Talk: Mathematical Gettier Cases

This will be a talk at the NYU Philosophy Department. You can find slides here.


Are Gettier cases possible in mathematics? At first sight we might think not: The standard for mathematical justification is proof and, since proof is bound at the hip with truth, there is no possibility of having an epistemically lucky justification of a true proposition. In this paper, we argue that Gettier cases are possible (and very likely actual) in mathematical reasoning. We do this via arguing that abductive inference and auxiliary assumptions are essential to mathematical practice. This results in the following two argumentative strands: (1.) We dispute the claim that the standard of mathematical justification is the production of an actual formal proof from obviously true premises, and (2.) We argue that even if we do accept that this is the standard of justification, there is still the possibility of luck resulting in true belief. We’ll do this by considering several examples, some more fantastical than others.

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