Scientific Realism and the Indispensability Argument for Mathematical Realism: A Marriage Made in Hell

An emphasis on explanatory contribution is central to a recent formulation of the indispensability argument (IA) for mathematical realism. Because scientific realism is argued for by means of inference to the best explanation (IBE), it has been further argued that being a scientific realist entails a commitment to IA and thus to mathematical realism. It has, however, gone largely unnoticed that the way that IBE is argued to be truth conducive involves citing successful applications of IBE and tracing this success over time. This in turn involves identifying those constituents of scientific theories that are responsible for their predictive success and showing that these constituents are retained across theory change in science. I argue that even if mathematics can be shown to feature in best explanations, the role of mathematics in scientific theories does not satisfy the condition that mathematics is always retained across theory change. According to a scientific realist, this condition needs to be met for making ontological claims on the basis of explanatory contribution. Thus scientific realists are not committed to mathematical realism on the basis of this recent formulation of IA
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Alan Baker (2009). Mathematical Explanation in Science. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (3):611-633.

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