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Carter, Jessica. Diagrams and Proofs in Analysis
2010, International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 24(1): 1-14.
Added by: Fenner Stanley Tanswell
Abstract:
This article discusses the role of diagrams in mathematical reasoning in the light of a case study in analysis. In the example presented certain combinatorial expressions were first found by using diagrams. In the published proofs the pictures were replaced by reasoning about permutation groups. This article argues that, even though the diagrams are not present in the published papers, they still play a role in the formulation of the proofs. It is shown that they play a role in concept formation as well as representations of proofs. In addition we note that 'visualization' is used in two different ways. In the first sense 'visualization' denotes our inner mental pictures, which enable us to see that a certain fact holds, whereas in the other sense 'visualization' denotes a diagram or representation of something.

Comment (from this Blueprint): In this paper, Carter discusses a case study from free probability theory in which diagrams were used to inspire definitions and proof strategies. Interestingly, the diagrams were not present in the published results making them dispensable in one sense, but Carter argues that they are essential in the sense that their discovery relied on the visualisation supplied by the diagrams.

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