On the Plurality of Mathematics Discourses: Between Power and Constraints

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This article discusses the concept of mathematics discourses by analysing two main questions. The first question is about the plurality of mathematics and the possibility of the simultaneous existence of culturally different mathematics. The second question is about the respective value of the different mathematics and its means of power in terms of ‘disciplining’ discourse. In order to investigate these questions we will use a theoretical toolkit that borrows the concepts of ‘language games’ and of ‘family resemblance’ from Wittgenstein, the concepts of ‘discourses’ and of ‘disciplining’ from Foucault and the concept of vertical and horizontal discourses, and recontextualisation from Bernstein.
One of the most challenging tasks in present-day philosophy of mathematics is to defend the thesis that "real" mathematics is a long distance away from the idealized core of its practices, called the "skeleton" in this paper. The necessity of the plural of mathematics discourses will force us to abandon a Foucauldian view that stresses the control and power of a unique discourse in favour of a more layered perspective. Because mathematical practices happen in diverse local, temporal and spatial contexts, multiple recontextualizations of what the flesh around the skeleton might be will occur. These will prevent one unique fixity and allow for multiple versions of the game.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDiscourses of Change and Changes of Discourse
EditorsPaul Smeyers, Marc Depaepe
Place of PublicationDordrecht
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-30456-4
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameEducational Research

Bibliographical note

Proceedings of 2014 conference published as Springer publication


  • Mathematical Education
  • Foucault
  • Wittgenstein


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