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“Picturing Mathematicians: A History of Geometrical Diagrams and Philosophy of Space”

Vincenzo De Risi, Whitney J. Oates Visiting Fellow in the Humanities Council and the Department of Philosophy; French National Centre for Scientific Research

April 5, 2022 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · 001 Robertson Hall and Zoom

Department of Philosophy; Humanities Council


Zoom Meeting Link:


The Department of Philosophy (with the support of the Humanities Council) is pleased to present the first of two lectures by our Spring 2022 Humanities Council Short-Term Visiting Fellow Vincenzo De Risi.

Abstract: Mathematics textbooks are full of pictures (diagrams) with which theorems are sometimes proved. The validity of these visual demonstrations has always been the focus of important debates among philosophers and mathematicians. The talk discusses this problem in historical perspective, and shows that in modern geometry there was a gradual disappearance of diagrammatic proofs compared to Greek geometry. This phenomenon is explained through a history of the different modern conceptions of space, and of the consequent thematization of space as the object of geometry. It is shown that the birth of modern logic owes much to such debates on the nature of space. In the process, geometric diagrams were transformed from demonstrative icons into pictorial images.

The second of two lectures from Vincenzo De Risi entitled “The Paradigm of Science: Axiomatic Methods from Euclid to Gauss” will be held on Thursday, April 7 at 4:30 pm  in 002 Robertson Hall. For more details, visit the Department of Philosophy website.

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