Historicism, entrenchment, and conventionalism

W. V. Quine famously argues that though all knowledge is empirical, mathematics is entrenched relative to physics and the special sciences. Further, entrenchment accounts for the necessity of mathematics relative to these other disciplines. Michael Friedman challenges Quine’s view by appealing to historicism, the thesis that the nature of science is illuminated by taking into account its historical development. Friedman argues on historicist grounds that mathematical claims serve as principles constitutive of languages within which empirical claims in physics and the special sciences can be formulated and tested, where these mathematical claims are themselves not empirical but conventional. For Friedman, their conventional, constitutive status accounts for the necessity of mathematics relative to these other disciplines. Here I evaluate Friedman’s challenge to Quine and Quine’s likely response. I then show that though we have reason to find Friedman’s challenge successful, his positive project requires further development before we can endorse it.
Keywords Analytic-synthetic distinction  A priori  Carnap, R.  Constitutive principles  Conventionalism  Entrenchment  Friedman, M.  Historicism  Kuhn, T.  Quine, W. V
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DOI 10.2307/20722510
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Nathaniel Goldberg (2011). Interpreting Thomas Kuhn as a Response-Dependence Theorist. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 19 (5):729 - 752.

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