Linearity and reflexivity in the growth of mathematical knowledge

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Recent studies in the philosophy of mathematics have increasingly stressed the social and historical dimensions of mathematical practice. Although this new emphasis has fathered interesting new perspectives, it has also blurred the distinction between mathematics and other scientific fields. This distinction can be clarified by examining the special interaction of the body and images of mathematics. Mathematics has an objective, ever-expanding hard core, the growth of which is conditioned by socially and historically determined images of mathematics. Mathematics also has reflexive capacities unlike those of any other exact science. In no other exact science can the standard methodological framework used within the discipline also be used to study the nature of the discipline itself. Although it has always been present in mathematical research, reflexive thinking has become increasingly central to mathematics over the past century. Many of the images of the discipline have been dictated by the increase in reflexive thinking which has also determined a great portion of the contemporary philosophy and historiography of mathematics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-440
Number of pages32
JournalScience in Context
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1989
Externally publishedYes


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