Does Cantorian set theory alter our intuitive conception of number? Yes. In particular, Cantorian set theory revises our intuitive conception of when two sets have the same size (cardinal number). Consider a variant of Galileo’s Paradox, which notes that the members of the set of natural numbers, N, can be put in one-to-one correspondence with the members of the set of even numbers, E.
Coping with everyday life limits the extent of one’s scepticism. It is practically impossible to doubt the existence of the things with which one is immediately engaged and interacting. To doubt that, say, a door exists, is to step back from merely using the door (opening it) and to reflect on it in a detached, theoretical way. It is impossible to simultaneously act and live immersed in situation S while doubting that one is in S. Sceptical doubts—such as ‘Is this (...) really a door?’, ‘Am I really walking?’ — require a reflective withdrawal in thought from the situation at hand. Maintaining sceptical doubt while coping with everyday life requires a split consciousness, a bad faith, with one part of consciousness doubting the existing of things that the other part takes forgranted. For this reason, a sustained lived sceptical doubt is sometimes thought to be impossible. -/- In this article, I examine Wittgenstein's response to scepticism in "On Certainty". I argue that one of his responses is "the response based on action", which is (as other Wittgenstein interpreters have noted) a characteristically pragmatist response. I then evaluate the quality of this pragmatist response to scepticism, noting that actions just as much as representations are susceptible to mis-interpretation. It is argued that despite the insights contained in it, Wittgenstein's contextualism about meaning is inadequate to rescue the Wittgensteinian response to scepticism. (shrink)
According to Quine’s indispensability argument, we ought to believe in just those mathematical entities that we quantify over in our best scientific theories. Quine’s criterion of ontological commitment is part of the standard indispensability argument. However, we suggest that a new indispensability argument can be run using Armstrong’s criterion of ontological commitment rather than Quine’s. According to Armstrong’s criterion, ‘to be is to be a truthmaker (or part of one)’. We supplement this criterion with our own brand of metaphysics, 'Aristotelian (...) (...) realism', in order to identify the truthmakers of mathematics. We consider in particular as a case study the indispensability to physics of real analysis (the theory of the real numbers). We conclude that it is possible to run an indispensability argument without Quinean baggage. (shrink)
This paper reports on an ongoing ARC Discovery Project that is conducting design research into learning in collaborative virtual worlds (CVW).The paper will describe three design components of the project: (a) pedagogical design, (b)technical and graphics design, and (c) learning research design. The perspectives of each design team will be discussed and how the three teams worked together to produce the CVW. The development of productive failure learning activities for the CVW will be discussed and there will be an interactive (...) demonstration of the project's CVW. (shrink)
We show how an epistemology informed by cognitive science promises to shed light on an ancient problem in the philosophy of mathematics: the problem of exactness. The problem of exactness arises because geometrical knowledge is thought to concern perfect geometrical forms, whereas the embodiment of such forms in the natural world may be imperfect. There thus arises an apparent mismatch between mathematical concepts and physical reality. We propose that the problem can be solved by emphasizing the ways in which the (...) brain can transform and organize its perceptual intake. It is not necessary for a geometrical form to be perfectly instantiated in order for perception of such a form to be the basis of a geometrical concept. (shrink)
The mathematician Georg Cantor strongly believed in the existence of actually infinite numbers and sets. Cantor’s “actualism” went against the Aristotelian tradition in metaphysics and mathematics. Under the pressures to defend his theory, his metaphysics changed from Spinozistic monism to Leibnizian voluntarist dualism. The factor motivating this change was two-fold: the desire to avoid antinomies associated with the notion of a universal collection and the desire to avoid the heresy of necessitarian pantheism. We document the changes in Cantor’s thought with (...) reference to his main philosophical-mathematical treatise, the Grundlagen (1883) as well as with reference to his article, “Über die verschiedenen Standpunkte in bezug auf das aktuelle Unendliche” (“Concerning Various Perspectives on the Actual Infinite”) (1885). (shrink)
G. E. M. Anscombe’s view that agents know what they are doing “without observation” has been met with skepticism and the charge of confusion and falsehood. Simultaneously, some commentators think that Anscombe has captured an important truth about the first-personal character of an agent’s awareness of her actions. This paper attempts an explanation and vindication of Anscombe’s view. The key to the vindication lies in focusing on the role of practical knowledge in an agent’s knowledge of her actions. Few commentators, (...) with the exception of Moran (2004) and Hursthouse (2000), have gotten the emphasis right. The key to a proper interpretation of Anscombe’s views is to explain her claims within the context of her teleological theory of action. The result is a theory ofintentional action that makes self-knowledge of one’s own actions the norm. (shrink)
In a recent article (‘The Continuum: Russell’s Moment of Candour’), Christopher Ormell argues against the traditional mathematical view that the real numbers form an uncountably inﬁnite set. He rejects the conclusion of Cantor’s diagonal argument for the higher, non-denumerable inﬁnity of the real numbers. He does so on the basis that the classical conception of a real number is mys- terious, ineffable, and epistemically suspect. Instead, he urges that mathematics should admit only ‘well-deﬁned’ real numbers as proper objects of study. (...) In practice, this means excluding as inadmissible all those real numbers whose decimal expansions cannot be calculated in as much detail as one would like by some rule. We argue against Ormell that the classical realist account of the continuum has explanatory power in mathematics and should be accepted, much in the same way that "dark matter" is posited by physicists to explain observations in cosmology. In effect, the indefinable real numbers are like the "dark matter" of real analysis. (shrink)
In chapter 7 of The Varieties of Reference, Gareth Evans claimed to have an argument that would present "an antidote" to the Cartesian conception of the self as a purely mental entity. On the basis of considerations drawn from philosophy of language and thought, Evans claimed to be able to show that bodily awareness is a form of self-awareness. The apparent basis for this claim is the datum that sometimes judgements about one’s position based on body sense are immune to (...) errors of misidentification relative to the first-person pronoun 'I'. However, Evans’s argument suffers from a crucial ambiguity. 'I' sometimes refers to the subject's mind, sometimes to the person, and sometimes to the subject's body. Once disambiguated, it turns out that Evans’s argument either begs the question against the Cartesian or fails to be plausible at all. Nonetheless, the argument is important for drawing our attention to the idea that bodily modes of awareness should be taken seriously as possible forms of self-awareness. (shrink)
This is a book review of Karen Armstrong's "The Spiral Staircase", the autobiography of a historian of religion. -/- To cite this article: Newstead, Anne. Compassion, Not Belief [Book Review] [online]. Quadrant, Vol. 49, No. 6, June 2005: 88-89. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=203690937218529;res=IELLCC> ISSN: 0033-5002. [cited 06 Dec 12].
This thesis proposes that an account of first-person reference and first-person thinking requires an account of practical knowledge. At a minimum, first-person reference requires at least a capacity for knowledge of the intentional act of reference. More typically, first-person reasoning requires deliberation and the ability to draw inferences while entertaining different 'I' thoughts. Other accounts of first-person reference--such as the perceptual account and the rule-based account--are criticized as inadequate. An account of practical knowledge is provided by an interpretation of GEM (...) Anscombe's account in her landmark monograph "Intention". (shrink)
It is argued that there are ways of individuating the objects of perception without using sortal concepts. The result is an moderate anti-sortalist position on which one can single out objects using demonstrative expressions without knowing exactly what sort of thing those objects are.
This paper is on Aristotle's conception of the continuum. It is argued that although Aristotle did not have the modern conception of real numbers, his account of the continuum does mirror the topology of the real number continuum in modern mathematics especially as seen in the work of Georg Cantor. Some differences are noted, particularly as regards Aristotle's conception of number and the modern conception of real numbers. The issue of whether Aristotle had the notion of open versus closed intervals (...) is discussed. Finally, it is suggested that one reason there is a common structure between Aristotle's account of the continuum and that found in Cantor's definition of the real number continuum is that our intuitions about the continuum have their source in the experience of the real spatiotemporal world. A plea is made to consider Aristotle's abstractionist philosophy of mathematics anew. (shrink)
Does mathematical practice require the existence of actual infinities, or are potential infinities enough? Contrasting points of view are examined in depth, concentrating on Aristotle’s arguments against actual infinities, Cantor’s attempts to refute Aristotle, and concluding with Zermelo’s assertion of the primacy of potential infinity in mathematics.