The four-color theorem and mathematical proof

Journal of Philosophy 77 (12):803-820 (1980)
Michael Detlefsen
University of Notre Dame
I criticize a recent paper by Thomas Tymoczko in which he attributes fundamental philosophical significance and novelty to the lately-published computer-assisted proof of the four color theorem (4CT). Using reasoning precisely analogous to that employed by Tymoczko, I argue that much of traditional mathematical proof must be seen as resting on what Tymoczko must take as being "empirical" evidence. The new proof of the 4CT, with its use of what Tymoczko calls "empirical" evidence is therefore not so novel as he maintains. Finally, without attempting to give a full account of the notion of empirical mathematical evidence, I sketch a view showing how the use of calculation injects an empirical ingredient into proof.
Keywords Four-color theorem  Machine-assisted proof  Use of calculation in proofs  Tymoczko, T  computer proof  long proof
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DOI 10.2307/2025806
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Towards a Theory of Mathematical Argument.Ian J. Dove - 2009 - Foundations of Science 14 (1-2):136-152.
Towards a Theory of Mathematical Argument.Ian J. Dove - 2013 - In Andrew Aberdein & Ian J. Dove (eds.), Foundations of Science. Springer. pp. 291--308.

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