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Hume on the Social Construction of Mathematical Knowledge

Demeter, Tamás (2017) Hume on the Social Construction of Mathematical Knowledge. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Mathematics for Hume is the exemplary field of demonstrative knowledge. Ideally, this knowledge is a priori as it arises only from the comparison of ideas without any further empirical input; it is certain because demonstration consist of steps that are intuitively evident and infallible; and it is also necessary because the possibility of its falsity is inconceivable as it would imply a contradiction. But this is only the ideal, because demonstrative sciences are human enterprises and as such they are just as fallible as their human practitioners. According to the reading suggested here, Hume develops a radical sceptical challenge for mathematics, and thereby he undermines the knowledge claims associated with demonstrative reasoning. But Hume does not stop there: he also offers resources for a sceptical solution to this challenge, one that appeals crucially to social practices, and sketches the social genealogy of a community-wide mathematical certainty. While explaining this process, he relies on the conceptual resources of his faculty psychology that helps him to distinguish between the metaphysics and practices of mathematical knowledge. His account explains why we have reasons to be dubious about our reasoning capacities, and also how human nature and sociability offers some remedy from these epistemic adversities.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Demeter, Tamástsd2333@gmail.com
Keywords: certainty, demonstrative reasoning, mathematical practice, metaphysics of knowledge, faculties, scepticism, sceptical solution, sympathy
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Applicability
Specific Sciences > Mathematics > History of Philosophy
Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Practice
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
Specific Sciences > Mathematics
Depositing User: Dr Tamas Demeter
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2017 21:28
Last Modified: 12 Dec 2017 21:28
Item ID: 14188
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Applicability
Specific Sciences > Mathematics > History of Philosophy
Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Practice
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
Specific Sciences > Mathematics
Date: 9 December 2017
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/14188

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