Heuristic is a central concept of Lakatos' philosophy both in his early works and in his later work, the methodology of scientific research programs (MSRP). The term itself, however, went through significant change of meaning. In this paper I study this change and the ‘metaphysical’ commitments behind it. In order to do so, I turn to his mathematical heuristic elaborated in Proofs and Refutations. I aim to show the dialogical character of mathematical knowledge in his account, which can open a door to hermeneutic studies of mathematical practice.

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Author notes

Olga Kiss is a cofounder of the International Society for Hermeneutics and Science, and is junior associate professor and vice-chair of the department of philosophy at Budapest Corvinus University (formerly Budapest University of Economics). Her philosophical interests are in paradigms, heuristics, and problem solving, together with information competences, understanding, interpretation, and cross-paradigmatic communication. Her most important philosophy publications in English are: “Mathematical Heuristics—Lakatos and Polya,” in Appraising Lakatos: Mathematics, Methodology and the Man, and “Meaningful Mistakes,” in the book she coedited, Hermeneutics and Science.