Structuralism and informal provability

Georg Schiemer, John Wigglesworth

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Mathematical structuralism can be understood as a theory of mathematical ontology, of the objects that mathematics is about. It can also be understood as a theory of the semantics for mathematical discourse, of how and to what mathematical terms refer. In this paper we propose an epistemological interpretation of mathematical structuralism. According to this interpretation, the main epistemological claim is that mathematical knowledge is purely structural in character; mathematical statements contain purely structural information. To make this more precise, we invoke a notion that is central to mathematical epistemology, the notion of (informal) proof. Appealing to the notion of proof, an epistemological version of the structuralist thesis can be formulated as: Every mathematical statement that is provable expresses purely structural information. We introduce a bi-modal framework that formalizes the notions of structural information and informal provability in order to draw connections between them and confirm that the epistemological structuralist thesis holds.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSynthese: an international journal for epistemology, methodology and philosophy of science
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2023

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 603113 Philosophy

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