Discipline filosofiche. 25 (1):111-130 (2015)

Markus Pantsar
University of Helsinki
In the new millennium there have been important empirical developments in the philosophy of mathematics. One of these is the so-called “Empirical Philosophy of Mathematics” of Buldt, Löwe, Müller and Müller-Hill, which aims to complement the methodology of the philosophy of mathematics with empirical work. Among other things, this includes surveys of mathematicians, which EPM believes to give philosophically important results. In this paper I take a critical look at the sociological part of EPM as a case study of sociological approaches to the philosophy of mathematics, focusing on the most concrete development of EPM so far: a questionnaire-based study by Müller-Hill. I argue that the study has many problems and that the EPM conclusion that mathematical knowledge is context-dependent is unwarranted by the evidence. In addition, I consider the general justification and criteria for introducing sociological methods in the philosophy of mathematics. While surveys can give us important data about the philosophical views of mathematicians, there is no reason to believe that mathematicians have a privileged access to philosophical questions concerning mathematics. In order to be philosophically relevant in the way EPM claims, the philosophical views of mathematicians cannot be assessed without considering the argumentation behind them.
Keywords empirical philosophy of mathematics  epistemology of mathematics
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DOI 10.1400/236780
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