The Role Of Sourcing In Mathematics

Authored by: Keith Weber

Handbook of Multiple Source Use

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138646599
eBook ISBN: 9781315627496
Adobe ISBN:


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Some scholars will find it surprising that there is a chapter on mathematics in a handbook on multiple source use. The standard view of mathematics is that mathematical results are objective, infallible, and incorrigible. Mathematical results ostensibly have these attributes because they are established by deductive justifications or proofs. These deductive justifications are based on cold, impersonal logic that would be convincing to any knowledgeable mathematician. Why, then, would a mathematician ever need to consider the source of a justification when deciding how much evidentiary weight that the justification should have? The mathematician can just check the logic of the justification herself. Indeed, as Shanahan, Shanahan, and Misischia (2011) documented, some mathematicians claim that they actively ignore the source of a justification when evaluating it. The author of a justification should be irrelevant to the logical validity of the justification, which is the sole source of reliability for mathematical claims.

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