Most contemporary philosophy of mathematics focuses on a small segment of mathematics, mainly the natural numbers and foundational disciplines like set theory. While there are good reasons for this approach, in this paper I will examine the philosophical problems associated with the area of mathematics known as applied mathematics.
The last twenty years have seen an explosion in books and papers on Russell’s philosophy and its contemporary significance. There is good reason to think that this will continue as the contents of the Collected Papers are digested by Russell scholars and as more specialists contribute to the history of analytic philosophy more generally. Given all this good news, it is disconcerting to find a 100 page discussion of Russell, in a well-reviewed book by a first-rate philosopher, repeating many of (...) the errors and misconceptions about Russell that scholars have worked so hard against. Soames’ discussion of Russell in the volumes under review is in fact so distressing that it alone compromises the book as a suitable introduction to the history of analytic philosophy. After briefly reviewing the outline of the two volumes, I discuss the errors concerning Russell, and conclude by drawing some lessons for Russell scholarship. (shrink)
Scott Soames has given us a clear, engaging but ultimately unsatisfying introduction to the history of analytic philosophy. Based on Soames’ impressive work in the philosophy of language, when these two volumes appeared I had high hopes that he would be successful. There is certainly a need for an introductory survey of the history of analytic philosophy. Currently, there is no resource for the beginning student or the amateur historian that will summarize our current understanding of the origins and development (...) of analytic philosophy. In what respects, then, do I find Soames’ attempt to fill this gap to be unsuccessful? The fundamental problem is that he has not succeeded in presenting what we now know about analytic philosophy and its history. Instead of drawing on the work of specialists in the field, it seems that he simply read the most famous works of the most famous philosophers and tried to figure out for himself what these philosophers were up to. Readers of Soames’ papers and other books will not be surprised to hear that this always ends in a carefully presented argument for a clearly articulated conclusion. Still, at least for the major figures considered in volume one, the interpretations offered fly in face of contemporary scholarship. I will try to justify these charges shortly by considering a few specific cases, but before I get to that, it is worth emphasizing why such an approach to the history of analytic philosophy is flawed, and why it is especially inappropriate in an introductory work. (shrink)
Idealized scientific representations result from employing assumptions that we take to be false. It is not surprising, then, that idealizations are a prime example of allegedly inconsistent scientific representations. I argue that the claim that an idealization requires inconsistent beliefs is often incorrect and that it turns out that a more mathematical perspective allows us to understand how the idealization can be interpreted consistently. The main example discussed is the claim that models of ocean waves typically involve the false assumption (...) that the ocean is infinitely deep. While it is true that the variable associated with depth is often taken to infinity in the representation of ocean waves, I explain how this mathematical transformation of the original equations does not require the belief that the ocean being modeled is infinitely deep. More generally, as a mathematical representation is manipulated, its components are decoupled from their original physical interpretation. (shrink)
After reviewing some different indispensability arguments, I distinguish several different ways in which mathematics can make an important contribution to a scientific explanation. Once these contributions are highlighted it will be possible to see that indispensability arguments have little chance of convincing us of the existence of abstract objects, even though they may give us good reason to accept the truth of some mathematical claims. However, in the concluding part of this paper, I argue that even though there is a (...) valid indispensability argument for realism about some mathematical claims, this argument is problematic as it begs the question at issue. This challenge to indispensability arguments is then used to suggest that if mathematics is making these sorts of contributions to science, then it may be the case that mathematical claims receive some non-empirical support prior to their application in scientific explanation. (shrink)
For many philosophers of science, mathematics lies closer to logic than it does to the ordinary sciences like physics, biology and economics. While this view may account for the relative neglect of the philosophy of mathematics by philosophers of science, it ignores at least two pressing questions about mathematics that philosophers of science need to be able to answer. First, do the similarities between mathematics and science support the view that mathematics is, after all, another science? Second, does the central (...) role of mathematics in science shed any light on traditional philosophical debates about science like scientific realism, the nature of explanation or reduction? When faced with these kinds of questions many philosophers of science have little to say. Unfortunately, most philosophers of mathematics also fail to engage with questions about the relationship between mathematics and science and so a peculiar isolation has emerged between philosophy of science and philosophy of mathematics. In this introductory survey I aim to equip the interested philosopher of science with a roadmap that can guide her through the often intimidating terrain of contemporary philosophy of mathematics. I hope that such a survey will make clear how fruitful a more sustained interaction between philosophy of science and philosophy of mathematics could be. (shrink)
Depending on how it is clarified, the applicability of mathematics can lie anywhere on a spectrum from the completely trivial to the utterly mysterious. At the one extreme, it is obvious that mathematics is used outside of mathematics in cases which range from everyday calculations like the attempt to balance one s checkbook through the most demanding abstract modeling of subatomic particles. The techniques underlying these applications are perfectly clear to those who have mastered them and there seems to be (...) little for the philosopher to say about such cases. At the same time, moving to the other extreme, scientists and philosophers have often remarked on the remarkable power that mathematics provides to the scientist, especially in the formulation of new scientific theories. Most famously, Wigner claimed that The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve (Wigner 1960, p. 14). But Wigner is far from an isolated case. According to Kant, in any special doctrine of nature there can be only as much proper science as there is mathematics therein (Kant 1786, p 6), and others seem to agree that there is some significant tie between mathematics and modern science. (shrink)
Science and mathematics: the scope and limits of mathematical fictionalism Content Type Journal Article Category Book Symposium Pages 1-26 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9640-3 Authors Christopher Pincock, University of Missouri, 438 Strickland Hall, Columbia, MO 65211-4160, USA Alan Baker, Department of Philosophy, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA 19081, USA Alexander Paseau, Wadham College, Oxford, OX1 3PN UK Mary Leng, Department of Philosophy, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD UK Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
Explanations of three different aspects of the rainbow are considered. The highly mathematical character of these explanations poses some interpretative questions concerning what the success of these explanations tells us about rainbows. I develop a proposal according to which mathematical explanations can highlight what is relevant about a given phenomenon while also indicating what is irrelevant to that phenomenon. This proposal is related to the extensive work by Batterman on asymptotic explanation with special reference to Batterman’s own discussion of the (...) rainbow. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is to articulate an account of scientific modeling that reconciles pluralism about modeling with a modest form of scientific realism. The central claim of this approach is that the models of a given physical phenomenon can present different aspects of the phenomenon. This allows us, in certain special circumstances, to be confident that we are capturing genuine features of the world, even when our modeling occurs independently of a wholly theoretical motivation. This framework is illustrated (...) using a recent debate from meteorology. (shrink)
This discussion note of (Batterman ) clarifies the modest aims of my 'mapping account' of applications of mathematics in science. Once these aims are clarified it becomes clear that Batterman's 'completely new approach' (Batterman , p. 24) is not needed to make sense of his cases of idealized mathematical explanations. Instead, a positive proposal for the explanatory power of such cases can be reconciled with the mapping account.
This paper begins by distinguishing intrinsic and extrinsic contributions of mathematics to scientific representation. This leads to two investigations into how these different sorts of contributions relate to confirmation. I present a way of accommodating both contributions that complicates the traditional assumptions of confirmation theory. In particular, I argue that subjective Bayesianism does best accounting for extrinsic contributions, while objective Bayesianism is more promising for intrinsic contributions.
Most contemporary philosophy of mathematics focuses on a small segment of mathematics, mainly the natural numbers and foundational disciplines like set theory. While there are good reasons for this approach, in this paper I will examine the philosophical problems associated with the area of mathematics known as applied mathematics. Here mathematicians pursue mathematical theories that are closely connected to the use of mathematics in the sciences and engineering. This area of mathematics seems to proceed using different methods and standards when (...) compared to much of mathematics. I argue that applied mathematics can contribute to the philosophy of mathematics and our understanding of mathematics as a whole. (shrink)
Russell's version of the multiple-relation theory from the "Theory of Knowledge" manuscript is presented and defended against some objections. A new problem, related to defining truth via correspondence, is reconstructed from Russell's remarks and what we know of Wittgenstein's objection to Russell's theory. In the end, understanding this objection in terms of correspondence helps to link Russell's multiple-relation theory to his later views on propositions.
Conflicting accounts of the role of mathematics in our physical theories can be traced to two principles. Mathematics appears to be both (1) theoretically indispensable, as we have no acceptable non-mathematical versions of our theories, and (2) metaphysically dispensable, as mathematical entities, if they existed, would lack a relevant causal role in the physical world. I offer a new account of a role for mathematics in the physical sciences that emphasizes the epistemic benefits of having mathematics around when we do (...) science. This account successfully reconciles theoretical indispensability and metaphysical dispensability and has important consequences for both advocates and critics of indispensability arguments for platonism about mathematics. (shrink)
The two most popular approaches to Carnap's 1928 Aufbau are the empiricist reading of Quine and the neo-Kantian readings of Michael Friedman and Alan Richardson. This paper presents a third "reserved" interpretation that emphasizes Carnap's opposition to traditional philosophy and consequent naturalism. The main consideration presented in favor of the reserved reading is Carnap's work on a physical construction system. I argue that Carnap's construction theory was an empirical scientific discipline and that the basic relations of its construction systems need (...) not be eliminated. (shrink)
Mark Colyvan uses applications of mathematics to argue that mathematical entities exist. I claim that his argument is invalid based on the assumption that a certain way of thinking about applications, called `the mapping account,' is correct. My main contention is that successful applications depend only on there being appropriate structural relations between physical situations and the mathematical domain. As a variety of non-realist interpretations of mathematics deliver these structural relations, indispensability arguments are invalid.
This paper concerns the debate on the nature of Rudolf Carnap''sproject in his 1928 book The Logical Structure of the Worldor Aufbau. Michael Friedman and Alan Richardson haveinitiated much of this debate. They claim that the Aufbauis best understood as a work that is firmly grounded inneo-Kantian philosophy. They have made these claims in oppositionto Quine and Goodman''s ``received view'''' of the Aufbau. Thereceived view sees the Aufbau as an attempt to carry out indetail Russell''s external world program. I argue (...) that both sidesof this debate have made errors in their interpretation ofRussell. These errors have led these interpreters to misunderstandthe connection between Russell''s project and Carnap''s project.Russell in fact exerted a crucial influence on Carnap in the1920s. This influence is complicated, however, due to the factthat Russell and Carnap disagreed on many philosophical issues. Iconclude that interpretations of the Aufbau that ignoreRussell''s influence are incomplete. (shrink)