Though pictures are often used to present mathematical arguments, they are not typically thought to be an acceptable means for presenting mathematical arguments rigorously. With respect to the proofs in the Elements in particular, the received view is that Euclid's reliance on geometric diagrams undermines his efforts to develop a gap-free deductive theory. The central difficulty concerns the generality of the theory. How can inferences made from a particular diagrams license general mathematical results? After surveying the history behind the received (...) view, this essay provides a contrary analysis by introducing a formal account of Euclid's proofs, termed Eu. Eu solves the puzzle of generality surrounding Euclid's arguments. It specifies what diagrams Euclid's diagrams are, in a precise formal sense, and defines generality-preserving proof rules in terms of them. After the central principles behind the formalization are laid out, its implications with respect to the question of what does and does not constitute a genuine picture proof are explored. (shrink)
Topological relations such as inside, outside, or intersection are ubiquitous to our spatial thinking. Here, we examined how people reason deductively with topological relations between points, lines, and circles in geometric diagrams. We hypothesized in particular that a counterexample search generally underlies this type of reasoning. We first verified that educated adults without specific math training were able to produce correct diagrammatic representations contained in the premisses of an inference. Our first experiment then revealed that subjects who correctly judged an (...) inference as invalid almost always produced a counterexample to support their answer. Noticeably, even if the counterexample always bore a certain level of similarity to the initial diagram, we observed that an object was more likely to be varied between the two drawings if it was present in the conclusion of the inference. Experiments 2 and 3 then directly probed counterexample search. While participants were asked to evaluate a conclusion on the basis of a given diagram and some premisses, we modulated the difficulty of reaching a counterexample from the diagram. Our results indicate that both decreasing the counterexample density and increasing the counterexample distance impaired reasoning performance. Taken together, our results suggest that a search procedure for counterexamples, which proceeds object‐wise, could underlie diagram‐based geometric reasoning. Transposing points, lines, and circles to our spatial environment, the present study may ultimately provide insights on how humans reason about topological relations between positions, paths, and regions. (shrink)
Diagrams are ubiquitous in mathematics. From the most elementary class to the most advanced seminar, in both introductory textbooks and professional journals, diagrams are present, to introduce concepts, increase understanding, and prove results. They thus fulfill a variety of important roles in mathematical practice. Long overlooked by philosophers focused on foundational and ontological issues, these roles have come to receive attention in the past two decades, a trend in line with the growing philosophical interest in actual mathematical practice.
Modern formal accounts of the constructive nature of elementary geometry do not aim to capture the intuitive or concrete character of geometrical construction. In line with the general abstract approach of modern axiomatics, nothing is presumed of the objects that a geometric construction produces. This study explores the possibility of a formal account of geometric construction where the basic geometric objects are understood from the outset to possess certain spatial properties. The discussion is centered around Eu , a recently developed (...) formal system of proof (presented in Mumma (Synthese 175:255–287, 2010 )) within which Euclid’s diagrammatic proofs can be represented. (shrink)
Euclidean diagrammatic reasoning refers to the diagrammatic inferential practice that originated in the geometrical proofs of Euclid’s Elements. A seminal philosophical analysis of this practice by Manders (‘The Euclidean diagram’, 2008) has revealed that a systematic method of reasoning underlies the use of diagrams in Euclid’s proofs, leading in turn to a logical analysis aiming to capture this method formally via proof systems. The central premise of this paper is that our understanding of Euclidean diagrammatic reasoning can be fruitfully advanced (...) by confronting these logical and philosophical analyses with the field of cognitive science. Surprisingly, central aspects of the philosophical and logical analyses resonate in very natural ways with research topics in mathematical cognition, spatial cognition and the psychology of reasoning. The paper develops these connections, concentrating on four issues: (1) the cognitive origins of Euclidean diagrammatic reasoning, (2) the cognitive representations of spatial relations in Euclidean diagrams, (3) the nature of the cognitive processes and cognitive representations involved in Euclidean diagrammatic reasoning seen as a form of visuospatial relational reasoning and (4) the complexity of Euclidean diagrammatic reasoning for the human cognitive system. For each of these issues, our analysis generates concrete experiment proposals, opening thereby the way for further empirical investigations. The paper is thus a prolegomenon to a research program on Euclidean diagrammatic reasoning at the crossroads of logic, philosophy and cognitive science. (shrink)
Spatial relations are central to geometrical thinking. With respect to the classical elementary geometry of Euclid’s Elements, a distinction between co-exact, or qualitative, and exact, or metric, spatial relations has recently been advanced as fundamental. We tested the universality of intuitions of these relations in a group of Senegalese and Dutch participants. Participants performed an odd-one-out task with stimuli that in all but one case display a particular spatial relation between geometric objects. As the exact/co-exact distinction is closely related to (...) Kosslyn’s categorical/coordinate distinction, a set of stimuli for testing all four types was used. Results suggest that intuitions of all spatial relations tested are universal. Yet, culture has an important effect on performance: Dutch participants outperformed Senegalese participants and stimulus layouts affect the categorical and coordinate processing in different ways for the two groups. Differences in level of education within the Senegalese participants did not affect performance. (shrink)
It is commonplace to view the rigor of the mathematics in Euclid's Elements in the way an experienced teacher views the work of an earnest beginner: respectable relative to an early stage of development, but ultimately flawed. Given the close connection in content between Euclid's Elements and high-school geometry classes, this is understandable. Euclid, it seems, never realized what everyone who moves beyond elementary geometry into more advanced mathematics is now customarily taught: a fully rigorous proof cannot rely on geometric (...) intuition. In his arguments he seems to call illicitly upon our understanding of how objects like triangles and circles behave rather than grounding everything rigorously in axioms.Though widespread, the attitude is in a historical sense puzzling. For over two millenia, mathematicians of all levels studied the arguments in Elements and found nothing substantial missing. The book, on the contrary, represented the limit of mathematical explicitness. It served as the paradigm for careful and exact reasoning. How it could enjoy this reputation for so long is mysterious if careful and exact reasoning demands that all inferences be grounded in a modern axiomatic theory in the way Hilbert did in his famous Foundations of Geometry. By these standards, Euclid's work is deeply flawed. The holes in his arguments are not minor and excusable, but massive and cryptic.With his book Euclid and His Twentieth Century Rivals, Nathaniel Miller makes substantial progress in clearing this mystery up. The book is an explication of FG , a formal system of proof developed by Miller which reconstructs Euclid's deductions as essentially diagrammatic. The holes in Euclid's arguments are taken to appear precisely at those steps which are unintelligible without an accompanying geometric diagram. Interpreting the reasoning in the Elements in terms of a modern axiomatization , …. (shrink)
The cognitive processing of spatial relations in Euclidean diagrams is central to the diagram-based geometric practice of Euclid's Elements. In this study, we investigate this processing through two dichotomies among spatial relations—metric vs topological and exact vs co-exact—introduced by Manders in his seminal epistemological analysis of Euclid's geometric practice. To this end, we carried out a two-part experiment where participants were asked to judge spatial relations in Euclidean diagrams in a visual half field task design. In the first part, we (...) tested whether the processing of metric vs topological relations yielded the same hemispheric specialization as the processing of coordinate vs categorical relations. In the second part, we investigated the specific performance patterns for the processing of five pairs of exact/co-exact relations, where stimuli for the co-exact relations were divided into three categories depending on their distance from the exact case. Regarding the processing of metric vs topological relations, hemispheric differences were found for only a few of the stimuli used, which may indicate that other processing mechanisms might be at play. Regarding the processing of exact vs co-exact relations, results show that the level of agreement among participants in judging co-exact relations decreases with the distance from the exact case, and this for the five pairs of exact/co-exact relations tested. The philosophical implications of these empirical findings for the epistemological analysis of Euclid's diagram-based geometric practice are spelled out and discussed. (shrink)
The infinite regress of Carroll’s ‘What the Tortoise said to Achilles’ is interpreted as a problem in the epistemology of mathematical proof. An approach to the problem that is both diagrammatic and non-logical is presented with respect to a specific inference of elementary geometry.
Rav et Leitgeb défendent la thèse de l’autonomie des preuves informelles par rapport aux systèmes formels de preuve. Azzouni, au contraire développe une explication qui réduit les preuves informelles à un réseau de systèmes formels sous-jacents. L’objectif principal de cet article est de démontrer la possibilité d’une position tierce médiane mettant en avant une explication quasi formelle de la méthode de preuve dans les Éléments. L’explication est quasi formelle, plutôt que formelle, en ce qu’elle donne au contenu géométrique un rôle (...) irréductible dans les preuves d’Euclide en ce que ce rôle est sujet à des contraintes formelles. Les inférences qui sont basées sur concepts géométriques ont une occurrence à l’intérieur d’un cadre formel précisément défini.Rav and Leitgeb argue for the autonomy of informal proofs from formal systems of proof. In contrast, Azzouni develops an account which reduces informal proofs to a network of underlying formal systems. The general aim of this paper is to demonstrate the possibility of a third, middle position with a quasi-formal account of Euclid’s proof method in the Elements. The account is quasi-formal, rather than simply formal, in that it gives geometric content an irreducible role in Euclid’s proofs. It is quasi-formal, rather than simply informal, in that this role is subject to formal constraints. Inferences which are based on geometric concepts occur within a precisely defined formal framework. (shrink)
In line with Ken Manders’s seminal account of Euclid’s diagrammatic method in the “The Euclidean Diagram,” two proof systems with a diagrammatic syntax have been advanced as formalizations of the method FG and Eu. In a paper examining Eu, Nathaniel Miller, the creator of FG, has identified a variety of technical problems with the formal details of Eu. This response shows how the problems are remedied.