Forms and Roles of Diagrams in Knot Theory

Erkenntnis 79 (4):829-842 (2014)
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Abstract

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 develop a specific form of enhanced manipulative imagination, in order to draw inferences from knot diagrams by performing epistemic actions. Moreover, it will be argued that knot diagrams not only can promote discovery, but also provide evidence. This case study is an experimentation ground to evaluate the role of space and action in making inferences by reasoning diagrammatically.

Author Profiles

Silvia De Toffoli
University School of Advanced Studies IUSS Pavia
Valeria Giardino
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

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