Diversity in proof appraisal

In Brendan Larvor (ed.), Mathematical Cultures: The London Meetings 2012--2014. Basel, Switzerland: pp. 163-179 (2016)


We investigated whether mathematicians typically agree about the qualities of mathematical proofs. Between-mathematician consensus in proof appraisals is an implicit assumption of many arguments made by philosophers of mathematics, but to our knowledge the issue has not previously been empirically investigated. We asked a group of mathematicians to assess a specific proof on four dimensions, using the framework identified by Inglis and Aberdein (2015). We found widespread disagreement between our participants about the aesthetics, intricacy, precision and utility of the proof, suggesting that a priori assumptions about the consistency of mathematical proof appraisals are unreasonable.

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Author Profiles

Andrew Aberdein
Florida Institute of Technology
Matthew Inglis
Loughborough University of Technology

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