Justified Epistemic Exclusions in Mathematics

Philosophia Mathematica 31 (3):330-359 (2023)
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Abstract

Who gets to contribute to knowledge production of an epistemic community? Scholarship has focussed on unjustified forms of exclusion. Here I study justified forms of exclusion by investigating the phenomenon of so-called ‘cranks’ in mathematics. I argue that workload-management concerns justify the exclusion of these outsiders from mathematical knowledge-making practices. My discussion reveals three insights. There are reasons other than incorrect mathematical argument that justify exclusions from mathematical practices. There are instances in which mathematicians are justified in rejecting even correct mathematical arguments. Finally, the way mathematicians spot mathematical crankery does not support the pejorative connotations of the ‘crank’ terminology.

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