Visual thinking in mathematics • by Marcus Giaquinto

Analysis 69 (2):401-403 (2009)
Our visual experience seems to suggest that no continuous curve can cover every point of the unit square, yet in the late 19th century Giuseppe Peano proved that such a curve exists. Examples like this, particularly in analysis received much attention in the 19th century. They helped to instigate what Hans Hahn called a ‘crisis of intuition’, wherein visual reasoning in mathematics came to be thought to be epistemically problematic. Hahn described this ‘crisis’ as follows : " Mathematicians had for a long time made use of supposedly geometric evidence as a means of proof in much too naive and much too uncritical a way, till the unclarities and mistakes that arose as a result forced a turnabout. Geometrical intuition was now declared to be inadmissible as a means of proof … "Avoiding geometrical evidence, Hahn continued, mathematicians aware of this crisis pursued what he called ‘logicization’, ‘when the discipline requires nothing but purely logical fundamental concepts and propositions for its development’. On this view, an epistemically ideal mathematics would minimize, or avoid altogether, appeals …
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DOI 10.1093/analys/anp030
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