Knowledge

Mathematics

Truth

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I'm a mathematician looking at some of the work of Leonhard Euler on the "pentagonal number theorem". My question is about how we can know some statement is true. Euler had found this theorem in the early 1740s, and said things like "I believed I have concluded it by a legitimate induction, but at the same time I haven't been able to find a demonstration" (my translation), and that it is "true even without being demonstrated" (vraies sans etre demontrees).
This got me thinking that "knowing" something is not really a mathematical question. A proof lets us know a statement is true because we can work through the proof. But a mathematical statement is true whether we know it or not, and if you tell me you know that a statement is true, and then in fact someone later proves it, I can't show mathematically that you didn't know it all along.
This isn't something I have thought about much before, and my question is are there any papers or books that give some ideas about this that would be approachable by someone who has not studied philosophy at the university level.
Accepted:August 3, 2008

Accepted:

August 3, 2008