About this topic
Summary

Philosophy of mathematical practice is a branch of philosophy of mathematics starting with the assumption that mathematics is not only a body of eternal truths, but also a human activity with its specific dynamics of change and history.  By observing a wide range of mathematical practices, including advanced practices, questions beyond foundations and access to abstract objects arise. Examples of such questions are: Why do mathematicians reprove a theorem which already has an accepted proof?  When is a proof explanatory? What is mathematical understanding? What are the epistemic roles of diagrams and visualization in mathematics?  How did certain mathematical concepts evolve over time? These questions tend to admit localized answers, specific to certain contexts, rather than applying for all mathematics. In recent years, researchers have been accumulating detailed case studies to answer them.  Moreover, interdisciplinary endeavours have been pursued, bringing together not only philosophers and historians, but also cognitive scientists, sociologist, anthropologists, mathematics education researchers, and computer scientists.

Key works

The collection Mancosu 2008 contains an important sample of articles on the philosophy of mathematical practice.  For a more interdisciplinary collection, in which issues in sociology of mathematics and mathematical education are also included, see Van Bendegem & van Kerkhove 2007. Book length studies are Corfield 2003, Ferreiros 2016, and Wagner 2017.

Introductions

The introduction of Mancosu 2008 is very informative and clarifies the position of philosophy of mathematical practice in the landscape of philosophy of mathematics. For general descriptions of different approaches on mathematical practice, see Van Bendegem 2014. A recent survey article is Carter 2019.

Related categories

287 found
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1 — 50 / 287
  1. Reliability of Mathematical Inference.Jeremy Avigad - forthcoming - Synthese:1-23.
    Of all the demands that mathematics imposes on its practitioners, one of the most fundamental is that proofs ought to be correct. It has been common since the turn of the twentieth century to take correctness to be underwritten by the existence of formal derivations in a suitable axiomatic foundation, but then it is hard to see how this normative standard can be met, given the differences between informal proofs and formal derivations, and given the inherent fragility and complexity of (...)
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  2. Bolzano’s Mathematical Infinite.Anna Bellomo & Guillaume Massas - forthcoming - Review of Symbolic Logic:1-80.
    Bernard Bolzano (1781-1848) is commonly thought to have attempted to develop a theory of size for infinite collections that follows the so-called part-whole principle, according to which the whole is always greater than any of its proper parts. In this paper, we develop a novel interpretation of Bolzano's mature theory of the infinite and show that, contrary to mainstream interpretations, it is best understood as a theory of infinite sums. Our formal results show that Bolzano's infinite sums can be equipped (...)
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  3. Reconciling Rigor and Intuition.Silvia De Toffoli - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-20.
    Criteria of acceptability for mathematical proofs are field-dependent. In topology, though not in most other domains, it is sometimes acceptable to appeal to visual intuition to support inferential steps. In previous work :829–842, 2014; Lolli, Panza, Venturi From logic to practice, Springer, Berlin, 2015; Larvor Mathematical cultures, Springer, Berlin, 2016) my co-author and I aimed at spelling out how topological proofs work on their own terms, without appealing to formal proofs which might be associated with them. In this article, I (...)
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  4. Philosophy of Mathematical Practice: A Primer for Mathematics Educators.Yacin Hamami & Rebecca Morris - forthcoming - ZDM Mathematics Education.
    In recent years, philosophical work directly concerned with the practice of mathematics has intensified, giving rise to a movement known as the philosophy of mathematical practice . In this paper we offer a survey of this movement aimed at mathematics educators. We first describe the core questions philosophers of mathematical practice investigate as well as the philosophical methods they use to tackle them. We then provide a selective overview of work in the philosophy of mathematical practice covering topics including the (...)
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  5. Plans and Planning in Mathematical Proofs.Yacin Hamami & Rebecca Lea Morris - forthcoming - Review of Symbolic Logic:1-40.
    In practice, mathematical proofs are most often the result of careful planning by the agents who produced them. As a consequence, each mathematical proof inherits a plan in virtue of the way it is produced, a plan which underlies its “architecture” or “unity”. This paper provides an account of plans and planning in the context of mathematical proofs. The approach adopted here consists in looking for these notions not in mathematical proofs themselves, but in the agents who produced them. The (...)
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  6. Mathematizing as a virtuous practice: different narratives and their consequences for mathematics education and society.Deborah Kant & Deniz Sarikaya - forthcoming - Synthese:1-25.
    There are different narratives on mathematics as part of our world, some of which are more appropriate than others. Such narratives might be of the form ‘Mathematics is useful’, ‘Mathematics is beautiful’, or ‘Mathematicians aim at theorem-credit’. These narratives play a crucial role in mathematics education and in society as they are influencing people’s willingness to engage with the subject or the way they interpret mathematical results in relation to real-world questions; the latter yielding important normative considerations. Our strategy is (...)
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  7. Giving the Value of a Variable.Richard Lawrence - forthcoming - Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy.
    What does it mean to 'give' the value of a variable in an algebraic context, and how does giving the value of a variable differ from merely describing it? I argue that to answer this question, we need to examine the role that giving the value of a variable plays in problem-solving practice. I argue that four different features are required for a statement to count as giving the value of a variable in the context of solving an elementary algebra (...)
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  8. Speech Acts in Mathematics.Marco Ruffino, Luca San Mauro & Giorgio Venturi - forthcoming - Synthese:1-25.
    We offer a novel picture of mathematical language from the perspective of speech act theory. There are distinct speech acts within mathematics, and, as we intend to show, distinct illocutionary force indicators as well. Even mathematics in its most formalized version cannot do without some such indicators. This goes against a certain orthodoxy both in contemporary philosophy of mathematics and in speech act theory. As we will comment, the recognition of distinct illocutionary acts within logic and mathematics and the incorporation (...)
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  9. Permanence as a Principle of Practice.Iulian D. Toader - 2021 - Historia Mathematica 54:77-94.
    The paper discusses Peano's defense and application of permanence as a principle of practice, and Hahn's further point that, even if it were a principle of logic, permanence would not eliminate all logical ambiguity. Dedicated to the memory of Mic Detlefsen.
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  10. Review Of Joseph C. Pitt, Heraclitus Redux: Technological Infrastructures and Scientific Change. [REVIEW]Andrew Aberdein - 2020 - Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 9 (7):18–22.
  11. Acceptable Gaps in Mathematical Proofs.Line Edslev Andersen - 2020 - Synthese 197 (1):233-247.
    Mathematicians often intentionally leave gaps in their proofs. Based on interviews with mathematicians about their refereeing practices, this paper examines the character of intentional gaps in published proofs. We observe that mathematicians’ refereeing practices limit the number of certain intentional gaps in published proofs. The results provide some new perspectives on the traditional philosophical questions of the nature of proof and of what grounds mathematical knowledge.
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  12. Modularity in Mathematics.Jeremy Avigad - 2020 - Review of Symbolic Logic 13 (1):47-79.
    In a wide range of fields, the word “modular” is used to describe complex systems that can be decomposed into smaller systems with limited interactions between them. This essay argues that mathematical knowledge can fruitfully be understood as having a modular structure and explores the ways in which modularity in mathematics is epistemically advantageous.
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  13. Proving Quadratic Reciprocity: Explanation, Disagreement, Transparency and Depth.William D'Alessandro - 2020 - Synthese:1-44.
    Gauss’s quadratic reciprocity theorem is among the most important results in the history of number theory. It’s also among the most mysterious: since its discovery in the late 18th century, mathematicians have regarded reciprocity as a deeply surprising fact in need of explanation. Intriguingly, though, there’s little agreement on how the theorem is best explained. Two quite different kinds of proof are most often praised as explanatory: an elementary argument that gives the theorem an intuitive geometric interpretation, due to Gauss (...)
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  14. Groundwork for a Fallibilist Account of Mathematics.Silvia De Toffoli - 2020 - Philosophical Quarterly:1-22.
    According to the received view, genuine mathematical justification derives from proofs. In this article, I challenge this view. First, I sketch a notion of proof that cannot be reduced to deduction from the axioms but rather is tailored to human agents. Secondly, I identify a tension between the received view and mathematical practice. In some cases, cognitively diligent, well-functioning mathematicians go wrong. In these cases, it is plausible to think that proof sets the bar for justification too high. I then (...)
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  15. “Always Mixed Together”: Notation, Language, and the Pedagogy of Frege's Begriffsschrift.David E. Dunning - 2020 - Modern Intellectual History 17 (4):1099-1131.
    Gottlob Frege is considered a founder of analytic philosophy and mathematical logic, but the traditions that claim Frege as a forebear never embraced his Begriffsschrift, or “conceptual notation”—the invention he considered his most important accomplishment. Frege believed that his notation rendered logic visually observable. Rejecting the linearity of written language, he claimed Begriffsschrift exhibited a structure endogenous to logic itself. But Frege struggled to convince others to use his notation, as his frustrated pedagogical efforts at the University of Jena illustrate. (...)
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  16. Viewing-as Explanations and Ontic Dependence.William D’Alessandro - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (3):769-792.
    According to a widespread view in metaphysics and philosophy of science, all explanations involve relations of ontic dependence between the items appearing in the explanandum and the items appearing in the explanans. I argue that a family of mathematical cases, which I call “viewing-as explanations”, are incompatible with the Dependence Thesis. These cases, I claim, feature genuine explanations that aren’t supported by ontic dependence relations. Hence the thesis isn’t true in general. The first part of the paper defends this claim (...)
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  17. Cognitive Processing of Spatial Relations in Euclidean Diagrams.Yacin Hamami, Milan N. A. van der Kuil, Ineke J. M. van der Ham & John Mumma - 2020 - Acta Psychologica 205:1--10.
    The cognitive processing of spatial relations in Euclidean diagrams is central to the diagram-based geometric practice of Euclid's Elements. In this study, we investigate this processing through two dichotomies among spatial relations—metric vs topological and exact vs co-exact—introduced by Manders in his seminal epistemological analysis of Euclid's geometric practice. To this end, we carried out a two-part experiment where participants were asked to judge spatial relations in Euclidean diagrams in a visual half field task design. In the first part, we (...)
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  18. Are Aesthetic Judgements Purely Aesthetic? Testing the Social Conformity Account.Matthew Inglis & Andrew Aberdein - 2020 - ZDM 52 (6):1127-1136.
    Many of the methods commonly used to research mathematical practice, such as analyses of historical episodes or individual cases, are particularly well-suited to generating causal hypotheses, but less well-suited to testing causal hypotheses. In this paper we reflect on the contribution that the so-called hypothetico-deductive method, with a particular focus on experimental studies, can make to our understanding of mathematical practice. By way of illustration, we report an experiment that investigated how mathematicians attribute aesthetic properties to mathematical proofs. We demonstrate (...)
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  19. Investigations Linking the Philosophy and Psychology of Mathematics.James Keller - 2020 - Dissertation, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
    Recent progress in the field of cognitive science, specifically with respect to mathematical cognition, along with the turn in the philosophy of mathematics to a focus on mathematical practice, make for a great opportunity for interdisciplinary work that brings together the cognitive science of mathematics and philosophy of mathematics. This dissertation seeks to add to recent examples of such interdisciplinary work. I discuss three somewhat self-contained topics. In chapter two, I discuss some recent work in cognitive science on the topic (...)
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  20. Proof, Explanation, and Justification in Mathematical Practice.Moti Mizrahi - 2020 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 51 (4):551-568.
    In this paper, I propose that applying the methods of data science to “the problem of whether mathematical explanations occur within mathematics itself” (Mancosu 2018) might be a fruitful way to shed new light on the problem. By carefully selecting indicator words for explanation and justification, and then systematically searching for these indicators in databases of scholarly works in mathematics, we can get an idea of how mathematicians use these terms in mathematical practice and with what frequency. The results of (...)
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  21. Intellectual generosity and the reward structure of mathematics.Rebecca Morris - 2020 - Synthese:1-23.
    Prominent mathematician William Thurston was praised by other mathematicians for his intellectual generosity. But what does it mean to say Thurston was intellectually generous? And is being intellectually generous beneficial? To answer these questions I turn to virtue epistemology and, in particular, Roberts and Wood's (2007) analysis of intellectual generosity. By appealing to Thurston's own writings and interviewing mathematicians who knew and worked with him, I argue that Roberts and Wood's analysis nicely captures the sense in which he was intellectually (...)
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  22. Motivated Proofs: What They Are, Why They Matter and How to Write Them.Rebecca Lea Morris - 2020 - Review of Symbolic Logic 13 (1):23-46.
    Mathematicians judge proofs to possess, or lack, a variety of different qualities, including, for example, explanatory power, depth, purity, beauty and fit. Philosophers of mathematical practice have begun to investigate the nature of such qualities. However, mathematicians frequently draw attention to another desirable proof quality: being motivated. Intuitively, motivated proofs contain no "puzzling" steps, but they have received little further analysis. In this paper, I begin a philosophical investigation into motivated proofs. I suggest that a proof is motivated if and (...)
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  23. Formal Semantics and Applied Mathematics: An Inferential Account.Ryan M. Nefdt - 2020 - Journal of Logic, Language and Information 29 (2):221-253.
    In this paper, I utilise the growing literature on scientific modelling to investigate the nature of formal semantics from the perspective of the philosophy of science. Specifically, I incorporate the inferential framework proposed by Bueno and Colyvan : 345–374, 2011) in the philosophy of applied mathematics to offer an account of how formal semantics explains and models its data. This view produces a picture of formal semantic models as involving an embedded process of inference and representation applying indirectly to linguistic (...)
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  24. Mathematical Cognition and Enculturation: Introduction to the Synthese Special Issue.Markus Pantsar - 2020 - Synthese 197 (9):3647-3655.
  25. Using Crowdsourced Mathematics to Understand Mathematical Practice.Alison Pease, Ursula Martin, Fenner Stanley Tanswell & Andrew Aberdein - 2020 - ZDM 52 (6):1087-1098.
    Records of online collaborative mathematical activity provide us with a novel, rich, searchable, accessible and sizeable source of data for empirical investigations into mathematical practice. In this paper we discuss how the resources of crowdsourced mathematics can be used to help formulate and answer questions about mathematical practice, and what their limitations might be. We describe quantitative approaches to studying crowdsourced mathematics, reviewing work from cognitive history (comparing individual and collaborative proofs); social psychology (on the prospects for a measure of (...)
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  26. Epistemic injustice in mathematics.Colin Jakob Rittberg, Fenner Stanley Tanswell & Jean Paul Van Bendegem - 2020 - Synthese 197 (9):3875-3904.
    We investigate how epistemic injustice can manifest itself in mathematical practices. We do this as both a social epistemological and virtue-theoretic investigation of mathematical practices. We delineate the concept both positively—we show that a certain type of folk theorem can be a source of epistemic injustice in mathematics—and negatively by exploring cases where the obstacles to participation in a mathematical practice do not amount to epistemic injustice. Having explored what epistemic injustice in mathematics can amount to, we use the concept (...)
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  27. Pasch's Empiricism as Methodological Structuralism.Dirk Schlimm - 2020 - In Erich Reck & Georg Schiemer (eds.), The Pre-History of Mathematical Structuralism. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 80-105.
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  28. Mathematical Monsters.Andrew Aberdein - 2019 - In Diego Compagna & Stefanie Steinhart (eds.), Monsters, Monstrosities, and the Monstrous in Culture and Society. Wilmington, DE, USA: pp. 391-412.
    Monsters lurk within mathematical as well as literary haunts. I propose to trace some pathways between these two monstrous habitats. I start from Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s influential account of monster culture and explore how well mathematical monsters fit each of his seven theses. The mathematical monsters I discuss are drawn primarily from three distinct but overlapping domains. Firstly, late nineteenth-century mathematicians made numerous unsettling discoveries that threatened their understanding of their own discipline and challenged their intuitions. The great French mathematician (...)
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  29. Evidence, Proofs, and Derivations.Andrew Aberdein - 2019 - ZDM 51 (5):825-834.
    The traditional view of evidence in mathematics is that evidence is just proof and proof is just derivation. There are good reasons for thinking that this view should be rejected: it misrepresents both historical and current mathematical practice. Nonetheless, evidence, proof, and derivation are closely intertwined. This paper seeks to tease these concepts apart. It emphasizes the role of argumentation as a context shared by evidence, proofs, and derivations. The utility of argumentation theory, in general, and argumentation schemes, in particular, (...)
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  30. Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics.Andrew Aberdein & Matthew Inglis (eds.) - 2019 - London: Bloomsbury Academic.
    This book explores the results of applying empirical methods to the philosophy of logic and mathematics. Much of the work that has earned experimental philosophy a prominent place in twenty-first century philosophy is concerned with ethics or epistemology. But, as this book shows, empirical methods are just as much at home in logic and the philosophy of mathematics. -/- Chapters demonstrate and discuss the applicability of a wide range of empirical methods including experiments, surveys, interviews, and data-mining. Distinct themes emerge (...)
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  31. Introduction.Andrew Aberdein & Matthew Inglis - 2019 - In Andrew Aberdein & Matthew Inglis (eds.), Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 1-13.
    There has been little overt discussion of the experimental philosophy of logic or mathematics. So it may be tempting to assume that application of the methods of experimental philosophy to these areas is impractical or unavailing. This assumption is undercut by three trends in recent research: a renewed interest in historical antecedents of experimental philosophy in philosophical logic; a “practice turn” in the philosophies of mathematics and logic; and philosophical interest in a substantial body of work in adjacent disciplines, such (...)
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  32. Philosophy of Mathematical Practice — Motivations, Themes and Prospects.Jessica Carter - 2019 - Philosophia Mathematica 27 (1):1-32.
    ABSTRACT A number of examples of studies from the field ‘The Philosophy of Mathematical Practice’ are given. To characterise this new field, three different strands are identified: an agent-based, a historical, and an epistemological PMP. These differ in how they understand ‘practice’ and which assumptions lie at the core of their investigations. In the last part a general framework, capturing some overall structure of the field, is proposed.
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  33. Explanation in Mathematics: Proofs and Practice.William D'Alessandro - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 14 (11).
    Mathematicians distinguish between proofs that explain their results and those that merely prove. This paper explores the nature of explanatory proofs, their role in mathematical practice, and some of the reasons why philosophers should care about them. Among the questions addressed are the following: what kinds of proofs are generally explanatory (or not)? What makes a proof explanatory? Do all mathematical explanations involve proof in an essential way? Are there really such things as explanatory proofs, and if so, how do (...)
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  34. Teaching and Learning Guide For: Explanation in Mathematics: Proofs and Practice.William D'Alessandro - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 14 (11).
    This is a teaching and learning guide to accompany "Explanation in Mathematics: Proofs and Practice".
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  35. The Beauty (?) of Mathematical Proofs.Catarina Dutilh Novaes - 2019 - In Andrew Aberdein & Matthew Inglis (eds.), Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics. London: Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 63-93.
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  36. La Scoperta Scientifica: Rinascita e Raffinamento dei Metodi.Emiliano Ippoliti - 2019 - In Stefano Velotti & Luigi Conti (eds.), Gli strumenti del Pensier. Rome: Laterza. pp. 935-964.
    (ENG) The paper examines the main approaches developed in the XIX and XX century to account for the way scientific discover unfolds. -/- (ITA) L'articolo esamina le principali teorie filosofico-scientifiche elaborate nell'800 e nle '900 per render conto dei processi di scoperta scientifica.
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  37. La scoperta scientifica: la ricerca di un metodo e il suo smarrimento.Emiliano Ippoliti - 2019 - In Stefano Velotti & Luigi Conti (eds.), Strumenti del Pensiero. Vol. 2. Rome: Laterza. pp. 935-964.
    (ENG) The paper examines the first attempts put forward in ancient Greek to build a method for scientific discovery and how they have been progressively neglected. -/- (ITA) L'articolo esamina i primi tentativi effettuati nell'antica grecia di costruire un metodo della scoperta scientifica, e analizza le ragioni che hanno portato al suo progessivo abbandono.
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  38. Interview With a Set Theorist.Deborah Kant & Mirna Džamonja - 2019 - In Stefania Centrone, Deborah Kant & Deniz Sarikaya (eds.), Reflections on the Foundations of Mathematics. Springer Verlag. pp. 3-26.
    The status of independent statements is the main problem in the philosophy of set theory. We address this problem by presenting the perspective of a practising set theorist. We thus give an authentic insight in the current state of thinking in set-theoretic practice, which is to a large extent determined by independence results. During several meetings, the second author asked the first author about the development of forcing, the use of new axioms and set-theoretic intuition on independence. Parts of these (...)
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  39. Do Mathematical Explanations Have Instrumental Value?Rebecca Lea Morris - 2019 - Synthese (2):1-20.
    Scientific explanations are widely recognized to have instrumental value by helping scientists make predictions and control their environment. In this paper I raise, and provide a first analysis of, the question whether explanatory proofs in mathematics have analogous instrumental value. I first identify an important goal in mathematical practice: reusing resources from existing proofs to solve new problems. I then consider the more specific question: do explanatory proofs have instrumental value by promoting reuse of the resources they contain? In general, (...)
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  40. Explanation in Mathematical Conversations: An Empirical Investigation.Alison Pease, Andrew Aberdein & Ursula Martin - 2019 - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 377.
    Analysis of online mathematics forums can help reveal how explanation is used by mathematicians; we contend that this use of explanation may help to provide an informal conceptualization of simplicity. We extracted six conjectures from recent philosophical work on the occurrence and characteristics of explanation in mathematics. We then tested these conjectures against a corpus derived from online mathematical discussions. To this end, we employed two techniques, one based on indicator terms, the other on a random sample of comments lacking (...)
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  41. Independence of the Grossone-Based Infinity Methodology From Non-Standard Analysis and Comments Upon Logical Fallacies in Some Texts Asserting the Opposite.Yaroslav D. Sergeyev - 2019 - Foundations of Science 24 (1):153-170.
    This paper considers non-standard analysis and a recently introduced computational methodology based on the notion of ①. The latter approach was developed with the intention to allow one to work with infinities and infinitesimals numerically in a unique computational framework and in all the situations requiring these notions. Non-standard analysis is a classical purely symbolic technique that works with ultrafilters, external and internal sets, standard and non-standard numbers, etc. In its turn, the ①-based methodology does not use any of these (...)
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  42. Redefining Revolutions.Andrew Aberdein - 2018 - In Moti Mizrahi (ed.), The Kuhnian image of science: Time for a decisive transformation? London: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 133–154.
    In their account of theory change in logic, Aberdein and Read distinguish 'glorious' from 'inglorious' revolutions--only the former preserves all 'the key components of a theory' [1]. A widespread view, expressed in these terms, is that empirical science characteristically exhibits inglorious revolutions but that revolutions in mathematics are at most glorious [2]. Here are three possible responses: 0. Accept that empirical science and mathematics are methodologically discontinuous; 1. Argue that mathematics can exhibit inglorious revolutions; 2. Deny that inglorious revolutions are (...)
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  43. The ‘Miracle’ of Applicability? The Curious Case of the Simple Harmonic Oscillator.Sorin Bangu & Robert H. C. Moir - 2018 - Foundations of Physics 48 (5):507-525.
    The paper discusses to what extent the conceptual issues involved in solving the simple harmonic oscillator model fit Wigner’s famous point that the applicability of mathematics borders on the miraculous. We argue that although there is ultimately nothing mysterious here, as is to be expected, a careful demonstration that this is so involves unexpected difficulties. Consequently, through the lens of this simple case we derive some insight into what is responsible for the appearance of mystery in more sophisticated examples of (...)
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  44. Mathematical Knowledge and the Interplay of Practices. [REVIEW]María de Paz - 2018 - Philosophical Quarterly 68 (271):406-408.
    Mathematical Knowledge and the Interplay of Practices. By Ferreirós José.
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  45. Arithmetic, Set Theory, Reduction and Explanation.William D’Alessandro - 2018 - Synthese 195 (11):5059-5089.
    Philosophers of science since Nagel have been interested in the links between intertheoretic reduction and explanation, understanding and other forms of epistemic progress. Although intertheoretic reduction is widely agreed to occur in pure mathematics as well as empirical science, the relationship between reduction and explanation in the mathematical setting has rarely been investigated in a similarly serious way. This paper examines an important particular case: the reduction of arithmetic to set theory. I claim that the reduction is unexplanatory. In defense (...)
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  46. Roi Wagner. Making and Breaking Mathematical Sense: Histories and Philosophies of Mathematical Practice. [REVIEW]José Ferreirós - 2018 - Philosophia Mathematica 26 (1):131-136.
    © The Authors [2018]. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.comIs mathematics a reflection of some already-given realm? It would not matter whether we are talking about the empirical world in a Millian way, or the domain of a priori truths in Leibnizian or maybe Kantian style, or some world of analytical truths à la Carnap. Or perhaps — could mathematics be something more, or something less, than such a reflection? Might it be human, (...)
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  47. Explanation and Abstraction From a Backward-Error Analytic Perspective.Nicolas Fillion & Robert H. C. Moir - 2018 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 8 (3):735-759.
    We argue that two powerful error-theoretic concepts provide a general framework that satisfactorily accounts for key aspects of the explanation of physical patterns. This method gives an objective criterion to determine which mathematical models in a class of neighboring models are just as good as the exact one. The method also emphasizes that abstraction is essential for explanation and provides a precise conceptual framework that determines whether a given abstraction is explanatorily relevant and justified. Hence, it increases our epistemological understanding (...)
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  48. Manipulative Imagination: How to Move Things Around in Mathematics.Valeria Giardino - 2018 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 33 (2):345-360.
    In the first part of the paper, previous work about embodied mathematics and the practice of topology will be presented. According to the proposed view, in order to become experts, topologists have to learn how to use manipulative imagination: representations are cognitive tools whose functioning depends from pre-existing cognitive abilities and from specific training. In the second part of the paper, the notion of imagination as “make-believe” is discussed to give an account of cognitive tools in mathematics as props; to (...)
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  49. Tools for Thought: The Case of Mathematics.Valeria Giardino - 2018 - Endeavour 2 (42):172-179.
    The objective of this article is to take into account the functioning of representational cognitive tools, and in particular of notations and visualizations in mathematics. In order to explain their functioning, formulas in algebra and logic and diagrams in topology will be presented as case studies and the notion of manipulative imagination as proposed in previous work will be discussed. To better characterize the analysis, the notions of material anchor and representational affordance will be introduced.
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  50. Why ‘Scaffolding’ is the Wrong Metaphor: The Cognitive Usefulness of Mathematical Representations.Brendan Larvor - 2018 - Synthese:1-14.
    The metaphor of scaffolding has become current in discussions of the cognitive help we get from artefacts, environmental affordances and each other. Consideration of mathematical tools and representations indicates that in these cases at least, scaffolding is the wrong picture, because scaffolding in good order is immobile, temporary and crude. Mathematical representations can be manipulated, are not temporary structures to aid development, and are refined. Reflection on examples from elementary algebra indicates that Menary is on the right track with his (...)
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