On the representational role of Euclidean diagrams: representing qua samples

Synthese 199 (1-2):3739-3760 (2021)

Abstract

We advance a theory of the representational role of Euclidean diagrams according to which they are samples of co-exact features. We contrast our theory with two other conceptions, the instantial conception and Macbeth’s iconic view, with respect to how well they accommodate three fundamental constraints on theories of the Euclidean diagrammatic practice— that Euclidean diagrams are used in proofs whose results are wholly general, that Euclidean diagrams indicate the co-exact features that the geometer is allowed to infer from them and that Euclidean diagrams play the same role in both direct proofs and indirect proofs by reductio—and argue that our view is the one best suited to account for them. We conclude by illustrating the virtues of our conception of Euclidean diagrams as samples by means of an analysis of Saccheri’s quadrilateral.

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