Living in harmony: Nominalism and the explanationist argument for realism

According to the indispensability argument, scientific realists ought to believe in the existence of mathematical entities, due to their indispensable role in theorising. Arguably the crucial sense of indispensability can be understood in terms of the contribution that mathematics sometimes makes to the super-empirical virtues of a theory. Moreover, the way in which the scientific realist values such virtues, in general, and draws on explanatory virtues, in particular, ought to make the realist ontologically committed to abstracta. This paper shows that this version of the indispensability argument glosses over crucial detail about how the scientific realist attempts to generate justificatory commitment to unobservables. The kind of role that the Platonist attributes to mathematics in scientific reasoning is compatible with nominalism, as far as scientific realist arguments are concerned.
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DOI 10.1080/02698590701305743
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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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