Reliability of mathematical inference

Synthese 198 (8):7377-7399 (2020)
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Abstract

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 the latter. This essay describes some of the ways that mathematical practice makes it possible to reliably and robustly meet the formal standard, preserving the standard normative account while doing justice to epistemically important features of informal mathematical justification.

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