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Abstract

Abstract:
We introduce a framework that can be used to model both mathematics and human reasoning about mathematics. This framework involves {stochastic mathematical systems} (SMSs), which are stochastic processes that generate pairs of questions and associated answers (with no explicit referents). We use the SMS framework to define normative conditions for mathematical reasoning, by defining a ``calibration'' relation between a pair of SMSs. The first SMS is the human reasoner, and the second is an ``oracle'' SMS that can be interpreted as deciding whether the question-answer pairs of the reasoner SMS are valid. To ground thinking, we understand the answers to questions given by this oracle to be the answers that would be given by an SMS representing the entire mathematical community in the infinite long run of the process of asking and answering questions. We then introduce a slight extension of SMSs to allow us to model both the physical universe and human reasoning about the physical universe. We then define a slightly different calibration relation appropriate for the case of scientific reasoning. In this case the first SMS represents a human scientist predicting the outcome of future experiments, while the second SMS represents the physical universe in which the scientist is embedded, with the question-answer pairs of that SMS being specifications of the experiments that will occur and the outcome of those experiments, respectively. Next we derive conditions justifying two important patterns of inference in both mathematical and scientific reasoning: i) the practice of increasing one's degree of belief in a claim as one observes increasingly many lines of evidence for that claim, and ii) abduction, the practice of inferring a claim's probability of being correct from its explanatory power with respect to some other claim that is already taken to hold for independent reasons.

Comment: 43 pages of text, 6 pages of references, 11 pages of appendices