Logic and Philosophy of Science 9 (1):165-171 (2011)

Michele Friend
George Washington University
Andrea Pedeferri
George Washington University
We are told that there are standards of rigour in proof, and we are told that the standards have increased over the centuries. This is fairly clear. But rigour has also changed its nature. In this paper we as-sess where these changes leave us today.1 To motivate making the new assessment, we give two illustra-tions of changes in our conception of rigour. One, concerns the shift from geometry to arithmetic as setting the standard for rig-our. The other, concerns the notion of effective proof or compu-tations. To make the assessment, we look at one motivation for increasing the rigour of a mathematical argument: explicitness and honesty. We then present a standard of rigour by means of a characterisation developed with reference to what we call ‘an account-proof’. We evaluate the standard with reference to the motivation. With the analysis we discover that, regardless of the motivations for rigour, the standard is almost never met, and that the motivations are not all satisfied. It follows that, in some sense, the motivations have misfired. The misfiring suggests to us that we re-assess our notion of rigour. We think of rigour as a relative term. Moreover, the standard for rigour depends on philosophical underpinnings. The strength of the argument of this paper rests on the plausibility of our selection of motivations and on the plausibility of our standard.
Keywords Pluralism  Proof  Rigor
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References found in this work BETA

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