, Volume 68, Issue 3, pp 393-407

What can the Philosophy of Mathematics Learn from the History of Mathematics?

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Abstract

This article canvasses five senses in which one might introduce an historical element into the philosophy of mathematics: 1. The temporal dimension of logic; 2. Explanatory Appeal to Context rather than to General Principles; 3. Heraclitean Flux; 4. All history is the History of Thought; and 5. History is Non-Judgmental. It concludes by adapting Bernard Williams’ distinction between ‘history of philosophy’ and ‘history of ideas’ to argue that the philosophy of mathematics is unavoidably historical, but need not and must not merge with historiography.