Inverting Hierarchies: The Sociology of Mathematical Practice

In Bharath Sriraman (ed.), Handbook of the History and Philosophy of Mathematical Practice. Cham: Springer. pp. 2597-2618 (2024)
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Sociology originated in the mid-nineteenth century from a new confidence in the power of science to explain the world on a mathematical foundation. Both mathematics and sociology transformed over the ensuing century, inverting the hierarchical relationship from sociology as a mathematics-based science of complex human configurations to mathematics as a complex science based on social institutions. That is, where sociology began as the hard case for mathematics, it became possible to see mathematics as the hard case for sociology. In this light, we examine a number of motivations and provocations for the sociology of mathematics, from language and social cognition to Marxist and materialist skepticism of ideology, and sample the evidence and arguments brought to bear on the sociology of mathematics at a range of scales.



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