In the context of discussions about the nature of ‘identical particles’ and the status of Leibniz’s Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles in Quantum Mechanics, a novel kind of physical discernibility has recently been proposed, which we call witness discernibility. We inquire into how witness discernibility relates to known kinds of discernibility. Our conclusion will be that for a wide variety of cases, including the intended quantum-mechanical ones, witness discernibility collapses extensionally to absolute discernibility, that is, to discernibility by properties.
There has been much debate in philosophy about the relation between identity and distinctness on the one hand, and various forms of discernibility on the other. For instance, philosophers have debated the truth of the Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles (PII), which is naturally formulated using a second-order quantifier ranging over some class of properties of particular philosophical significance.
Can there be objects that are ‘thin’ in the sense that very little is required for their existence? A number of philosophers have thought so. For instance, many Fregeans believe it suffices for the existence of directions that there be lines standing in the relation of parallelism; other philosophers believe it suffices for a mathematical theory to have a model that the theory be coherent. This article explains the appeal of thin objects, discusses the three most important strategies for articulating (...) and defending the idea of such objects, and outlines some problems that these strategies face. (shrink)
Frege suggests that criteria of identity should play a central role in the explanation of reference, especially to abstract objects. This paper develops a precise model of how we can come to refer to a particular kind of abstract object, namely, abstract letter types. It is argued that the resulting abstract referents are ‘metaphysically lightweight’.
Does category theory provide a foundation for mathematics that is autonomous with respect to the orthodox foundation in a set theory such as ZFC? We distinguish three types of autonomy: logical, conceptual, and justificatory. Focusing on a categorical theory of sets, we argue that a strong case can be made for its logical and conceptual autonomy. Its justificatory autonomy turns on whether the objects of a foundation for mathematics should be specified only up to isomorphism, as is customary in other (...) branches of contemporary mathematics. If such a specification suffices, then a category-theoretical approach will be highly appropriate. But if sets have a richer `nature' than is preserved under isomorphism, then such an approach will be inadequate. (shrink)
Say that some things form a set just in case there is a set whose members are precisely the things in question. For instance, all the inhabitants of New York form a set. So do all the stars in the universe. And so do all the natural numbers. Under what conditions do some things form a set?
Which abstraction principles are acceptable? A variety of criteria have been proposed, in particular irenicity, stability, conservativeness, and unboundedness. This note charts their logical relations. This answers some open questions and corrects some old answers.
Thirteen up-and-coming researchers in the philosophy of mathematics have been invited to write on what they take to be the right philosophical account of mathematics, examining along the way where they think the philosophy of mathematics is and ought to be going. A rich and diverse picture emerges. Some broader tendencies can nevertheless be detected: there is increasing attention to the practice, language and psychology of mathematics, a move to reassess the orthodoxy, as well as inspiration from philosophical logic.
Neo-Fregean logicism attempts to base mathematics on abstraction principles. Since not all abstraction principles are acceptable, the neo-Fregeans need an account of which ones are. One of the most promising accounts is in terms of the notion of stability; roughly, that an abstraction principle is acceptable just in case it is satisfiable in all domains of sufficiently large cardinality. We present two counterexamples to stability as a sufficient condition for acceptability and argue that these counterexamples can be avoided only by (...) major departures from the existing neo-Fregean programme. (shrink)
The neo-Fregean project of basing mathematics on abstraction principles faces “the bad company problem,” namely that a great variety of unacceptable abstraction principles are mixed in among the acceptable ones. In this paper I propose a new solution to the problem, based on the idea that individuation must take the form of a well-founded process. A surprising aspect of this solution is that every form of abstraction on concepts is permissible and that paradox is instead avoided by restricting what concepts (...) there are. (shrink)
Frege proposed that his Context Principle—which says that a word has meaning only in the context of a proposition—can be used to explain reference, both in general and to mathematical objects in particular. I develop a version of this proposal and outline answers to some important challenges that the resulting account of reference faces. Then I show how this account can be applied to arithmetic to yield an explanation of our reference to the natural numbers and of their metaphysical status.
Neo-Fregean logicism seeks to base mathematics on abstraction principles. But the acceptable abstraction principles are surrounded by unacceptable (indeed often paradoxical) ones. This is the “bad company problem.” In this introduction I first provide a brief historical overview of the problem. Then I outline the main responses that are currently being debated. In the course of doing so I provide summaries of the contributions to this special issue.
Platonism about mathematics (or mathematical platonism) is the metaphysical view that there are abstract mathematical objects whose existence is independent of us and our language, thought, and practices. In this survey article, the view is clarified and distinguished from some related views, and arguments for and against the view are discussed.
It is sometimes suggested that criteria of identity should play a central role in an account of our most fundamental ways of referring to objects. The view is nicely illustrated by an example due to (Quine, 1950). Suppose you are standing at the bank of a river, watching the water that floats by. What is required for you to refer to the river, as opposed to a particular segment of it, or the totality of its water, or the current temporal (...) part of this water? According to Quine, you must at least implicitly be operating with some criterion of identity that informs you when two sightings of water count as sightings of the same referent. For unless you have at least an implicit grasp of what is required for your intended referent to be identical with another object with which you are presented, you have not succeeded in singling out a unique object for reference. (shrink)
Ordinary English contains different forms of quantification over objects. In addition to the usual singular quantification, as in 'There is an apple on the table', there is plural quantification, as in 'There are some apples on the table'. Ever since Frege, formal logic has favored the two singular quantifiers ∀x and ∃x over their plural counterparts ∀xx and ∃xx (to be read as for any things xx and there are some things xx). But in recent decades it has been argued (...) that we have good reason to admit among our primitive logical notions also the plural quantifiers ∀xx and ∃xx. More controversially, it has been argued that the resulting formal system with plural as well as singular quantification qualifies as ‘pure logic’; in particular, that it is universally applicable, ontologically innocent, and perfectly well understood. In addition to being interesting in its own right, this thesis will, if correct, make plural quantification available as an innocent but extremely powerful tool in metaphysics, philosophy of mathematics, and philosophical logic. For instance, George Boolos has used plural quantification to interpret monadic second-order logic and has argued on this basis that monadic second-order logic qualifies as “pure logic.” Plural quantification has also been used in attempts to defend logicist ideas, to account for set theory, and to eliminate ontological commitments to mathematical objects and complex objects. (shrink)
This paper has two goals. The ﬁrst goal is to show that the structuralists’ claims about dependence are more signiﬁcant to their view than is generally recognized. I argue that these dependence claims play an essential role in the most interesting and plausible characterization of this brand of structuralism. The second goal is to defend a compromise view concerning the dependence relations that obtain between mathematical objects. Two extreme views have tended to dominate the debate, namely the view that all (...) mathematical objects depend on the structures to which they belong and the view that none do. I present counterexamples to each of these extreme views. I defend instead a compromise view according to which the structuralists are right about many kinds of mathematical objects (roughly, the algebraic ones), whereas the anti-structuralists are right about others (in particular, the sets). I end with some remarks about how to understand the crucial notion of dependence, which despite being at the heart of the debate is rarely examined in any detail. (shrink)
On the face of it, platonism seems very far removed from the scientific world view that dominates our age. Nevertheless many philosophers and mathematicians believe that modern mathematics requires some form of platonism. The defense of mathematical platonism that is both most direct and has been most influential in the analytic tradition in philosophy derives from the German logician-philosopher Gottlob Frege (1848-1925).2 I will therefore refer to it as Frege’s argument. This argument is part of the background of any contemporary (...) discussion of mathematical platonism. (shrink)
where ‘aa’ is a plural term, and ‘F’ a plural predicate. Following George Boolos (1984) and others, many philosophers and logicians also think that plural expressions should be analysed as not introducing any new ontological commitments to some sort of ‘plural entities’, but rather as involving a new form of reference to objects to which we are already committed (for an overview and further details, see Linnebo 2004). For instance, the plural term ‘aa’ refers to Alice, Bob and Charlie simultaneously, (...) and the plural predicate ‘F’ is true of some things just in case these things cooperate. A natural question that arises is whether the step from the singular to the plural can be iterated. Are there terms that stand to ordinary plural terms the way ordinary plural terms stand to singular terms? Let’s call such terms superplural. A superplural term would thus, loosely speaking, refer to several ‘pluralities’ at once, much as an ordinary plural term refers to several objects at once.1 Further, let’s call a predicate superplural if it can be predicated of superplural terms. It is reasonably straightforward to devise a formal logic of superplural terms, superplural predicates, and even superplural quantifiers (see Rayo 2006). But does this formal logic reflect any features of natural languages? In particular, does ordinary English contain superplural terms and predicates? The purpose of this article is to address these questions. We examine some earlier arguments for the existence of superplural expressions in English and find them to be either.. (shrink)
John Burgess in a 2004 paper combined plural logic and a new version of the idea of limitation of size to give an elegant motivation of the axioms of ZFC set theory. His proposal is meant to improve on earlier work by Paul Bernays in two ways. I argue that both attempted improvements fail. I am grateful to Philip Welch, two anonymous referees, and especially Ignacio Jané for written comments on earlier versions of this paper, which have led to substantial (...) improvements. Thanks also to the participants in a discussion group at the University of Bristol, where an earlier version was presented. (shrink)
Since Benacerraf’s “Mathematical Truth” a number of epistemological challenges have been launched against mathematical platonism. I first argue that these challenges fail because they unduely assimilate mathematics to empirical science. Then I develop an improved challenge which is immune to this criticism. Very roughly, what I demand is an account of how people’s mathematical beliefs are responsive to the truth of these beliefs. Finally I argue that if we employ a semantic truth-predicate rather than just a deflationary one, there surprisingly (...) turns out to be logical space for a response to the improved challenge where no such space appeared to exist. (shrink)
Fixing Frege is one of the most important investigations to date of Fregean approaches to the foundations of mathematics. In addition to providing an unrivalled survey of the technical program to which Frege’s writings have given rise, the book makes a large number of improvements and clariﬁcations. Anyone with an interest in the philosophy of mathematics will enjoy and beneﬁt from the careful and well informed overview provided by the ﬁrst of its three chapters. Specialists will ﬁnd the book an (...) indispensable reference and an invaluable source of insights and new results. (shrink)
Call a quantifier unrestricted if it ranges over absolutely all things: not just over all physical things or all things relevant to some particular utterance or discourse but over absolutely everything there is. Prima facie, unrestricted quantification seems to be perfectly coherent. For such quantification appears to be involved in a variety of claims that all normal human beings are capable of understanding. For instance, some basic logical and mathematical truths appear to involve unrestricted quantification, such as the truth that (...) absolutely everything is self-identical and the truth that the empty set has absolutely no members. Various metaphysical views too appear to involve unrestricted quantification, such as the physicalist view that absolutely everything is physical. (shrink)
I present a novel interpretation of Frege’s attempt at Grundgesetze I §§29-31 to prove that every expression of his language has a unique reference. I argue that Frege’s proof is based on a contextual account of reference, similar to but more sophisticated than that enshrined in his famous Context Principle. Although Frege’s proof is incorrect, I argue that the account of reference on which it is based is of potential philosophical value, and I analyze the class of cases to which (...) it may successfully be applied. (shrink)
Frege Arithmetic (FA) is the second-order theory whose sole non-logical axiom is Hume’s Principle, which says that the number of F s is identical to the number of Gs if and only if the F s and the Gs can be one-to-one correlated. According to Frege’s Theorem, FA and some natural deﬁnitions imply all of second-order Peano Arithmetic. This paper distinguishes two dimensions of impredicativity involved in FA—one having to do with Hume’s Principle, the other, with the underlying second-order logic—and (...) investigates how much of Frege’s Theorem goes through in various partially predicative fragments of FA. Theorem 1 shows that almost everything goes through, the most important exception being the axiom that every natural number has a successor. Theorem 2 shows that the Successor Axiom cannot be proved in the theories that are predicative in either dimension. (shrink)
Book Information The Limits of Abstraction. The Limits of Abstraction Kit Fine , Oxford : Clarendon Press , 2002 , x + 203 , £18.99 (cloth). By Kit Fine. Clarendon Press. Oxford. Pp. x + 203. £18.99 (cloth).
I shall make two main claims. My first main claim is that Frege started out with a view of logic that is closer to Kant’s than is generally recognized, but that he gradually came to reject this Kantian view, or at least totally to transform it. My second main claim concerns Frege’s reasons for distancing himself from the Kantian conception of logic. It is natural to speculate that this change in Frege’s view of logic may have been spurred by a (...) desire to establish the logicality of the axiom system he needed for his logicist reduction, including the infamous Basic Law V. I admit this may have been one of Frege’s motives. But I shall argue that Frege also had a deeper and more interesting reason to reject his early Kantian view of logic, having to do with his increasingly vehement anti-psychologism. (shrink)