Bayesian perspectives on mathematical practice

Handbook of the History and Philosophy of Mathematical Practice (2020)
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Abstract
Mathematicians often speak of conjectures as being confirmed by evidence that falls short of proof. For their own conjectures, evidence justifies further work in looking for a proof. Those conjectures of mathematics that have long resisted proof, such as the Riemann hypothesis, have had to be considered in terms of the evidence for and against them. In recent decades, massive increases in computer power have permitted the gathering of huge amounts of numerical evidence, both for conjectures in pure mathematics and for the behavior of complex applied mathematical models and statistical algorithms. Mathematics has therefore become (among other things) an experimental science (though that has not diminished the importance of proof in the traditional style). We examine how the evaluation of evidence for conjectures works in mathematical practice. We explain the (objective) Bayesian view of probability, which gives a theoretical framework for unifying evidence evaluation in science and law as well as in mathematics. Numerical evidence in mathematics is related to the problem of induction; the occurrence of straightforward inductive reasoning in the purely logical material of pure mathematics casts light on the nature of induction as well as of mathematical reasoning.
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