An Inferential Conception of the Application of Mathematics

Noûs 45 (2):345 - 374 (2011)
A number of people have recently argued for a structural approach to accounting for the applications of mathematics. Such an approach has been called "the mapping account". According to this view, the applicability of mathematics is fully accounted for by appreciating the relevant structural similarities between the empirical system under study and the mathematics used in the investigation ofthat system. This account of applications requires the truth of applied mathematical assertions, but it does not require the existence of mathematical objects. In this paper, we discuss the shortcomings of this account, and show how these shortcomings can be overcome by a broader view of the application of mathematics: the inferential conception.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-0068.2010.00772.x
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Peter Godfrey-Smith (2009). Models and Fictions in Science. Philosophical Studies 143 (1):101 - 116.

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