Abstract

One of the important discussions in the philosophy of mathematics, is that centered on Benacerraf’s Dilemma. Benacerraf’s dilemma challenges theorists to provide an epistemology and semantics for mathematics, based on their favourite ontology. This challenge is the point on which all philosophies of mathematics are judged, and clarifying how we might acquire mathematical knowledge is one of the main occupations of philosophers of mathematics. In this thesis I argue that this discussion has overlooked an important part of mathematics, namely mathematics as it is exercised by ordinary people (almost everyone without a mathematics degree). I do so by looking at the different theories that have been put forward in the recent debate, and showing for each of these that they are unable to account for the mathematical practices of ordinary people. In order to show that these practices do need to be accounted for, I also argue that ordinary people are (sometimes) doing mathematics, i.e. that they engage in properly mathematical practices. Because these practices are properly mathematical, they should be accounted for by any philosophy of mathematics. The conclusion of my thesis, then, is that current theories fail to do something that they should do, while remaining neutral on how well they perform when it comes to accounting for the practices of professional mathematicians.