Journal Article

Proofs and Pictures

James Robert Brown

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 48, issue 2, pages 161-180
Published in print June 1997 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online June 1997 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/48.2.161
Proofs and Pictures

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Everyone appreciates a clever mathematical picture, but the prevailing attitude is one of scepticism: diagrams, illustrations, and pictures prove nothing; they are psychologically important and heuristically useful, but only a traditional verbal/symbolic proof provides genuine evidence for a purported theorem. Like some other recent writers (Barwise and Etchemendy [1991]; Shin [1994]; and Giaquinto [1994]) I take a different view and argue, from historical considerations and some striking examples, for a positive evidential role for pictures in mathematics.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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