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Morris, Rebecca Lea. Intellectual Generosity and the Reward Structure of Mathematics
2021, Synthese, 199(1): 345-367.
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Added by: Fenner Stanley Tanswell
Abstract: Prominent mathematician William Thurston was praised by other mathematicians for his intellectual generosity. But what does it mean to say Thurston was intellectually generous? And is being intellectually generous beneficial? To answer these questions I turn to virtue epistemology and, in particular, Roberts and Wood's (2007) analysis of intellectual generosity. By appealing to Thurston's own writings and interviewing mathematicians who knew and worked with him, I argue that Roberts and Wood's analysis nicely captures the sense in which he was intellectually generous. I then argue that intellectual generosity is beneficial because it counteracts negative effects of the reward structure of mathematics that can stymie mathematical progress.

Comment (from this Blueprint): In this paper, Morris looks at ascriptions of intellectual generosity in mathematics, focusing on the mathematician William Thurston. She looks at how generosity should be characterised, and argues that it is beneficial in counteract some of the negative effects of the reward structure of mathematics.

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