An enhanced argument for innate elementary geometric knowledge and its philosophical implications

In Bart Van Kerkhove (ed.), New perspectives on mathematical practices. Essays in philosophy and history of mathematics. World Scientific (2007)
The idea that formal geometry derives from intuitive notions of space has appeared in many guises, most notably in Kant’s argument from geometry. Kant claimed that an a priori knowledge of spatial relationships both allows and constrains formal geometry: it serves as the actual source of our cognition of principles of geometry and as a basis for its further cultural development. The development of non-Euclidean geometries, however, seemed to definitely undermine the idea that there is some privileged relationship between our spatial intuitions and mathematical theory. This paper’s aim is to look at this longstanding philosophical issue through the lens of cognitive science. Drawing on recent evidence from cognitive ethology, developmental psychology, neuroscience and anthropology, I argue for an enhanced, more informed version of the argument from geometry: humans share with other species evolved, innate intuitions of space which serve as a vital precondition for geometry as a formal science.
Keywords argument from geometry  mathematical cognition  mathematical intuition
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