Top-Down and Bottom-Up Philosophy of Mathematics
The philosophy of mathematics of the last few decades is commonly distinguished into mainstream and maverick, to which a ‘third way’ has been recently added, the philosophy of mathematical practice. In this paper the limitations of these trends in the philosophy of mathematics are pointed out, and it is argued that they are due to the fact that all of them are based on a top-down approach, that is, an approach which explains the nature of mathematics in terms of some general unproven assumption. As an alternative, a bottom-up approach is proposed, which explains the nature of mathematics in terms of the activity of real individuals and interactions between them. This involves distinguishing between mathematics as a discipline and the mathematics embodied in organisms as a result of biological evolution, which however, while being distinguished, are not opposed. Moreover, it requires a view of mathematical proof, mathematical definition and mathematical objects which is alternative to the top-down approach.