# Who's Afraid of Mathematical Diagrams?

In the collections
Mathematical diagrams are frequently used in contemporary mathematics. They are, however, widely seen as not contributing to the justificatory force of proofs: they are considered to be either mere illustrations or shorthand for non-diagrammatic expressions. Moreover, when they are used inferentially, they are seen as threatening the reliability of proofs. In this paper, I examine certain examples of diagrams that resist this type of dismissive characterization. By presenting two diagrammatic proofs, one from topology and one from algebra, I show that diagrams form genuine notational systems, and I argue that this explains why they can play a role in the inferential structure of proofs without undermining their reliability. I then consider whether diagrams can be essential to the proofs in which they appear.

## Other information

key
WhosAfraidofMathematicalDiagrams
type
article
2022-05-13
journal
Philosophers

### BibTeX entry

@article{WhosAfraidofMathematicalDiagrams,
key = {WhosAfraidofMathematicalDiagrams},
type = {article},
title = {Who's Afraid of Mathematical Diagrams?},
author = {Silvia De Toffoli},
abstract = {Mathematical diagrams are frequently used in contemporary mathematics. They are, however, widely seen as not contributing to the justificatory force of proofs: they are considered to be either mere illustrations or shorthand for non-diagrammatic expressions. Moreover, when they are used inferentially, they are seen as threatening the reliability of proofs. In this paper, I examine certain examples of diagrams that resist this type of dismissive characterization. By presenting two diagrammatic proofs, one from topology and one from algebra, I show that diagrams form genuine notational systems, and I argue that this explains why they can play a role in the inferential structure of proofs without undermining their reliability. I then consider whether diagrams can be essential to the proofs in which they appear. },
comment = {},
}