William Thurston was described by his fellow mathematicians as an intellectually generous person. But what does it mean to say Thurston was intellectually generous? And what benefits are associated with this virtue? To answer the first question, I will argue that Thurston’s intellectual generosity is captured by Roberts and Wood’s (2007) analysis. To answer the second question, I will argue that intellectual generosity promotes the development of research communities that are diverse in terms of the mathematical backgrounds of their members. Then I will show that such diversity promotes, and is sometimes required for, mathematical breakthroughs.
R. Roberts and W. J. Wood, Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology, Oxford, 2007.