc., should be thought of as (abstract) machines in the same way that there are (concrete) machines in the natural sciences. If this is correct, then many epistemological and ontological issues in the philosophy of mathematics are seen in a different light. We concentrate on one problem which immediately follows (...) the recognition of the particular status of these theories: the demarcation problem between ‘natural kinds’ and ‘artefacts’. (shrink)
The thirty year long friendship between Imre Lakatos and the classic scholar and historian of mathematics Árpád Szabó had a considerable influence on the ideas, scholarly career and personal life of both scholars. After recalling some relevant facts from their lives, this paper will investigate Szabó's works about the history of pre-Euclidean mathematics and its philosophy. We can find many similarities with Lakatos' philosophy of mathematics and science, both in the self-interpretation of early axiomatic Greek mathematics as Szabó reconstructs it, (...) and in the general overview Szabó provides us about the turn from the intuitive methods of Greek mathematicians to the strict axiomatic method of Euclid's Elements. As a conclusion, I will argue that the correct explanation of these similarities is that in their main works they developed ideas they had in common from the period of intimate intellectual contact in Hungarian academic life in the mid-twentieth century. In closing, I will recall some relevant features of this background that deserve further research. (shrink)
Diagrams are ubiquitous in mathematics. From the most elementary class to the most advanced seminar, in both introductory textbooks and professional journals, diagrams are present, to introduce concepts, increase understanding, and prove results. They thus fulfill a variety of important roles in mathematical practice. Long overlooked by philosophers focused on foundational and ontological issues, these roles have come to receive attention in the past two decades, a trend in line with the growing philosophical interest in actual mathematical practice.
Breathing fresh air into the philosophy of mathematics Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9470-8 Authors Marco Panza, IHPST, 13, rue du Four, 75006 Paris, France Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
The last century has seen many disciplines place a greater priority on understanding how people reason in a particular domain, and several illuminating theories of informal logic and argumentation have been developed. Perhaps owing to their diverse backgrounds, there are several connections and overlapping ideas between the theories, which appear to have been overlooked. We focus on Peirce’s development of abductive reasoning , Toulmin’s argumentation layout , Lakatos’s theory of reasoning in mathematics , Pollock’s notions of counterexample , and argumentation (...) schemes constructed by Walton et al. , and explore some connections between, as well as within, the theories. For instance, we investigate Peirce’s abduction to deal with surprising situations in mathematics, represent Pollock’s examples in terms of Toulmin’s layout, discuss connections between Toulmin’s layout and Walton’s argumentation schemes, and suggest new argumentation schemes to cover the sort of reasoning that Lakatos describes, in which arguments may be accepted as faulty, but revised, rather than being accepted or rejected. We also consider how such theories may apply to reasoning in mathematics: in particular, we aim to build on ideas such as Dove’s , which help to show ways in which the work of Lakatos fits into the informal reasoning community. (shrink)
We describe recent developments in research on mathematical practice and cognition and outline the nine contributions in this special issue of topiCS. We divide these contributions into those that address (a) mathematical reasoning: patterns, levels, and evaluation; (b) mathematical concepts: evolution and meaning; and (c) the number concept: representation and processing.
We argue that there are mutually beneficial connections to be made between ideas in argumentation theory and the philosophy of mathematics, and that these connections can be suggested via the process of producing computational models of theories in these domains. We discuss Lakatos’s work (Proofs and Refutations, 1976) in which he championed the informal nature of mathematics, and our computational representation of his theory. In particular, we outline our representation of Cauchy’s proof of Euler’s conjecture, in which we use work (...) by Haggith on argumentation structures, and identify connections between these structures and Lakatos’s methods. (shrink)
In Plato's Phaedrus, Socrates offers two speeches, the first portraying madness as mere disease, the second celebrating madness as divine inspiration. Each speech is correct, says Socrates, though neither is complete. The two kinds of madness are like the left and right sides of a living body: no account that focuses on just one half can be adequate. In a recent paper, Hugh Benson gives a left-handed speech about a psychic condition endemic among mathematicians: dianoia. Benson acknowledges that his account (...) is one-sided, but only hints at the virtues of right-handed dianoia. This note sketches a somewhat fuller picture. (shrink)
In a recent article, Azzouni has argued in favor of a version of formalism according to which ordinary mathematical proofs indicate mechanically checkable derivations. This is taken to account for the quasi-universal agreement among mathematicians on the validity of their proofs. Here, the author subjects these claims to a critical examination, recalls the technical details about formalization and mechanical checking of proofs, and illustrates the main argument with aanalysis of examples. In the author's view, much of mathematical reasoning presents genuine (...) meaning-dependent mathematical characteristics that cannot be captured by formal calculi. ‘…there is a conflict between mathematical practice and the formalist doctrine.’ [Kreisel, 1969, p. 39]. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue against Penelope Maddy's set-theoretic realism by arguing (1) that it is perfectly consistent with mathematical Platonism to deny that there is a fact of the matter concerning statements which are independent of the axioms of set theory, and that (2) denying this accords further that many contemporary Platonists assert that there is a fact of the matter because they are closet foundationalists, and that their brand of foundationalism is in radical conflict with actual mathematical practice.
In this paper it is argued that the fundamental difference of the formal and the informal position in the philosophy of mathematics results from the collision of an object and a process centric perspective towards mathematics. This collision can be overcome by means of dialectical analysis, which shows that both perspectives essentially depend on each other. This is illustrated by the example of mathematical proof and its formal and informal nature. A short overview of the employed materialist dialectical approach is (...) given that rationalises mathematical development as a process of model production. It aims at placing more emphasis on the application aspects of mathematical results. Moreover, it is shown how such production realises subjective capacities as well as objective conditions, where the latter are mediated by mathematical formalism. The approach is further sustained by Polanyi’s theory of problem solving and Stegmaier’s philosophy of orientation. In particular, the tool and application perspective illuminates which role computer-based proofs can play in mathematics. (shrink)
On the basis of a wide range of historical examples various features of axioms are discussed in relation to their use in mathematical practice. A very general framework for this discussion is provided, and it is argued that axioms can play many roles in mathematics and that viewing them as self-evident truths does not do justice to the ways in which mathematicians employ axioms. Possible origins of axioms and criteria for choosing axioms are also examined. The distinctions introduced aim at (...) clarifying discussions in philosophy of mathematics and contributing towards a more refined view of mathematical practice. (shrink)