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Rigour or rigor (see spelling differences) has a number of meanings in relation to intellectual

life and discourse. These are separate from public and political applications with their suggestion
of laws enforced to the letter, or political absolutism. A religion, too, may be worn lightly, or
applied with rigour.


1 Intellectual rigour
o 1.1 In relation to intellectual honesty
o 1.2 Politics and the law
2 Mathematical rigour
o 2.1 In relation to mathematical proof
o 2.2 In relation to physics
o 2.3 In relation to the classroom
3 See also
4 References

[edit] Intellectual rigour

An attempted short definition of intellectual rigour might be that no suspicion of double
standard be allowed: uniform principles should be applied. This is a test of consistency, over
cases, and to individuals or institutions (including the speaker, the speaker's country and so on).
Consistency can be at odds here with a forgiving attitude, adaptability, and the need to take
precedent with a pinch of salt.
"The rigour of the game" is a quotation from Charles Lamb[1] about whist. It implies that the
demands of thinking accurately and to the point over a card game can serve also as entertainment
or leisure. Intellectual rigour can therefore be sometimes seen as the exercise of a skill. It can
also degenerate into pedantry, which is intellectual rigour applied to no particular end, except
perhaps self-importance. Scholarship can be defined as intellectual rigour applied to the quality
control of information, which implies an appropriate standard of accuracy, and scepticism
applied to accepting anything on trust.

[edit] In relation to intellectual honesty

Intellectual rigour is an important part, though not the whole, of intellectual honesty which
means keeping one's convictions in proportion to one's valid evidence.[2] For the latter, one
should be questioning one's own assumptions, not merely applying them relentlessly if precisely.
It is possible to doubt whether complete intellectual honesty exists on the grounds that no one
can entirely master his or her own presuppositions without doubting that certain kinds of
intellectual rigour are potentially available. The distinction certainly matters greatly in debate, if
one wishes to say that an argument is flawed in its premises.

[edit] Politics and the law

Main article: Letter and spirit of the law
The setting for intellectual rigour does tend to assume a principled position from which to
advance or argue. An opportunistic tendency to use any argument at hand is not very rigorous,
although very common in politics, for example. Arguing one way one day, and another later, can
be defended by casuistry, i.e. by saying the cases are different.
In the legal context, for practical purposes, the facts of cases do always differ. Case law can
therefore be at odds with a principled approach; and intellectual rigour can seem to be defeated.
This defines a judge's problem with uncodified law. Codified law poses a different problem, of
interpretation and adaptation of definite principles without losing the point; here applying the
letter of the law, with all due rigour, may on occasion seem to undermine the principled

[edit] Mathematical rigour

Mathematical rigour can refer both to rigorous methods of mathematical proof and to rigorous
methods of mathematical practice (thus relating to other interpretations of rigour).

[edit] In relation to mathematical proof

Main article: Mathematical proof
Mathematical rigour is often cited as a kind of gold standard for mathematical proof. It has a
history traced back to Greek mathematics, in the work of Euclid. This refers to the axiomatic
method. Complete rigour, it is often said, became available in mathematics at the start of the
twentieth century.
Mathematical rigour can be defined as amenability to algorithmic proof checking. Indeed, with
the aid of computers, it is possible to check proofs mechanically by noting that possible flaws
arise from either an incorrect proof or machine errors (which are extremely rare). [3] Formal
rigour is the introduction of high degrees of completeness by means of a formal language where
such proofs can be codified using set theories such as ZFC (see automated theorem proving).
Most mathematical arguments are presented as prototypes of formally rigorous proofs. The
reason often cited for this is that completely rigorous proofs, which tend to be longer and more
unwieldy, may obscure what is being demonstrated. Steps which are obvious to a human mind
may have fairly long formal derivations from the axioms. Under this argument, there is a tradeoff between rigour and comprehension. Some argue that the use of formal languages to institute
complete mathematical rigour might make theories which are commonly disputed or
misinterpreted completely unambiguous by revealing flaws in reasoning, such as a misuse of

[edit] In relation to physics

The role of mathematical rigour in relation to physics is twofold.
First, there is the general question, sometimes called Wigner's Puzzle,[4] "how it is that
mathematics, quite generally, is applicable to nature?" However, scientists assume its successful
application to nature justifies the study of mathematical physics.
Second, there is the question regarding the role and status of mathematically rigorous results and
relations[clarification needed]. This question is particularly vexing in relation to quantum field theory.
Both aspects of mathematical rigour in physics have attracted considerable attention in
philosophy of science. (See, for example, ref.[5] and works quoted therein.)

[edit] In relation to the classroom

Rigour in the classroom is a hotly debated topic amongst educators. Generally speaking,
however, classroom rigour consists of multi-faceted, challenging instruction and correct
placement of the student. Students excelling in formal operational thought tend to excel in
classes for gifted students[citation needed]. Students who have not reached that final stage of cognitive
development, according to Piaget, can build upon those skills with the help of a properly trained

[edit] See also

Intellectual dishonesty
Scientific method

[edit] References
1. ^ Bartlett, John, comp. Familiar Quotations, 10th ed, rev. and enl. by Nathan Haskell
Dole. Boston: Little, Brown, 1919; Bartleby.com, 2000.
http://www.bartleby.com/100/343.html. Retrieved Oct. 25, 2006.
2. ^ Wiener, N. (1985). Intellectual honesty and the contemporary scientist. In P. Masani
(Ed.), Norbert Wiener: Collected works and commentary (pp. 725- 729).
3. ^ Hardware memory errors are caused by high-energy radiation from outer space, and
can generally be expected to affect one bit of data per month, per gigabyte of DRAM.[1].
4. ^ This refers to the 1960 paper The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the
Natural Sciences by Eugene Wigner.

5. ^ Gelfert, Axel, 'Mathematical Rigor in Physics: Putting Exact Results in Their Place',
Philosophy of Science, 72 (2005) 723-738.
6. ^ Forum: Academic Rigor, in: UNIversitas: The University of Northern Iowa Journal of
Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity 1.1 (Fall 2005).
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