In their recent paper on “Challenges in mathematical cognition”, Alcock and colleagues (Alcock et al. . Challenges in mathematical cognition: A collaboratively-derived research agenda. Journal of Numerical Cognition, 2, 20-41) defined a research agenda through 26 specific research questions. An important dimension of mathematical cognition almost completely absent from their discussion is the cultural constitution of mathematical cognition. Spanning work from a broad range of disciplines – including anthropology, archaeology, cognitive science, history of science, linguistics, philosophy, and psychology – we (...) argue that for any research agenda on mathematical cognition the cultural dimension is indispensable, and we propose a set of exemplary research questions related to it. (shrink)
Moritz Pasch (1843ber neuere Geometrie (1882), in which he also clearly formulated the view that deductions must be independent from the meanings of the nonlogical terms involved. Pasch also presented in these lectures the main tenets of his philosophy of mathematics, which he continued to elaborate on throughout the rest of his life. This philosophy is quite unique in combining a deductivist methodology with a radically empiricist epistemology for mathematics. By taking into consideration publications from the entire span of Paschs (...) highly original, but virtually unknown, philosophy of mathematics is presented. (shrink)
Vehicle externalism maintains that the vehicles of our mental representations can be located outside of the head, that is, they need not be instantiated by neurons located inside the brain of the cogniser. But some disagree, insisting that ‘non-derived’, or ‘original’, content is the mark of the cognitive and that only biologically instantiated representational vehicles can have non-derived content, while the contents of all extra-neural representational vehicles are derived and thus lie outside the scope of the cognitive. In this paper (...) we develop one aspect of Menary’s vehicle externalist theory of cognitive integration—the process of enculturation—to respond to this longstanding objection. We offer examples of how expert mathematicians introduce new symbols to represent new mathematical possibilities that are not yet understood, and we argue that these new symbols have genuine non-derived content, that is, content that is not dependent on an act of interpretation by a cognitive agent and that does not derive from conventional associations, as many linguistic representations do. (shrink)
The domain of numbers provides a paradigmatic case for investigating interactions of culture, language, and cognition: Numerical competencies are considered a core domain of knowledge, and yet the development of specifically human abilities presupposes cultural and linguistic input by way of counting sequences. These sequences constitute systems with distinct structural properties, the cross-linguistic variability of which has implications for number representation and processing. Such representational effects are scrutinized for two types of verbal numeration systems—general and object-specific ones—that were in parallel (...) use in several Oceanic languages. The analysis indicates that the object-specific systems outperform the general systems with respect to counting and mental arithmetic, largely due to their regular and more compact representation. What these findings reveal on cognitive diversity, how the conjectures involved speak to more general issues in cognitive science, and how the approach taken here might help to bridge the gap between anthropology and other cognitive sciences is discussed in the conclusion. (shrink)
On the basis of a wide range of historical examples various features of axioms are discussed in relation to their use in mathematical practice. A very general framework for this discussion is provided, and it is argued that axioms can play many roles in mathematics and that viewing them as self-evident truths does not do justice to the ways in which mathematicians employ axioms. Possible origins of axioms and criteria for choosing axioms are also examined. The distinctions introduced aim at (...) clarifying discussions in philosophy of mathematics and contributing towards a more refined view of mathematical practice. (shrink)
To analyze the task of mental arithmetic with external representations in different number systems we model algorithms for addition and multiplication with Arabic and Roman numerals. This demonstrates that Roman numerals are not only informationally equivalent to Arabic ones but also computationally similar—a claim that is widely disputed. An analysis of our models' elementary processing steps reveals intricate tradeoffs between problem representation, algorithm, and interactive resources. Our simulations allow for a more nuanced view of the received wisdom on Roman numerals. (...) While symbolic computation with Roman numerals requires fewer internal resources than with Arabic ones, the large number of needed symbols inflates the number of external processing steps. (shrink)
Well over a century after its introduction, Frege's two-dimensional Begriffsschrift notation is still considered mainly a curiosity that stands out more for its clumsiness than anything else. This paper focuses mainly on the propositional fragment of the Begriffsschrift, because it embodies the characteristic features that distinguish it from other expressively equivalent notations. In the first part, I argue for the perspicuity and readability of the Begriffsschrift by discussing several idiosyncrasies of the notation, which allow an easy conversion of logically equivalent (...) formulas, and presenting the notation's close connection to syntax trees. In the second part, Frege's considerations regarding the design principles underlying the Begriffsschrift are presented. Frege was quite explicit about these in his replies to early criticisms and unfavorable comparisons with Boole's notation for propositional logic. This discussion reveals that the Begriffsschrift is in fact a well thought-out and carefully crafted notation that intentionally exploits the possibilities afforded by the two-dimensional medium of writing like none other. (shrink)
Our epistemic access to mathematical objects, like numbers, is mediated through our external representations of them, like numerals. Nevertheless, the role of formal notations and, in particular, of the internal structure of these notations has not received much attention in philosophy of mathematics and cognitive science. While systems of number words and of numerals are often treated alike, I argue that they have crucial structural differences, and that one has to understand how the external representation works in order to form (...) an advanced conception of numbers. The relation between external representations and mathematical cognition will be discussed by drawing on experimental results from cognitive science and mathematics education, and I argue for the constitutive role of external representations for the development of an advanced conception of numbers. (shrink)
Three different ways in which systems of axioms can contribute to the discovery of new notions are presented and they are illustrated by the various ways in which lattices have been introduced in mathematics by Schröder et al. These historical episodes reveal that the axiomatic method is not only a way of systematizing our knowledge, but that it can also be used as a fruitful tool for discovering and introducing new mathematical notions. Looked at it from this perspective, the creative (...) aspect of axiomatics for mathematical practice is brought to the fore. (shrink)
Using four examples of models and computer simulations from the history of psychology, I discuss some of the methodological aspects involved in their construction and use, and I illustrate how the existence of a model can demonstrate the viability of a hypothesis that had previously been deemed impossible on a priori grounds. This shows a new way in which scientists can learn from models that extends the analysis of Morgan (1999), who has identified the construction and manipulation of models as (...) those phases in which learning from models takes place. (shrink)
Past and present societies world-wide have employed well over 100 distinct notational systems for representing natural numbers, some of which continue to play a crucial role in intellectual and cultural development today. The diversity of these notations has prompted the need for classificatory schemes, or typologies, to provide a systematic starting point for their discussion and appraisal. The present paper provides a general framework for assessing the efficacy of these typologies relative to certain desiderata, and it uses this framework to (...) discuss the two influential typologies of Zhang & Norman and Chrisomalis. Following this, a new typology is presented that takes as its starting point the principles by which numerical notations represent multipliers (the principles of cumulation and cipherization), and bases (those of integration, parsing, and positionality). Many different examples show that this new typology provides a more refined classification of numerical notations than the ones put forward previously. In addition, the framework provided here can be used to assess typologies not only of numerical notations, but also of many other domains. (shrink)
Mathematics is a powerful tool for describing and developing our knowledge of the physical world. It informs our understanding of subjects as diverse as music, games, science, economics, communications protocols, and visual arts. Mathematical thinking has its roots in the adaptive behavior of living creatures: animals must employ judgments about quantities and magnitudes in the assessment of both threats (how many foes) and opportunities (how much food) in order to make effective decisions, and use geometric information in the environment for (...) recognizing landmarks and navigating environments. Correspondingly, cognitive systems that are dedicated to the processing of distinctly mathematical information have developed. In particular, there is evidence that certain core systems for understanding different aspects of arithmetic as well as geometry are employed by humans and many other animals. They become active early in life and, particularly in the case of humans, develop through maturation. Although these core systems individually appear to be quite limited in application, in combination they allow for the recognition of mathematical properties and the formation of appropriate inferences based upon those properties. In this overview, the core systems, their roles, their limitations, and their interaction with external representations are discussed, as well as possibilities for how they can be employed together to allow us to reason about more complex mathematical domains. (shrink)
The structure-mapping theory has become the de-facto standard account of analogies in cognitive science and philosophy of science. In this paper I propose a distinction between two kinds of domains and I show how the account of analogies based on structure-preserving mappings fails in certain (object-rich) domains, which are very common in mathematics, and how the axiomatic approach to analogies, which is based on a common linguistic description of the analogs in terms of laws or axioms, can be used successfully (...) to explicate analogies of this kind. Thus, the two accounts of analogies should be regarded as complementary, since each of them is adequate for explicating analogies that are drawn between different kinds of domains. In addition, I illustrate how the account of analogies based on axioms has also considerable practical advantages, e. g., for the discovery of new analogies. (shrink)
Dedekind's mathematical work is integral to the transformation of mathematics in the nineteenth century and crucial for the emergence of structuralist mathematics in the twentieth century. We investigate the essential components of what Emmy Noether called, his ‘axiomatic standpoint’: abstract concepts, models, and mappings.
This paper is a contribution to the question of how aspects of science have been perceived through history. In particular, I will discuss how the contribution of axiomatics to the development of science and mathematics was viewed in 20th century philosophy of science and philosophy of mathematics. It will turn out that in connection with scientiﬁc methodology, in particular regarding its use in the context of discovery, axiomatics has received only very little attention. This is a rather surprising result, since (...) axiomatizations have been employed extensively in mathematics, science, and also by the philosophers themselves. (shrink)
The main ideas behind Brouwer’s philosophy of Intuitionism are presented. Then some critical remarks against Intuitionism made by William Tait in “Against Intuitionism” [Journal of Philosophical Logic, 12, 173–195] are answered.
How mathematicians conceive of the nature of mathematics is reflected in the metaphors they use to talk about it. In this paper I investigate a change in the use of metaphors in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In particular, I argue that the metaphor of mathematics as a tree was used systematically by Pasch and some of his contemporaries, while that of mathematics as a building was deliberately chosen by Hilbert to reflect a different view of mathematics. By (...) taking these metaphors seriously we attain a new vantage point for understanding historical changes in conceptions of mathematics. (shrink)
This article looks at recent work in cognitive science on mathematical cognition from the perspective of history and philosophy of mathematical practice. The discussion is focused on the work of Lakoff and Núñez, because this is the first comprehensive account of mathematical cognition that also addresses advanced mathematics and its history. Building on a distinction between mathematics as it is presented in textbooks and as it presents itself to the researcher, it is argued that the focus of cognitive analyses of (...) historical developments of mathematics has been primarily on the former, even if they claim to be about the latter. (shrink)
In 1870 Jordan proved that the composition factors of two composition series of a group are the same. Almost 20 years later Hölder (1889) was able to extend this result by showing that the factor groups, which are quotient groups corresponding to the composition factors, are isomorphic. This result, nowadays called the Jordan-Hölder Theorem, is one of the fundamental theorems in the theory of groups. The fact that Jordan, who was working in the framework of substitution groups, was able to (...) prove only a part of this theorem is often used to emphasize the importance and even the necessity of the abstract conception of groups, which was employed by Hölder. However, as a little-known paper from 1873 reveals, Jordan had all the necessary ingredients to prove the Jordan-Hölder Theorem at his disposal (namely, composition series, quotient groups, and isomorphisms), and he also noted a connection between composition factors and corresponding quotient groups. Thus, I argue that the answer to the question posed in the title is “Yes.” It was not the lack of the abstract notion of groups which prevented Jordan from proving the Jordan-Hölder Theorem, but the fact that he did not ask the right research question that would have led him to this result. In addition, I suggest some reasons why this has been overlooked in the historiography of algebra, and I argue that, by hiding computational and cognitive complexities, abstraction has important pragmatic advantages. (shrink)
In this paper I investigate two notions of concepts that have played a dominant role in 20th century philosophy of mathematics. According to the first, concepts are definite and fixed; in contrast, according to the second notion concepts are open and subject to modifications. The motivations behind these two incompatible notions and how they can be used to account for conceptual change are presented and discussed. On the basis of historical developments in mathematics I argue that both notions of concepts (...) capture important aspects of mathematical and scientific reasoning, and, consequently, that a pluralistic approach that allows for representing both of these aspects is most useful for an adequate account of investigative practices. (shrink)
To discuss the developments of mathematics that have to do with the introduction of new objects, we distinguish between ‘Aristotelian’ and ‘non-Aristotelian’ accounts of abstraction and mathematical ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approaches. The development of mathematics from the 19th to the 20th century is then characterized as a move from a ‘bottom-up’ to a ‘top-down’ approach. Since the latter also leads to more abstract objects for which the Aristotelian account of abstraction is not well-suited, this development has also lead to a (...) decrease of visualizations in mathematical practice. (shrink)
A new look at analogical reasoning Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-5 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9563-z Authors Dirk Schlimm, Department of Philosophy, McGill University, Montreal, QC H3A 2T7, Canada Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
This volume contains thirteen papers that were presented at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society for History and Philosophy of Mathematics/Société canadienne d’histoire et de philosophie des mathématiques, which was held at Ryerson University in Toronto. It showcases rigorously reviewed modern scholarship on an interesting variety of topics in the history and philosophy of mathematics from Ancient Greece to the twentieth century. -/- A series of chapters all set in the eighteenth century consider topics such as John Marsh’s (...) techniques for the computation of decimal fractions, Euler’s efforts to compute the surface area of scalene cones, a little-known work by John Playfair on the practical aspects of mathematics, and Monge’s use of descriptive geometry. -/- After a brief stop in the nineteenth century to consider the culture of research mathematics in 1860s Prussia, the book moves into the twentieth century with an examination of the historical context within which the Axiom of Choice was developed and a paper discussing Anatoly Vlasov’s adaptation of the Boltzmann equation to ionized gases. The remaining chapters deal with the philosophy of twentieth-century mathematics through topics such as an historically informed discussion of finitism and its limits; a reexamination of Mary Leng’s defenses of mathematical fictionalism through an alternative, anti-realist approach to mathematics; and a look at the reasons that mathematicians select specific problems to pursue. -/- Written by leading scholars in the field, these papers are accessible to not only mathematicians and students of the history and philosophy of mathematics, but also anyone with a general interest in mathematics. (shrink)