, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 469-472

Comments on ‘Strategic Maneuvering in Mathematical Proofs’

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In “Strategic Maneuvering in Mathematical Proofs,” Krabbe (2007) aims to show that argumentation theory, and specifically pragma-dialectics, can help us better understand the nature of mathematical proofs. Proofs are not always arguments, by Krabbe’s account, but he holds that “whenever in a proof the reasoning displays persuasive functions, the proof can be regarded as an argument.” In these cases, where proofs do have a persuasive function, their persuasive effectiveness may depend on strategic maneuvering, and this brings proofs within the scope of the recent extensions of pragma-dialectics that integrate rhetorical and dialectical principles.

Agreeing with Krabbe’s overall point that proofs are often shaped by rhetorical considerations as well as dialectical ones, I wish to focus my own remarks on what an examination of proofs and proving might contribute to a broader understanding of argumentation. In contemporary argumentation theory, argumentation is assumed to have resolution of