Philosophia Mathematica 14 (3):378-391 (2006)

Jean Paul Van Bendegem
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
What is philosophy of mathematics and what is it about? The most popular answer, I suppose, to this question would be that philosophers should provide a justification for our presently most cherished mathematical theories and for the most important tool to develop such theories, namely logico-mathematical proof. In fact, it does cover a large part of the activity of philosophers that think about mathematics. Discussions about the merits and faults of classical logic versus one or other ‘deviant’ logics as the logical basis for mathematical theories, ranging from intuitionist over modal logic to paraconsistent logic, typically belong to this area, as do debates about the natural-number concept, its ‘nature’, its properties, especially its uniqueness, and so on. No doubt sociologists of knowledge could explain why philosophers of mathematics came to select these particular problems and deal with them the way they do. What it does imply, however, is that the question is meaningful whether different kinds of philosophies of mathematics are possible, and—why not?—perhaps even desirable. To a certain extent, the answer is trivial: look at what, e.g., phenomenologists have to say about mathematics and you must notice it does not fit into the scheme sketched above.1 Rather, the question should be whether there are forms that, on the one hand, reinterpret the whole enterprise, and, on the other hand, somehow remain related to the work of ‘mainstream’ philosophers of mathematics today.The book under review here does precisely that. Let me be a bit more precise. The general proposal, present throughout all the contributions, is that even at a first, superficial, glance at what mathematicians do when they do mathematics, it is far more complex than ‘just thinking about and …
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DOI 10.1093/philmat/nkj020
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