Understanding, formal verification, and the philosophy of mathematics

The philosophy of mathematics has long been concerned with deter- mining the means that are appropriate for justifying claims of mathemat- ical knowledge, and the metaphysical considerations that render them so. But, as of late, many philosophers have called attention to the fact that a much broader range of normative judgments arise in ordinary math- ematical practice; for example, questions can be interesting, theorems important, proofs explanatory, concepts powerful, and so on. The as- sociated values are often loosely classied as aspects of \mathematical understanding." Meanwhile, in a branch of computer science known as \formal ver- ication," the practice of interactive theorem proving has given rise to software tools and systems designed to support the development of com- plex formal axiomatic proofs. Such eorts require one to develop models of mathematical language and inference that are more robust than the the simple foundational models of the last century. This essay explores some of the insights that emerge from this work, and some of the ways that these insights can inform, and be informed by, philosophical theories of mathematical understanding.
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