Proofs and pictures

Everyone appreciates a clever mathematical picture, but the prevailing attitude is one of scepticism: diagrams, illustrations, and pictures prove nothing; they are psychologically important and heuristically useful, but only a traditional verbal/symbolic proof provides genuine evidence for a purported theorem. Like some other recent writers (Barwise and Etchemendy [1991]; Shin [1994]; and Giaquinto [1994]) I take a different view and argue, from historical considerations and some striking examples, for a positive evidential role for pictures in mathematics.
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/48.2.161
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Richard Arthur (1999). On Thought Experiments as a Priori Science. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 13 (3):215 – 229.

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