Recently, nominalists have made a case against the Quine–Putnam indispensability argument for mathematical Platonism by taking issue with Quine’s criterion of ontological commitment. In this paper I propose and defend an indispensability argument founded on an alternative criterion of ontological commitment: that advocated by David Armstrong. By defending such an argument I place the burden back onto the nominalist to defend her favourite criterion of ontological commitment and, furthermore, show that criterion cannot be used to formulate a plausible (...) form of the indispensability argument. (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)
In the philosophy of mathematics, indispensability arguments aim to show that we are justiﬁed in believing that abstract mathematical objects exist. I wish to defend a particular objection to such arguments that has become increasingly popular recently. It is called instrumental nominalism. I consider the recent versions of this view and conclude that it has yet to be given an adequate formulation. I provide such a formulation and show that it can be used to answer the indispensability arguments. (...) -/- There are two main indispensability arguments in the literature, though one has received nearly all of the attention. They correspond to two ways in which we use mathematics in science and in everyday life. We use mathematical language to help us describe non-mathematical reality; and we use mathematical reasoning to help us perform inferences concerning non-mathematical reality using only a feasible amount of cognitive power. The former use is the starting point of the Quine-Putnam indispensability argument ([Quine, 1980a], [Quine, 1980b], [Quine, 1981a], [Quine, 1981b], [Putnam, 1979a], [Putnam, 1979b]); the latter provides the basis for Ketland’s more recent argument ([Ketland, 2005]). I begin by considering the Quine-Putnam argument and introduce instrumental nominalism to defuse it. Then I show that Ketland’s argument can be defused in a similar way. (shrink)
In this paper I do two things: (1) I support the claim that there is still some confusion about just what the Quine-Putnam indispensability argument is and the way it employs Quinean meta-ontology and (2) I try to dispel some of this confusion by presenting the argument in a way which reveals its important meta-ontological features, and include these features explicitly as premises. As a means to these ends, I compare Peter van Inwagen’s argument for the existence of properties (...) with Putnam’s presentation of the indispensability argument. Van Inwagen’s argument is a classic exercise in Quinean meta-ontology and yet he claims – despite his argument’s conspicuous similarities to the Quine-Putnam argument – that his own has a substantially different form. I argue, however, that there is no such difference between these two arguments even at a very high level of specificity; I show that there is a detailed generic indispensability argument that captures the single form of both. The arguments are identical in every way except for the kind of objects they argue for – an irrelevant difference for my purposes. Furthermore, Putnam’s and van Inwagen’s presentations make an assumption that is often mistakenly taken to be an important feature of the Quine-Putnam argument. Yet this assumption is only the implicit backdrop against which the argument is typically presented. This last point is brought into sharper relief by the fact that van Inwagen’s list of the four nominalistic responses to his argument is too short. His list is missing an important – and historically popular – fifth option. (shrink)
Quine's views on indispensability arguments in mathematics are scrutinised. A weak indispensability argument is distinguished from a strong indispensability thesis. The weak argument is the combination of the criterion of ontological commitment, holism and a mild naturalism. It is used to refute nominalism. Quine's strong indispensability thesis claims that one should consider all and only the mathematical entities that are really indispensable. Quine has little support for this thesis. This is even clearer if one takes into (...) account Maddy's critique of Quine's strong indispensability thesis. Maddy's critique does not refute Quine's weak indispensability argument. We are left with a weak and almost unassailable indispensability argument. (shrink)
Confirmational holism is central to a traditional formulation of the indispensability argument for mathematical realism (IA). I argue that recent strategies for defending scientific realism are incompatible with confirmational holism. Thus a traditional formulation of IA is incompatible with recent strategies for defending scientific realism. As a consequence a traditional formulation of IA will only have limited appeal.
The indispensability argument for abstract mathematical entities has been an important issue in the philosophy of mathematics. The argument relies on several assumptions. Some objections have been made against these assumptions, but there are several serious defects in these objections. Ameliorating these defects leads to a new anti-realistic philosophy of mathematics, mainly: first, in mathematical applications, what really exist and can be used as tools are not abstract mathematical entities, but our inner representations that we create in imagining abstract (...) mathematical entities; second, the thoughts that we create in imagining infinite mathematical entities are bounded by external conditions. (shrink)
In this article I consider what it would take to combine a certain kind of mathematical Platonism with serious presentism. I argue that a Platonist moved to accept the existence of mathematical objects on the basis of an indispensability argument faces a significant challenge if she wishes to accept presentism. This is because, on the one hand, the indispensability argument can be reformulated as a new argument for the existence of past entities and, on the other hand, if (...) one accepts the indispensability argument for mathematical objects then it is hard to resist the analogous argument for the existence of the past. (shrink)
This paper defends the Quine-Putnam mathematical indispensability argument against two objections raised by Penelope Maddy. The objections concern scientific practices regarding the development of the atomic theory and the role of applied mathematics in the continuum and infinity. I present two alternative accounts by Stephen Brush and Alan Chalmers on the atomic theory. I argue that these two theories are consistent with Quine’s theory of scientific confirmation. I advance some novel versions of the indispensability argument. I argue that (...) these new versions accommodate Maddy’s history of the atomic theory. Counter-examples are provided regarding the role of the mathematical continuum and mathematical infinity in science. (shrink)
The expression ‘indispensability argument’ denotes a family of arguments for mathematical realism supported among others by Quine and Putnam. More and more often, Gottlob Frege is credited with being the first to state this argument in section 91 of the Grundgesetze der Arithmetik. Frege's alleged indispensability argument is the subject of this essay. On the basis of three significant differences between Mark Colyvan's indispensability arguments and Frege's applicability argument, I deny that Frege presents an indispensability argument (...) in that very often quoted section of the Grundegesetze. (shrink)
The access problem for mathematics arises from the supposition that the referents of mathematical terms inhabit a realm separate from us. Quine’s approach in the philosophy of mathematics dissolves the access problem, though his solution sometimes goes unrecognized, even by those who rely on his framework. This paper highlights both Quine’s position and its neglect. I argue that Michael Resnik’s structuralist, for example, has no access problem for the so-called mathematical objects he posits, despite recent criticism, since he relies on (...) an indispensability argument. Still, Resnik’s structuralist does not provide an account of our access to traditional mathematical objects, and this may be seen as a problem. (shrink)
It is claimed that the indispensability argument for the existence of mathematical entities (IA) works in a way that allows a proponent of mathematical realism to remain agnostic with regard to how we establish that mathematical entities exist. This is supposed to be possible by virtue of the appeal to confirmational holism that enters into the formulation of IA. Holism about confirmation is supposed to be motivated in analogy with holism about falsification. I present an account of how holism (...) about falsification is supposed to be motivated. I argue that the argument for holism about falsification is in tension with how we think about confirmation and with two principles suggested by Quine for construing a plausible variety of holism. Finally, I show that one of Quine's principles does not allow a proponent of mathematical realism to remain agnostic with regard to how we establish that mathematical entities exist. (shrink)
One of the most intriguing features of mathematics is its applicability to empirical science. Every branch of science draws upon large and often diverse portions of mathematics, from the use of Hilbert spaces in quantum mechanics to the use of differential geometry in general relativity. It's not just the physical sciences that avail themselves of the services of mathematics either. Biology, for instance, makes extensive use of difference equations and statistics. The roles mathematics plays in these theories is also varied. (...) Not only does mathematics help with empirical predictions, it allows elegant and economical statement of many theories. Indeed, so important is the language of mathematics to science, that it is hard to imagine how theories such as quantum mechanics and general relativity could even be stated without employing a substantial amount of mathematics. (shrink)
Indispensability arguments (IA) for mathematical realism are commonly traced back to Quine. We identify two different Quinean strands in the interpretation of IA, what we label the �logical point of view� and the �theory-contribution� point of view. Focusing on each of the latter, we offer two minimal versions of IA. These both dispense with a number of theoretical assumptions commonly thought to be relevant to IA (most notably confirmational holism and naturalism). We then show that the attribution of both (...) minimal arguments to Quine is controversial, and stress the extent to which this is so in both cases, in order to attain a better appreciation of the Quinean heritage of IA. (shrink)
Much recent discussion in the philosophy of mathematics has concerned the indispensability argument—an argument which aims to establish the existence of abstract mathematical objects through appealing to the role that mathematics plays in empirical science. The indispensability argument is standardly attributed to W. V. Quine and Hilary Putnam. In this paper, I show that this attribution is mistaken. Quine's argument for the existence of abstract mathematical objects differs from the argument which many philosophers of mathematics ascribe to him. (...) Contrary to appearances, Putnam did not argue for the existence of abstract mathematical objects at all. I close by suggesting that attention to Quine and Putnam's writings reveals some neglected arguments for platonism which may be superior to the indispensability argument. (shrink)
Quine has famously put forward the indispensability argument to force belief in the existence of mathematical objects (such as classes) due to their indispensability to our best theories of the world (Quine 1960). Quine has also advocated the indeterminacy of reference argument, according to which reference is dramatically indeterminate: given a language, there’s no unique reference relation for that language (see Quine 1969a). In this paper, I argue that these two arguments are in conflict with each other. Whereas (...) the indispensability argument supports realism about mathematics, the indeterminacy of reference argument, when applied to mathematics, provides a powerful strategy in support of mathematical anti-realism. I conclude the paper by indicating why the indeterminacy of reference phenomenon should be preferred over the considerations regarding indispensability. In the end, even the Quinean shouldn’t be a realist (platonist) about mathematics. (shrink)
Penelope Maddy and Elliott Sober recently attacked the confirmational indispensability argument for mathematical realism. We cannot count on science to provide evidence for the truth of mathematics, they say, because either scientific testing fails to confirm mathematics (Sober) or too much mathematics occurs in false scientific theories (Maddy). I present a pragmatic indispensability argument immune to these objections, and show that this argument supports mathematical realism independently of scientific realism. Mathematical realism, it turns out, may be even more (...) firmly established than scientific realism. (shrink)
The Enhanced Indispensability Argument (Baker [ 2009 ]) exemplifies the new wave of the indispensability argument for mathematical Platonism. The new wave capitalizes on mathematics' role in scientific explanations. I will criticize some analyses of mathematics' explanatory function. In turn, I will emphasize the representational role of mathematics, and argue that the debate would significantly benefit from acknowledging this alternative viewpoint to mathematics' contribution to scientific explanations and knowledge.
According to the indispensability argument, the fact that we quantify over numbers, sets and functions in our best scientific theories gives us reason for believing that such objects exist. I examine a strategy to dispense with such quantification by simply replacing any given platonistic theory by the set of sentences in the nominalist vocabulary it logically entails. I argue that, as a strategy, this response fails: for there is no guarantee that the nominalist world that go beyond the set (...) of sentences in the nominalist language such theories entail. However, I argue that what such theories show is that mathematics can enable us to express possibilities about the concrete world that may not be expressible in nominalistically acceptable language. While I grant that this may make quantification over abstracta indispensable, I deny that such indispensability is a reason for accepting them into our ontology. I urge that the nominalist should be allowed to quantify over abstracta whilst denying their existence and I explain how this apparently contradictory practice (a practice I call 'weaseling') is in fact coherent, unproblematic and rational. Finally, I examine the view that platonistic theories are simpler or more attractive than their nominalistic reformulations, and thus that abstract ought to be accepted into our ontology for the same sorts of reasons as other theoretical objects. I argue that, at least in the case of numbers, functions and sets, such arguments misunderstand the kind of simplicity and attractiveness we seek. (shrink)
One of the most influential arguments for realism about mathematical objects is the indispensability argument. Simply put, this is the argument that insofar as we are committed to the existence of the physical objects existentially quantified over in our best scientific theories, we are also committed to the mathematical objects existentially quantified over in these theories. Following the Quine–Putnam formulation of the indispensability argument, some proponents of the indispensability argument have made the mistake of taking confirmational holism (...) to be an essential premise of the argument. In this paper, I consider the reasons philosophers have taken confirmational holism to be essential to the argument and argue that, contrary to the traditional view, confirmational holism is dispensable. (shrink)
Indispensability arguments for realism about mathematical entities have come under serious attack in recent years. To my mind the most profound attack has come from Penelope Maddy, who argues that scientific/mathematical practice doesn't support the key premise of the indispensability argument, that is, that we ought to have ontological commitment to those entities that are indispensable to our best scientific theories. In this paper I defend the Quine/Putnam indispensability argument against Maddy's objections.
For many philosophers not automatically inclined to Platonism, the indispensability argument for the existence of mathematical objectshas provided the best (and perhaps only) evidence for mathematicalrealism. Recently, however, this argument has been subject to attack, most notably by Penelope Maddy (1992, 1997),on the grounds that its conclusions do not sit well with mathematical practice. I offer a diagnosis of what has gone wrong with the indispensability argument (I claim that mathematics is indispensable in the wrong way), and, taking (...) my cue from Mark Colyvan''s (1998) attempt to provide a Quinean account of unapplied mathematics as `recreational'', suggest that, if one approaches the problem from a Quinean naturalist starting point, one must conclude that all mathematics is recreational in this way. (shrink)
Quine and Putnam argued for mathematical realism on the basis of the indispensability of mathematics to science. They claimed that the mathematics that is used in physical theories is confirmed along with those theories and that scientific realism entails mathematical realism. I argue here that current theories of confirmation suggest that mathematics does not receive empirical support simply in virtue of being a part of well confirmed scientific theories and that the reasons for adopting a realist view of scientific (...) theories do not support realism about mathematical entities, despite the use of mathematics in formulating scientific theory. (shrink)
In this paper I examine Quine''s indispensability argument, with particular emphasis on what is meant by ''indispensable''. I show that confirmation theory plays a crucial role in answering this question and that once indispensability is understood in this light, Quine''s argument is seen to be a serious stumbling block for any scientific realist wishing to maintain an anti-realist position with regard to mathematical entities.
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.
An emphasis on explanatory contribution is central to a recent formulation of the indispensability argument (IA) for mathematical realism. Because scientific realism is argued for by means of inference to the best explanation (IBE), it has been further argued that being a scientific realist entails a commitment to IA and thus to mathematical realism. It has, however, gone largely unnoticed that the way that IBE is argued to be truth conducive involves citing successful applications of IBE and tracing this (...) success over time. This in turn involves identifying those constituents of scientific theories that are responsible for their predictive success and showing that these constituents are retained across theory change in science. I argue that even if mathematics can be shown to feature in best explanations, the role of mathematics in scientific theories does not satisfy the condition that mathematics is always retained across theory change. According to a scientific realist, this condition needs to be met for making ontological claims on the basis of explanatory contribution. Thus scientific realists are not committed to mathematical realism on the basis of this recent formulation of IA. (shrink)
When the indispensability argument for mathematical entities (IA) is spelled out, it would appear confirmational holism is needed for the argument to work. It has been argued that confirmational holism is a dispensable premise in the argument if a construal of naturalism, according to which it is denied that we can take different epistemic attitudes towards different parts of our scientific theories, is adopted. I argue that the suggested variety of naturalism will only appeal to a limited number of (...) philosophers. I then suggest that if we allow for some degree of separation between different component parts of theories, IA can be formulated as an argument aimed at more than a limited number of philosophers, but in implementing this strategy the notion of indispensability needs spelling out. The best way of spelling out indispensability is in terms of theory contribution, but doing so requires adopting inference to the best explanation (IBE). IBE is however sufficient for establishing the conclusion that IA is supposed to establish. Thus, IA is a redundant argument. (shrink)
The Quine-Putnam indispensability argument urges us to place mathematical entities on the same ontological footing as (other) theoretical entities of empirical science. Recently this argument has attracted much criticism, and in this paper I address one criticism due to Elliott Sober. Sober argues that mathematical theories cannot share the empirical support accrued by our best scientific theories, since mathematical propositions are not being tested in the same way as the clearly empirical propositions of science. In this paper I defend (...) the Quine-Putnam argument against Sober's objections. (shrink)
In the early- to mid- 1870s, William James started to argue that if one needs to believe something, then one ought to believe it, even if there is no evidence in its favor. It is not easy to unwind the various things that James said about what he called the will to believe, but one thing is clear. He was initially tempted to put forward a very strong point and despite the refinements he was eventually to make, his is the (...) most contentious version of pragmatist indispensability arguments. Most importantly, it set the stage for how pragmatism was to evolve. In some remarks made in an 1875 review in the Nation2 and in the penultimate draft of “The Will to Believe,” James argues that, given the dearth of .. (shrink)
The indispensability argument is a method for showing that abstract mathematical objects exist (call this mathematical Platonism). Various versions of this argument have been proposed (§1). Lately, commentators seem to have agreed that a holistic indispensability argument (§2) will not work, and that an explanatory indispensability argument is the best candidate. In this paper I argue that the dominant reasons for rejecting the holistic indispensability argument are mistaken. This is largely due to an overestimation of the (...) consequences that follow from evidential holism. Nevertheless, the holistic indispensability argument should be rejected, but for a different reason (§3)—in order that an indispensability argument relying on holism can work, it must invoke an unmotivated version of evidential holism. Such an argument will be unsound. Correcting the argument with a proper construal of evidential holism means that it can no longer deliver mathematical Platonism as a conclusion: such an argument for Platonism will be invalid. I then show how the reasons for rejecting the holistic indispensability argument importantly constrain what kind of account of explanation will be permissible in explanatory versions (§4). (shrink)
In recent years, the so-calledindispensability argument has been given a lotof attention by philosophers of mathematics.This argument for the existence of mathematicalobjects makes use of the fact, neglected inclassical schools of philosophy of mathematics,that mathematics is part of our best scientifictheories, and therefore should receive similarsupport to these theories. However, thisobservation raises the question about the exactnature of the alleged connection betweenexperience and mathematics (for example: is itpossible to falsify empirically anymathematical theorems?). In my paper I wouldlike to address this (...) question by consideringthe explicit assumptions of different versionsof the indispensability argument. My primaryclaim is that there are at least three distinctversions of the indispensability argument (andit can be even suggested that a fourth,separate version should be formulated). I willmainly concentrate my discussion on thisvariant of the argument, which suggests thepossibility of empirical confirmation ofmathematical theories. A large portion of mypaper will focus on the recent discussion ofthis topic, starting from the paper by E.Sober, who in my opinion put reasonablerequirements on what is to be counted as anempirical confirmation of a mathematicaltheory. I will develop his model into threeseparate scenarios of possible empiricalconfirmation of mathematics. Using an exampleof Hilbert space in quantum mechanicaldescription I will show that the most promisingscenario of empirical verification ofmathematical theories has neverthelessuntenable consequences. It will be hypothesizedthat the source of this untenability lies in aspecific role which mathematical theories playin empirical science, and that what is subjectto empirical verification is not themathematics used, but the representabilityassumptions. Further I will undertake theproblem of how to reconcile the allegedempirical verification of mathematics withscientific practice. I will refer to thepolemics between P. Maddy and M. Resnik,pointing out certain ambiguities of theirarguments whose source is partly the failure todistinguish carefully between different sensesof the indispensability argument. For thatreason typical arguments used in the discussionare not decisive, yet if we take into accountsome metalogical properties of appliedmathematics, then the thesis that mathematicshas strong links with experience seems to behighly improbable. (shrink)
Some philosophers understand epistemological skepticism as merely presenting a paradox to be solved, a paradox given rise to by some apparently forceful arguments. I argue that such a view needs to be justified, and that the best way to do so is to show that we cannot help seeing skepticism as obviously false. The obviousness (to us) of the falsity of skepticism is, I suggest, explained by the fact that we cannot live without knowledge-beliefs (a knowledge-belief about the world is (...) a belief that a person or a group of people know that p, where p is an empirical proposition about the world). I then go on to argue for the indispensability of knowledge-beliefs. The first line of argument appeals to the practical aspects of our employment of the concept of knowledge, and the second line of argument draws on some Davidsonian ideas concerning understanding and massive agreement. (shrink)
Instances of explanatory reduction are often advocated on metaphysical grounds; given that the only real things in the world are subatomic particles and their interaction, we have to try to explain everything in terms of the laws of physics. In this paper, we show that explanatory reduction cannot be defended on metaphysical grounds. Nevertheless, indispensability arguments for reductive explanations can be developed, taking into account actual scientific practice and the role of epistemic interests. Reductive explanations might be indispensable to (...) address some epistemic interest answering a specific explanation-seeking question in the most accurate, adequate and efficient way. Just like explanatory pluralists often advocate the indispensability of higher levels of explanation pointing at the pragmatic value of the explanatory information obtained on these higher levels, we argue that explanatory reduction—traditionally understood as the contender of pluralism—can be defended in a similar way. The pragmatic value reductionist, lower level explanations might have in the biomedical sciences and the social sciences is illustrated by some case studies. (shrink)
The question as to whether there are mathematical explanations of physical phenomena has recently received a great deal of attention in the literature. The answer is potentially relevant for the ontology of mathematics; if affirmative, it would support a new version of the indispensability argument for mathematical realism. In this article, I first review critically a few examples of such explanations and advance a general analysis of the desiderata to be satisfied by them. Second, in an attempt to strengthen (...) the realist position, I propose a new type of example, drawing on probabilistic considerations. 1 Introduction2 Mathematical Explanations2.1 ‘Simplicity’3 An Average Story: The Banana Game3.1 Some clarifications3.2 Hopes and troubles for the nominalist3.3 New hopes?3.4 New troubles4 Conclusion. (shrink)
Indispensability arguments purport to show that empirical data provide evidence for the existence of mathematical entities. In this paper we argue that indispensability arguments fail to show that empirical data bears on the mathematical. In order to show this we attempt to clarify what it is to be mathematical , and separate the question whether abstracta in general exist from whether distinctively mathematical abstracta exist. We introduce the notion of an ‘agnostified’ empirical theory as a heuristic device for (...) clarifying the role of mathematical terminology in empirical theories. The special case of spaces is then briefly considered. (shrink)
Much of the current thought concerning mathematical ontology in volves in some way the Quine/Putnam indispensability argument. The indispensability approach needs to be more thoroughly specified, however, before substantive progress can be made in assessing it. To this end I examine in some detail the ways in which pure mathematics is applied to physical theory; such considerations give rise to three specific issues with which the indispensability approach must come to grips.
The traditional formulation of the indispensability argument for the existence of mathematical entities (IA) has been criticised due to its reliance on confirmational holism. Recently a formulation of IA that works without appeal to confirmational holism has been defended. This recent formulation is meant to be superior to the traditional formulation in virtue of it not being subject to the kind of criticism that pertains to confirmational holism. I shall argue that a proponent of the version of IA that (...) works without appeal to confirmational holism will struggle to answer a challenge readily answered by proponents of a version of IA that does appeal to confirmational holism. This challenge is to explain why mathematics applied in falsified scientific theories is not considered to be falsified along with the rest of the theory. In cases where mathematics seemingly ought to be falsified it is saved from falsification, by a so called 'Euclidean rescue'. I consider a range of possible answers to this challenge and conclude that each answer fails. (shrink)
Mathematical concepts are explications, in Carnap's sense, of vague or otherwise non-clear concepts; mathematical theories have an empirical and a deductive component. From this perspective, I argue that the empirical component of a mathematical theory may be tested together with the fruitfulness of its explications. Using these ideas, I furthermore give an argument for mathematical realism, based on the indispensability argument combined with a weakened version of confirmational holism.
Instances of explanatory reduction are often advocated on metaphysical grounds; given that the only real things in the world are subatomic particles and their interaction, we have to try to explain everything in terms of the laws of physics. In this paper, we show that explanatory reduction cannot be defended on metaphysical grounds. Nevertheless, indispensability arguments for reductive explanations can be developed, taking into account actual scientific practice and the role of epistemic interests. Reductive explanations might be indispensable to (...) address some epistemic interest answering a specific explanation-seeking question in the most accurate, adequate and efficient way. Just like explanatory pluraliste often advocate the indispensability of higher levels of explanation pointing at the pragmatic value of the explanatory information obtained on these higher levels, we argue that explanatory reduction—traditionally understood as the contender of pluralism—can be defended in a similar way. The pragmatic value reductionist, lower level explanations might have in the biomédical sciences and the social sciences is illustrated by some case studies. (shrink)
Three questions are highlighted concerning the scope and force of indispensability arguments supporting classical, infinitistic mathematics. The first concerns the need for non-constructive reasoning for scientifically applicable mathematics; the second concerns the need for impredicative set existence principles for finitistic and scientifically applicable mathematics, respectively; and the third concerns the general status of such arguments in light of recent work in mathematical logic, especially that of Friedman et al. and Feferman et al. Some recent results (of Pour-El and Richards (...) and of the author) are then presented bearing on the first question on the need for non-constructive analysis, especially for quantum physics. Despite the impressive work of Bishop et al. in constructive analysis, Hilbert's objection to intuitionism still carries significant force, and may be decisive depending in part on one's conception of "physics". (shrink)
Both the defenders and the challengers of the indispensability argument seem to ignore the obvious fact that it is meant to be an analogical inference. In this note, I shall draw attention to this fact so as to avoid unnecessary confusions in any future discussion of the indispensability argument. For this purpose, I shall criticize Maddy’s version of the indispensability argument. After having noted that Quinean holism does not have to be one of the necessary premises, I (...) shall suggest alternative formulations of the indispensability argument as an analogical inference. Also, some further reflections on how to evaluate Maddy’s objections to the indispensability argument will be in due order. (shrink)
We defend Joseph Melia's thesis that the role of mathematics in scientific theory is to 'index' quantities, and that even if mathematics is indispensable to scientific explanations of concrete phenomena, it does not explain any of those phenomena. This thesis is defended against objections by Mark Colyvan and Alan Baker.
Gilbert Harman has argued that it does not make sense to ascribe character traits to people. The notion of morally virtuous character becomes particularly suspect. How plausible this is depends on how broad character traits would have to be. Views of character as entirely invariant behavioural tendencies offer a soft target. This paper explores a view that is a less easy target: character traits as specific to kinds of situation, and as involving probabilities or real possibilities. Such ascriptions are not (...) undermined by Harman's arguments, and it remains plausible that the agent's character often is indispensable in explanation of behaviour. Character is indispensable also as processes of control that impose reliability where it really matters. (shrink)
One recent trend in the philosophy of mathematics has been to approach the central epistemological and metaphysical issues concerning mathematics from the perspective of the applications of mathematics to describing the world, especially within the context of empirical science. A second area of activity is where philosophy of mathematics intersects with foundational issues in mathematics, including debates over the choice of set-theoretic axioms, and over whether category theory, for example, may provide an alternative foundation for mathematics. My central claim is (...) that these latter issues are of direct relevance to philosophical arguments connected to the applicability of mathematics. In particular, the possibility of there being distinct alternative foundations for mathematics blocks the standard argument from the indispensable role of mathematics in science to the existence of specific mathematical objects. (shrink)
The article examines a central methodological tenet of Grace Jantzen's Becoming Divine. In this book she turns her back on what she calls Anglo-American philosophy of religion in favour of what she calls a continental approach. I argue that for her, belief is as indispensable in religion and in the philosophy of religion as it is for the Anglo-American philosophy of religion which she rejects. Further, the only argument that she offers for her position is a genetic argument for the (...) origins of religious belief. Consistently with her position, she does not consider any empirical evidence relevant to this causal claim. However, the logic of such genetic claims is that for every empirically grounded genetic argument for A there is a corresponding genetic argument for not-A. So if such an argument invalidates A, it also invalidates not-A. (shrink)