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Mathematical practice and epistemic virtue and vice

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journal contribution
posted on 20.04.2020, 10:50 by Fenner Tanswell, Ian James Kidd
What sorts of epistemic virtues are required for effective mathematical practice? Should these be virtues of individual or collective agents? What sorts of corresponding epistemic vices might interfere with mathematical practice? How do these virtues and vices of mathematics relate to the virtue-theoretic terminology used by philosophers? We engage in these foundational questions, and explore how the richness of mathematical practices is enhanced by thinking in terms of virtues and vices, and how the philosophical picture is challenged by the complexity of the case of mathematics. For example, within different social and interpersonal conditions, a trait often classified as a vice might be epistemically productive and vice versa. We illustrate that this occurs in mathematics by discussing Gerovitch’s historical study of the aggressive adversarialism of the Gelfand seminar in post-war Moscow. From this we conclude that virtue epistemologies of mathematics should avoid pre-emptive judgments about the sorts of epistemic character traits that ought to be promoted and criticised.



  • Science


  • Mathematics Education Centre

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Springer Verlag


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© The Authors

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This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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Dr Fenner Tanswell. Deposit date: 11 April 2020