David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In A. Irvine (ed.), The Philosophy of Mathematics (Handbook of the Philosophy of Science series). North-Holland Elsevier (2009)
Aristotelian, or non-Platonist, realism holds that mathematics is a science of the real world, just as much as biology or sociology are. Where biology studies living things and sociology studies human social relations, mathematics studies the quantitative or structural aspects of things, such as ratios, or patterns, or complexity, or numerosity, or symmetry. Let us start with an example, as Aristotelians always prefer, an example that introduces the essential themes of the Aristotelian view of mathematics. A typical mathematical truth is that there are six different pairs in four objects: Figure 1. There are 6 different pairs in 4 objects The objects may be of any kind, physical, mental or abstract. The mathematical statement does not refer to any properties of the objects, but only to patterning of the parts in the complex of the four objects. If that seems to us less a solid truth about the real world than the causation of flu by viruses, that may be simply due to our blindness about relations, or tendency to regard them as somehow less real than things and properties. But relations (for example, relations of equality between parts of a structure) are as real as colours or causes.
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