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An Inquiry into the Practice of Proving in Low-Dimensional Topology

In Gabriele Lolli, Giorgio Venturi & Marco Panza (eds.), From Logic to Practice. Zurich, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. pp. 315-336 (2015)

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  1. Philosophy of Mathematical Practice: A Primer for Mathematics Educators.Yacin Hamami & Rebecca Morris - forthcoming - ZDM Mathematics Education.
    In recent years, philosophical work directly concerned with the practice of mathematics has intensified, giving rise to a movement known as the philosophy of mathematical practice . In this paper we offer a survey of this movement aimed at mathematics educators. We first describe the core questions philosophers of mathematical practice investigate as well as the philosophical methods they use to tackle them. We then provide a selective overview of work in the philosophy of mathematical practice covering topics including the (...)
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  • Exploring the Fruitfulness of Diagrams in Mathematics.Jessica Carter - 2019 - Synthese 196 (10):4011-4032.
    The paper asks whether diagrams in mathematics are particularly fruitful compared to other types of representations. In order to respond to this question a number of examples of propositions and their proofs are considered. In addition I use part of Peirce’s semiotics to characterise different types of signs used in mathematical reasoning, distinguishing between symbolic expressions and 2-dimensional diagrams. As a starting point I examine a proposal by Macbeth. Macbeth explains how it can be that objects “pop up”, e.g., as (...)
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  • Envisioning Transformations – The Practice of Topology.Silvia De Toffoli & Valeria Giardino - 2016 - In Brendan Larvor (ed.), Mathematical Cultures: The London Meetings 2012--2014. Zurich, Switzerland: Birkhäuser. pp. 25-50.
    The objective of this article is twofold. First, a methodological issue is addressed. It is pointed out that even if philosophers of mathematics have been recently more and more concerned with the practice of mathematics, there is still a need for a sharp definition of what the targets of a philosophy of mathematical practice should be. Three possible objects of inquiry are put forward: (1) the collective dimension of the practice of mathematics; (2) the cognitives capacities requested to the practitioners; (...)
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  • From Euclidean Geometry to Knots and Nets.Brendan Larvor - 2017 - Synthese:1-22.
    This paper assumes the success of arguments against the view that informal mathematical proofs secure rational conviction in virtue of their relations with corresponding formal derivations. This assumption entails a need for an alternative account of the logic of informal mathematical proofs. Following examination of case studies by Manders, De Toffoli and Giardino, Leitgeb, Feferman and others, this paper proposes a framework for analysing those informal proofs that appeal to the perception or modification of diagrams or to the inspection or (...)
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  • Reconciling Rigor and Intuition.Silvia De Toffoli - 2021 - Erkenntnis 86 (6):1783-1802.
    Criteria of acceptability for mathematical proofs are field-dependent. In topology, though not in most other domains, it is sometimes acceptable to appeal to visual intuition to support inferential steps. In previous work :829–842, 2014; Lolli, Panza, Venturi From logic to practice, Springer, Berlin, 2015; Larvor Mathematical cultures, Springer, Berlin, 2016) my co-author and I aimed at spelling out how topological proofs work on their own terms, without appealing to formal proofs which might be associated with them. In this article, I (...)
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  • What Are Mathematical Diagrams?Silvia De Toffoli - forthcoming - Synthese.
    Although traditionally neglected, mathematical diagrams have recently begun to attract attention from philosophers of mathematics. By now, the literature includes several case studies investigating the role of diagrams both in discovery and justification. Certain preliminary questions have, however, been mostly bypassed. What are diagrams exactly? Are there different types of diagrams? In the scholarly literature, the term “mathematical diagram” is used in diverse ways. I propose a working definition that carves out the phenomena that are of most importance for a (...)
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  • Forms and Roles of Diagrams in Knot Theory.Silvia De Toffoli & Valeria Giardino - 2014 - Erkenntnis 79 (4):829-842.
    The aim of this article is to explain why knot diagrams are an effective notation in topology. Their cognitive features and epistemic roles will be assessed. First, it will be argued that different interpretations of a figure give rise to different diagrams and as a consequence various levels of representation for knots will be identified. Second, it will be shown that knot diagrams are dynamic by pointing at the moves which are commonly applied to them. For this reason, experts must (...)
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  • The Role of Syntactic Representations in Set Theory.Keith Weber - 2019 - Synthese 198 (Suppl 26):6393-6412.
    In this paper, we explore the role of syntactic representations in set theory. We highlight a common inferential scheme in set theory, which we call the Syntactic Representation Inferential Scheme, in which the set theorist infers information about a concept based on the way that concept can be represented syntactically. However, the actual syntactic representation is only indicated, not explicitly provided. We consider this phenomenon in relation to the derivation indicator position that asserts that the ordinary proofs given in mathematical (...)
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  • Reliability of Mathematical Inference.Jeremy Avigad - 2020 - Synthese 198 (8):7377-7399.
    Of all the demands that mathematics imposes on its practitioners, one of the most fundamental is that proofs ought to be correct. It has been common since the turn of the twentieth century to take correctness to be underwritten by the existence of formal derivations in a suitable axiomatic foundation, but then it is hard to see how this normative standard can be met, given the differences between informal proofs and formal derivations, and given the inherent fragility and complexity of (...)
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  • Philosophy of Mathematical Practice — Motivations, Themes and Prospects.Jessica Carter - 2019 - Philosophia Mathematica 27 (1):1-32.
    ABSTRACT A number of examples of studies from the field ‘The Philosophy of Mathematical Practice’ are given. To characterise this new field, three different strands are identified: an agent-based, a historical, and an epistemological PMP. These differ in how they understand ‘practice’ and which assumptions lie at the core of their investigations. In the last part a general framework, capturing some overall structure of the field, is proposed.
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  • Why ‘Scaffolding’ is the Wrong Metaphor: The Cognitive Usefulness of Mathematical Representations.Brendan Larvor - 2018 - Synthese:1-14.
    The metaphor of scaffolding has become current in discussions of the cognitive help we get from artefacts, environmental affordances and each other. Consideration of mathematical tools and representations indicates that in these cases at least, scaffolding is the wrong picture, because scaffolding in good order is immobile, temporary and crude. Mathematical representations can be manipulated, are not temporary structures to aid development, and are refined. Reflection on examples from elementary algebra indicates that Menary is on the right track with his (...)
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  • ‘Chasing’ the Diagram—the Use of Visualizations in Algebraic Reasoning.Silvia de Toffoli - 2017 - Review of Symbolic Logic 10 (1):158-186.
    The aim of this article is to investigate the roles of commutative diagrams (CDs) in a specific mathematical domain, and to unveil the reasons underlying their effectiveness as a mathematical notation; this will be done through a case study. It will be shown that CDs do not depict spatial relations, but represent mathematical structures. CDs will be interpreted as a hybrid notation that goes beyond the traditional bipartition of mathematical representations into diagrammatic and linguistic. It will be argued that one (...)
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  • Why ‘Scaffolding’ is the Wrong Metaphor: The Cognitive Usefulness of Mathematical Representations.Brendan Larvor - 2020 - Synthese 197 (9):3743-3756.
    The metaphor of scaffolding has become current in discussions of the cognitive help we get from artefacts, environmental affordances and each other. Consideration of mathematical tools and representations indicates that in these cases at least, scaffolding is the wrong picture, because scaffolding in good order is immobile, temporary and crude. Mathematical representations can be manipulated, are not temporary structures to aid development, and are refined. Reflection on examples from elementary algebra indicates that Menary is on the right track with his (...)
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