Journal Article

The reliability of randomized algorithms

D Fallis

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 51, issue 2, pages 255-271
Published in print June 2000 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online June 2000 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/51.2.255
The reliability of randomized algorithms

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Recently, certain philosophers of mathematics (Fallis [1997]; Womack and Farach [(1997]) have argued that there are no epistemic considerations that should stop mathematicians from using probabilistic methods to establish that mathematical propositions are true. However, mathematicians clearly should not use methods that are unreliable. Unfortunately, due to the fact that randomized algorithms are not really random in practice, there is reason to doubt their reliability. In this paper, I analyze the prospects for establishing that randomized algorithms are reliable. I end by arguing that it would be inconsistent for mathematicians to suspend judgement on the truth of mathematical propositions on the basis of worries about the reliability of randomized algorithms.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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