In this (old) question on Was Math invented or discovered

The accepted and highest rated answer says:

"Intuitionists" believe that mathematics is just a creation of the human mind. In that sense you can argue that mathematics is invented by humans. Any mathematical object exists only in our mind and doesn't as such have an existence.

"Platonists", on the other hand, argue that any mathematical object exists and we can only "see" them through our mind. Hence in some sense Platonists would vote that mathematics was discovered.

A comment with 58 upvotes says:

I don't think this is a good answer. It reminds me too much of academic philosophers' evasive ism-dodges, i.e. when you ask them 'Does you argument fail because of X?' and they respond: 'Well if you're a Y-ist then no and if you're a Z-ist then maybe yes, but I'm not sure which one I am yet etc etc.' - The schools themselves mean nothing and people who haven't explored the issue independently should not, I believe, get told to look up a certain school of philosophy as their point of first contact

What is the position of the community on this?

My own position, subject to modification, FWIW:

I dont like ism-dodges much. They are ok in comments

  • I think you should elaborate on what you consider an “ism-dodge”. Apr 2 at 19:11
  • @JuliusHamilton There are 2 instances of ism-dodge above: The comment generically explains what it means and the typical surrounding manifestations. The question under which its written is the specific example that the comment disapproves of and is pointing out. I can provide my own thoughts in more detail but I'll wait for others to say something. If instead this discussion is closed — there's one close vote as of now — that itself speaks to the question being asked. Seriously: closed? on meta? That's a new!
    – Rushi
    Apr 3 at 4:45

2 Answers 2


A good answer to a question like this should draw attention to the fact that there are different approaches to the philosophy of mathematics and as a result there are different answers to the question. The fact that platonists and intuitionists disagree is relevant, so it is worth mentioning. For me, the reason why it is not a good answer is that it is too short and provides no explanation. It amounts to little more than: Go and look up the definition of platonism and intuitionism within mathematics.

Instead it would be helpful to clarify exactly what the distinction is about, talk about why there are different positions, summarise the main arguments for and against, and perhaps mention who the main protagonists are. That said, it seems a little harsh to me for the answer to be deleted.

  • Tnx for writing in. I can get behind much of what you say. But I think the point is being lost — especially after the answer was deleted! That was not my intention at all. I was using an old and rather extreme example (nearly 150 upvotes) to talk of current policy. I'll try and write my own take
    – Rushi
    Apr 1 at 2:44

I asked this question with some intention. The resulting action of deleting that answer was a quite unintended action of that question. And requires a separate discussion.

I guess I should put my views on both... I'll start with the second.

I dont believe that history can/should be rewritten, any more than you can call Ben Franklin a slave owner and slaver.
Well he was but so was everyone else who could manage to do the same. eg. the famous idealist philosopher Bishop Berkeley.
Here is a famous SO post that is locked. Its kept for historical and humorous reasons but such are not generally accepted as kosher. If a status change is required on this it could be locked. But frankly for a much smaller volume site like philosophy I dont believe that any status change is necessary.

Above is the answer relating to the non-question and its unintended consequence.

I'll provide my own thoughts on my original question in a bit...

The third point is that answer itself. I dont believe we need to discuss that here (rather than on the main site) but since Bumble has written on that I'd like to point out that (AFAIC) that answer is wrong:
If we must make a mapping from philosophical school to {invention, discovery}
invention would map to formalism not intuitionism!

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