Mathematics plays an inordinate role in the work of many of famous Western philosophers, from the time of Plato, through Husserl and Wittgenstein, and even to the present. Why? This paper points to the experience of learning or making mathematics, with an emphasis on proof. It distinguishes two sources of the perennial impact of mathematics on philosophy. They are classified as Ancient and Enlightenment. Plato is emblematic of the former, and Kant of the latter. The Ancient (...) fascination arises from the sense that mathematics explores something ‘out there’. This is illustrated by recent discussions by distinguished contemporary mathematicians. The Enlightenment strand often uses Kant's argot: ‘absolute necessity’, ‘apodictic certainty’ and ‘a priori’ judgement or knowledge. The experience of being compelled by proof, the sense that something must be true, that a result is certain, generates the philosophy. It also creates the illusion that mathematics is certain. Kant's leading question, ‘How is pure mathematics possible?’, is easily misunderstood because the modern distinction between pure and applied is an artefact of the 19th century. As Russell put it, the issue is to explain ‘the apparent power of anticipating facts about things of which we have no experience’. More generally the question is, how is it that pure mathematics is so rich in applications? Some six types of application are distinguished, each of which engenders its own philosophical problems which are descendants of the Enlightenment, and which differ from those descended from the Ancient strand. (shrink)
We seek to elucidate the philosophical context in which the so-called revolution of rigor in inifinitesimal calculus and mathematical analysis took place. Some of the protagonists of the said revolution were Cauchy, Cantor, Dedekind, and Weierstrass. The dominant current of philosophy in Germany at that time was neo-Kantianism. Among its various currents, the Marburg school (Cohen, Natorp, Cassirer, and others) was the one most interested in matters scientific and mathematical. Our main thesis is that Marburg Neo-Kantian philosophy formulated (...) a sophisticated position towards the problems raised by the concepts of limits and infinitesimals. The Marburg school neither clung to the traditional approach of logically and metaphysically dubious infinitesimals, nor whiggishly subscribed to the new orthodoxy of the "great triumvirate" of Cantor, Dedekind, and Weierstrass. Expressed in terms of modern mathematics, the Marburg philosophers saw the introduction of both infinitesimals and limits as completions whose prototype was Dedekind's of the rational number system resulting in the real numbers. At least partially,, this idea of "completions" can be captured in terms of a category-theoretical description of the conceptual development of modern mathematics. The feasibility of such a modern reformuation may be taken as evidence that the philosophical resources of Marburg neo-Kantianism may be of interest even for contemporary philosophy of mathematics. (shrink)
onl y to discuss some claims concerning the relationship between mathematical logic and the philosophy of mathematics that repeatedly occur in his writings. Although I do not know to what extent they are representative of his present position, they correspond to widespread views of the logical community and so seem worth discussing anyhow. Such claims will be used as reference to make some remarks about the present state of relations between mathematical logic and the philosophy of (...) class='Hi'>mathematics. (shrink)
Modern philosophy of mathematics has been dominated by Platonism and nominalism, to the neglect of the Aristotelian realist option. Aristotelianism holds that mathematics studies certain real properties of the world – mathematics is neither about a disembodied world of “abstract objects”, as Platonism holds, nor it is merely a language of science, as nominalism holds. Aristotle’s theory that mathematics is the “science of quantity” is a good account of at least elementary mathematics: the ratio (...) of two heights, for example, is a perceivable and measurable real relation between properties of physical things, a relation that can be shared by the ratio of two weights or two time intervals. Ratios are an example of continuous quantity; discrete quantities, such as whole numbers, are also realised as relations between a heap and a unit-making universal. For example, the relation between foliage and being-a-leaf is the number of leaves on a tree, a relation that may equal the relation between a heap of shoes and being-a-shoe. Modern higher mathematics, however, deals with some real properties that are not naturally seen as quantity, so that the “science of quantity” theory of mathematics needs supplementation. Symmetry, topology and similar structural properties are studied by mathematics, but are about pattern, structure or arrangement rather than quantity. (shrink)
The paper distinguishes between two kinds of mathematics, natural mathematics which is a result of biological evolution and artificial mathematics which is a result of cultural evolution. On this basis, it outlines an approach to the philosophy of mathematics which involves a new treatment of the method of mathematics, the notion of demonstration, the questions of discovery and justification, the nature of mathematical objects, the character of mathematical definition, the role of intuition, the role (...) of diagrams in mathematics, and the effectiveness of mathematics in natural science. (shrink)
This chapter argues that the standard conception of Spinoza as a fellow-travelling mechanical philosopher and proto-scientific naturalist is misleading. It argues, first, that Spinoza’s account of the proper method for the study of nature presented in the Theological-Political Treatise (TTP) points away from the one commonly associated with the mechanical philosophy. Moreover, throughout his works Spinoza’s views on the very possibility of knowledge of nature are decidedly sceptical (as specified below). Third, in the seventeenth-century debates over proper methods in (...) the sciences, Spinoza sided with those that criticized the aspirations of those (the physico-mathematicians, Galileo, Huygens, Wallis, Wren, etc) who thought the application of mathematics to nature was the way to make progress. In particular, he offers grounds for doubting their confidence in the significance of measurement as well as their piece-meal methodology (see section 2). Along the way, this chapter offers a new interpretation of common notions in the context of treating Spinoza’s account of motion (see section 3). (shrink)
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)
Offering a collection of fifteen essays that deal with issues at the intersection of phenomenology, logic, and the philosophy of mathematics, this book is divided into three parts. Part I, Reason, Science, and Mathematics contains a general essay on Husserl's conception of science and logic, an essay of mathematics and transcendental phenomenology, and an essay oN phenomenology and modern pure geometry. Part II is focused on Kurt Godel's interest in phenomenology. It explores Godel's ideas and also (...) some work of Quine, Penelope Maddy and Roger Penrose. Part III deals with elementary, constructive areas of mathematics. These are areas of mathematics that are closer to their origins in simple cognitive activities and in everyday experience. This part of the book contains essays on intuitionism, Hermann Weyl, the notion of constructive proof, Poincare; and Frege. (shrink)
The twentieth century has witnessed an unprecedented 'crisis in the foundations of mathematics', featuring a world-famous paradox (Russell's Paradox), a challenge to 'classical' mathematics from a world-famous mathematician (the 'mathematical intuitionism' of Brouwer), a new foundational school (Hilbert's Formalism), and the profound incompleteness results of Kurt Gödel. In the same period, the cross-fertilization of mathematics and philosophy resulted in a new sort of 'mathematical philosophy', associated most notably (but in different ways) with Bertrand Russell, W. (...) V. Quine, and Gödel himself, and which remains at the focus of Anglo-Saxon philosophical discussion. The present collection brings together in a convenient form the seminal articles in the philosophy of mathematics by these and other major thinkers. It is a substantially revised version of the edition first published in 1964 and includes a revised bibliography. The volume will be welcomed as a major work of reference at this level in the field. (shrink)
Philosophy of Mathematics is clear and engaging, and student friendly The book discusses the great philosophers and the importance of mathematics to their thought. Among topics discussed in the book are the mathematical image, platonism, picture-proofs, applied mathematics, Hilbert and Godel, knots and notation definitions, picture-proofs and Wittgenstein, computation, proof and conjecture.
Here, Bob Hale and Crispin Wright assemble the key writings that lead to their distinctive neo-Fregean approach to the philosophy of mathematics. In addition to fourteen previously published papers, the volume features a new paper on the Julius Caesar problem; a substantial new introduction mapping out the program and the contributions made to it by the various papers; a section explaining which issues most require further attention; and bibliographies of references and further useful sources. It will be recognized (...) as the most powerful presentation yet of a neo-Fregean program. (shrink)
Mathematics and logic have been central topics of concern since the dawn of philosophy. Since logic is the study of correct reasoning, it is a fundamental branch of epistemology and a priority in any philosophical system. Philosophers have focused on mathematics as a case study for general philosophical issues and for its role in overall knowledge- gathering. Today, philosophy of mathematics and logic remain central disciplines in contemporary philosophy, as evidenced by the regular appearance (...) of articles on these topics in the best mainstream philosophical journals; in fact, the last decade has seen an explosion of scholarly work in these areas. This volume covers these disciplines in a comprehensive and accessible manner, giving the reader an overview of the major problems, positions, and battle lines. The 26 contributed chapters are by established experts in the field, and their articles contain both exposition and criticism as well as substantial development of their own positions. The essays, which are substantially self-contained, serve both to introduce the reader to the subject and to engage in it at its frontiers. Certain major positions are represented by two chapters--one supportive and one critical. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Math and Logic is a ground-breaking reference like no other in its field. It is a central resource to those wishing to learn about the philosophy of mathematics and the philosophy of logic, or some aspect thereof, and to those who actively engage in the discipline, from advanced undergraduates to professional philosophers, mathematicians, and historians. (shrink)
The Conceptual Roots of Mathematics is a comprehensive study of the foundation of mathematics. Lucas, one of the most distinguished Oxford scholars, covers a vast amount of ground in the philosophy of mathematics, showing us that it is actually at the heart of the study of epistemology and metaphysics.
This unique book by Stewart Shapiro looks at a range of philosophical issues and positions concerning mathematics in four comprehensive sections. Part I describes questions and issues about mathematics that have motivated philosophers since the beginning of intellectual history. Part II is an historical survey, discussing the role of mathematics in the thought of such philosophers as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Mill. Part III covers the three major positions held throughout the twentieth century: the idea that (...) class='Hi'>mathematics is logic (logicism), the view that the essence of mathematics is the rule-governed manipulation of characters (formalism), and a revisionist philosophy that focuses on the mental activity of mathematics (intuitionism). Finally, Part IV brings the reader up-to-date with a look at contemporary developments within the discipline. This sweeping introductory guide to the philosophy of mathematics makes these fascinating concepts accessible to those with little background in either mathematics or philosophy. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
This volume offers a selection of the most interesting and important work from recent years in the philosophy of mathematics, which has always been closely linked to, and has exerted a significant influence upon, the main stream of analytical philosophy. The issues discussed are of interest throughout philosophy, and no mathematical expertise is required of the reader. Contributors include W.V. Quine, W.D. Hart, Michael Dummett, Charles Parsons, Paul Benacerraf, Penelope Maddy, W.W. Tait, Hilary Putnam, George Boolos, (...) Daniel Isaacson, Stewart Shapiro, and Hartry Field. (shrink)
In this book, which is both a philosophical and historiographical study, the author investigates the fallibility and the rationality of mathematics by means of rational reconstructions of developments in mathematics. The initial chapters are devoted to a critical discussion of Lakatos' philosophy of mathematics. In the remaining chapters several episodes in the history of mathematics are discussed, such as the appearance of deduction in Greek mathematics and the transition from Eighteenth-Century to Nineteenth-Century analysis. The (...) author aims at developing a notion of mathematical rationality that agrees with the historical facts. A modified version of Lakatos' methodology is proposed. The resulting constructions show that mathematical knowledge is fallible, but that its fallibility is remarkably weak. (shrink)
Since antiquity well into the beginnings of the 20th century geometry was a central topic for philosophy. Since then, however, most philosophers of science, if they took notice of topology at all, considered it as an abstruse subdiscipline of mathematics lacking philosophical interest. Here it is argued that this neglect of topology by philosophy may be conceived of as the sign of a conceptual sea-change in philosophy of science that expelled geometry, and, more generally, mathematics, (...) from the central position it used to have in philosophy of science and placed logic at center stage in the 20th century philosophy of science. Only in recent decades logic has begun to loose its monopoly and geometry and topology received a new chance to find a place in philosophy of science. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: 1. Mathematics and its philosophy; 2. The limits of mathematics; 3. Plato's heaven; 4. Fiction, metaphor, and partial truths; 5. Mathematical explanation; 6. The applicability of mathematics; 7. Who's afraid of inconsistent mathematics?; 8. A rose by any other name; 9. Epilogue: desert island theorems.
In this ambitious study, David Corfield attacks the widely held view that it is the nature of mathematical knowledge which has shaped the way in which mathematics is treated philosophically, and claims that contingent factors have brought us to the present thematically limited discipline. Illustrating his discussion with a wealth of examples, he sets out a variety of approaches to new thinking about the philosophy of mathematics, ranging from an exploration of whether computers producing mathematical proofs or (...) conjectures are doing real mathematics, to the use of analogy, the prospects for a Bayesian confirmation theory, the notion of a mathematical research programme, and the ways in which new concepts are justified. His highly original book challenges both philosophers and mathematicians to develop the broadest and richest philosophical resources for work in their disciplines, and points clearly to the ways in which this can be done. (shrink)
Volume 9 of the Routledge History of Philosophy surveys ten key topics in the Philosophy of Science, Logic and Mathematics in the Twentieth Century. Each article is written by one of the world's leading experts in that field. The papers provide a comprehensive introduction to the subject in question, and are written in a way that is accessible to philosophy undergraduates and to those outside of philosophy who are interested in these subjects. Each chapter contains (...) an extensive bibliography of the major writings in the field. Among the topics covered are the philosophy of logic; Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus; a survey of logical positivism; the philosophy of physics and of science; probability theory and cybernetics. (shrink)
It is a rather safe statement to claim that the social dimensions of the scientific process are accepted in a fair share of studies in the philosophy of science. It is a somewhat safe statement to claim that the social dimensions are now seen as an essential element in the understanding of what human cognition is and how it functions. But it would be a rather unsafe statement to claim that the social is fully accepted in the philosophy (...) of mathematics. And we are not quite sure what kind of statement it is to claim that the social dimensions in theories of mathematics education are becoming more prominent, compared to the psychological dimensions. In our contribution we will focus, after a brief presentation of the above claims, on this particular domain to understand the successes and failures of the development of theories of mathematics education that focus on the social and not primarily on the psychological. (shrink)
This book makes available to the English reader nearly all of the shorter philosophical works, published or unpublished, that Husserl produced on the way to the phenomenological breakthrough recorded in his Logical Investigations of 1900-1901. Here one sees Husserl's method emerging step by step, and such crucial substantive conclusions as that concerning the nature of Ideal entities and the status the intentional `relation' and its `objects'. Husserl's literary encounters with many of the leading thinkers of his day illuminates both the (...) context and the content of his thought. Many of the groundbreaking analyses provided in these texts were never again to be given the thorough expositions found in these early writings. Early Writings in the Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics is essential reading for students of Husserl and all those who enquire into the nature of mathematical and logical knowledge. (shrink)
This paper has two main purposes: first to compare Wittgenstein's views to the more traditional views in the philosophy of mathematics; second, to provide a general outline for a Wittgensteinian reply to two objections against Wittgenstein's account of mathematics: the objectivity objection and the consistency objections, respectively. Two fundamental thesmes of Wittgenstein's account of mathematics title the first two sections: mathematical propositions are rules and not descritpions and mathematics is employed within a form of life. (...) Under each heading, I examine Wittgenstein's rejection of alternative views. My aim is to make clear the differences and to suggest some similarities. As will become clear, Wittgenstein often rejects opposing views for the same or similar reasons. This comparison will provide the necessary background for better understanding Wittgenstein's philosophy of mathematics, for appreciating its many unappreciated advantages and, finally, for defending a conventionalist account of mathematics. (shrink)
This edited volume, aimed at both students and researchers in philosophy, mathematics and history of science, highlights leading developments in the overlapping areas of philosophy and the history of modern mathematics. It is a coherent, wide ranging account of how a number of topics in the philosophy of mathematics must be reconsidered in the light of the latest historical research and how a number of historical accounts can be deepened by embracing philosophical questions.
The aim of the paper is to present the main trends and tendencies in the philosophy of mathematics in the 20th century. To make the analysis more clear we distinguish three periods in the development of the philosophy of mathematics in this century: (1) the first thirty years when three classical doctrines: logicism, intuitionism and formalism were formulated, (2) the period from 1931 till the end of the fifties - period of stagnation, and (3) from the (...) beginning of the sixties till today when new tendencies putting stress on the knowing subject and the research practice of mathematicians arose. (shrink)
If mathematics is regarded as a science, then the philosophy of mathematics can be regarded as a branch of the philosophy of science, next to disciplines such as the philosophy of physics and the philosophy of biology. However, because of its subject matter, the philosophy of mathematics occupies a special place in the philosophy of science. Whereas the natural sciences investigate entities that are located in space and time, it is not (...) at all obvious that this is also the case with respect to the objects that are studied in mathematics. In addition to that, the methods of investigation of mathematics differ markedly from the methods of investigation in the natural sciences. Whereas the latter acquire general knowledge using inductive methods, mathematical knowledge appears to be acquired in a different way, namely, by deduction from basic principles. The status of mathematical knowledge also appears to differ from the status of knowledge in the natural sciences. The theories of the natural sciences appear to be less certain and more open to revision than mathematical theories. For these reasons mathematics poses problems of a quite distinctive kind for philosophy. Therefore philosophers have accorded special attention to ontological and epistemological questions concerning mathematics. (shrink)
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 the philosophy of mathematics, as in its a meta-domain, we find that the words as: consequentialism, implicativity, operationalism, creativism, fertility, … grasp at most of mathematical essence and that the questions of truthfulness, of common sense, or of possible models for (otherwise abstract) mathematical creations,i.e. of ontological status of mathematical entities etc. - of second order. Truthfulness of (necessary) succession of consequences from causes in the science of nature is violated yet with Hume, so that some traditional (...) footings of logico-mathematical conclusions should equally be falled under suspicion in the last century. We have in mind, say, strict-material implication which led the emergence of relevance logics, or the law of excluded middle that denied intuitionists i.e. paraconsistent logical systems where the contradiction is allowed, as well as the quantum logic which doesn't know, say, the definition of implication etc. Kant's beliefs miscarried hereafter that number (arithmetic) and form (geometry) would bring a (finite) truth on space and time, when they revealed relative and curvated, just as it is contradictory essentially understanding of basic phenomena in the nature: of light as an unity of wave – particle, or that both "exist" and "don't exist" numbers as powers of sets between 0א and c (the independence of continuum hypothesis) etc. Mathematical truths are ''truths of possible worlds'', in which we have only to believe that they will meet once recognizable models in reality. At last, we argue in favour of thesis that a possible representing "in relief" of mathematical entities and relations in the "noetic matter" (Aristotle) would be of a striking heuristic character for this science. (shrink)
This paper surveys Bolzano's Beyträge zu einer begründeteren Darstellung der Mathematik (Contributions to a better-grounded presentation of mathematics) on the 200th anniversary of its publication. The first and only published issue presents a definition of mathematics, a classification of its subdisciplines, and an essay on mathematical method, or logic. Though underdeveloped in some areas (including,somewhat surprisingly, in logic), it is nonetheless a radically innovative work, where Bolzano presents a remarkably modern account of axiomatics and the epistemology of the (...) formal sciences. We also discuss the second, unfinished and unpublished issue, where Bolzano develops his views on universal mathematics. Here we find the beginnings of his theory of collections, for him the most fundamental of the mathematical disciplines. Though not exactly the same as the later Cantorian set theory, Bolzano's theory of collections was used in very similar ways in mathematics, notably in analysis. In retrospect, Bolzano's debut in philosophy was a remarkably successful one, though its fruits would only become generally known much later. (shrink)
Foundational work in mathematics by some of the other participants in the symposium helps towards answering the question whether a heterodox mathematics could in principle be used as successfully as is orthodox mathematics in scientific applications. This question is turn, it will be argued, is relevant to the question how far current science is the way it is because the world is the way it is, and how far because we are the way we are, which is (...) a central question, if not the central question, of philosophy of science. (shrink)
Do numbers, sets, and so forth, exist? What do mathematical statements mean? Are they literally true or false, or do they lack truth values altogether? Addressing questions that have attracted lively debate in recent years, Stewart Shapiro contends that standard realist and antirealist accounts of mathematics are both problematic. As Benacerraf first noted, we are confronted with the following powerful dilemma. The desired continuity between mathematical and, say, scientific language suggests realism, but realism in this context suggests seemingly intractable (...) epistemic problems. As a way out of this dilemma, Shapiro articulates a structuralist approach. On this view, the subject matter of arithmetic, for example, is not a fixed domain of numbers independent of each other, but rather is the natural number structure, the pattern common to any system of objects that has an initial object and successor relation satisfying the induction principle. Using this framework, realism in mathematics can be preserved without troublesome epistemic consequences. Shapiro concludes by showing how a structuralist approach can be applied to wider philosophical questions such as the nature of an "object" and the Quinean nature of ontological commitment. Clear, compelling, and tautly argued, Shapiro's work, noteworthy both in its attempt to develop a full-length structuralist approach to mathematics and to trace its emergence in the history of mathematics, will be of deep interest to both philosophers and mathematicians. (shrink)
Lucid and comprehensive essay surveys the views of Plato, Aristotle, Leibniz and Kant on the nature of mathematics; examines the propositions and theories of the schools these philosophers inspired; and concludes with a discussion on the relation between mathematical theories, empirical data and philosophical presuppositions.
The question of how and why mathematics can be applied to physical reality should be approached through the history of science, as a series of case studies which may reveal both generalizable patterns and salient differences in the grounds and nature of that application from era to era. The present examination of Descartes' Principles of Philosophy Part II, reveals a deep ambiguity in the relation of Euclidean geometry to res extensa, and a tension between geometrical form and 'common (...) motion of parts' as principles of individuation for matter in Cartesian physics. (shrink)
This lucid and comprehensive essay by a distinguished philosopher surveys the views of Plato, Aristotle, Leibniz, and Kant on the nature of mathematics. It examines the propositions and theories of the schools these philosophers inspired, and it concludes by discussing the relationship between mathematical theories, empirical data, and philosophical presuppositions. 1968 edition.
This lucid and comprehensive essay by a distinguished philosopher surveys the views of Plato, Aristotle, Leibniz, and Kant on the nature of mathematics. It examines the propositions and theories of the schools these philosophers inspired, and it concludes by discussing the relationship between mathematical theories, empirical data, and philosophical presuppositions. 1968 edition.
A survey of Euclid's Elements, this text provides an understanding of the classical Greek conception of mathematics and its similarities to modern views as well as its differences. It focuses on philosophical, foundational, and logical questions — rather than strictly historical and mathematical issues — and features several helpful appendixes.
Challenging the myth that mathematical objects can be defined into existence, Bigelow here employs Armstrong's metaphysical materialism to cast new light on mathematics. He identifies natural, real, and imaginary numbers and sets with specified physical properties and relations and, by so doing, draws mathematics back from its sterile, abstract exile into the midst of the physical world.
Wittgenstein played a vital role in establishing mathematics as one of this century's principal areas of philosophic inquiry. In this book, Pasquale Frascolla examines the three phases of Wittgenstein's reflections on mathematics, considering them as a progressive whole rather than as separate entities. Frascolla discusses the development of Wittgenstein's views on mathematics from the Tractatus up to 1944. He looks at the presentation of arithmetic in the theory of logical operations, the presence of a strong verificationist (...) orientation and the rule-following considerations in Wittgenstein's writings. Frascolla identifies a unifying key--a "quasi-formalism"--to the development of Wittgenstein's reflections on mathematics. (shrink)
The seventeenth century saw dramatic advances in mathematical theory and practice. With the recovery of many of the classical Greek mathematical texts, new techniques were introduced, and within 100 years, the rules of analytic geometry, geometry of indivisibles, arithmatic of infinites, and calculus were developed. Although many technical studies have been devoted to these innovations, Mancosu provides the first comprehensive account of the relationship between mathematical advances of the seventeenth century and the philosophy of mathematics of the period. (...) Starting with the Renaissance debates on the certainty of mathematics, Mancosu leads the reader through the foundational issues raised by the emergence of these new mathematical techniques, including the influence of the Aristotelian conception of science in Cavalieri and Guldin, the foundational relevance of Descartes' Geometrie, the relation between geometrical and epistemological theories of the infinite, and the Leibnizian calculus and the opposition to infinitesimalist procedures. In the process Mancosu draws a sophisticated picture of the subtle dependencies between technical development and philosophical reflection in seventeenth century mathematics. (shrink)
This comprehensive volume gives a panorama of the best current work in this lively field, through twenty specially written essays by the leading figures in the field. All essays deal with foundational issues, from the nature of mathematical knowledge and mathematical existence to logical consequence, abstraction, and the notions of set and natural number. The contributors also represent and criticize a variety of prominent approaches to the philosophy of mathematics, including platonism, realism, nomalism, constructivism, and formalism.
Naturalism in the philosophy of mathematics is the view that philosophy cannot legitimately gainsay mathematics. I distinguish between reinterpretation and reconstruction naturalism: the former states that philosophy cannot legitimately sanction a reinterpretation of mathematics (i.e. an interpretation different from the standard one); the latter that philosophy cannot legitimately change standard mathematics (as opposed to its interpretation). I begin by showing that neither form of naturalism is self-refuting. I then focus on reinterpretation naturalism, (...) which comes in two forms, and examine the only available argument for it. I argue that this argument, the so-called Failure Argument, itself fails. My overall conclusion is that although there is no self-refutation argument against reinterpretation naturalism, there are as yet no good reasons to accept it. Naturalism in mathematics The consistency of mathematical naturalism The failure argument Objections to the failure argument Philosophy as the default. (shrink)
A variety of projects in proof theory of relevance to the philosophy of mathematics are surveyed, including Gödel's incompleteness theorems, conservation results, independence results, ordinal analysis, predicativity, reverse mathematics, speed-up results, and provability logics.
Three theses are gleaned from Wittgenstein’s writing. First, extra-mathematical uses of mathematical expressions are not referential uses. Second, the senses of the expressions of pure mathematics are to be found in their uses outside of mathematics. Third, mathematical truth is fixed by mathematical proof. These theses are defended. The philosophy of mathematics defined by the three theses is compared with realism, nominalism, and formalism.
We argue that there are mutually beneficial connections to be made between ideas in argumentation theory and the philosophy of mathematics, and that these connections can be suggested via the process of producing computational models of theories in these domains. We discuss Lakatos’s work (Proofs and Refutations, 1976) in which he championed the informal nature of mathematics, and our computational representation of his theory. In particular, we outline our representation of Cauchy’s proof of Euler’s conjecture, in which (...) we use work by Haggith on argumentation structures, and identify connections between these structures and Lakatos’s methods. (shrink)
It is argued that the philosophical and epistemological beliefs about the nature of mathematics have a significant influence on the way mathematics is taught at school. In this paper, the philosophy of mathematics of the NCTM's Standards is investigated by examining is explicit assumptions regarding the teaching and learning of school mathematics. The main conceptual tool used for this purpose is the model of two dichotomous philosophies of mathematics-absolutist versus- fallibilist and their relation to (...)mathematics pedagogy. The main conclusion is that a fallibilist view of mathematics is assumed in the Standards and that most of its pedagogical assumptions and approaches are based on this philosophy. (shrink)
This paper describes an attempt to develop a program for teaching history and philosophy of mathematics to inservice mathematics teachers. I argue briefly for the view that philosophical positions and epistemological accounts related to mathematics have a significant influence and a powerful impact on the way mathematics is taught. But since philosophy of mathematics without history of mathematics does not exist, both philosophy and history of mathematics are necessary components of (...) programs for the training of preservice as well as inservice mathematics teachers. (shrink)
Fictionalism in the philosophy of mathematics is the view that mathematical statements, such as ‘8+5=13’ and ‘π is irrational’, are to be interpreted at face value and, thus interpreted, are false. Fictionalists are typically driven to reject the truth of such mathematical statements because these statements imply the existence of mathematical entities, and according to fictionalists there are no such entities. Fictionalism is a nominalist (or anti-realist) account of mathematics in that it denies the existence of a (...) realm of abstract mathematical entities. It should be contrasted with mathematical realism (or Platonism) where mathematical statements are taken to be true, and, moreover, are taken to be truths about mathematical entities. Fictionalism should also be contrasted with other nominalist philosophical accounts of mathematics that propose a reinterpretation of mathematical statements, according to which the statements in question are true but no longer about mathematical entities. Fictionalism is thus an error theory of mathematical discourse: at face value mathematical discourse commits us to mathematical entities and although we normally take many of the statements of this discourse to be true, in doing so we are in error (cf. error theories in ethics). (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)
The philosophy of mathematics plays an important role in analytic philosophy, both as a subject of inquiry in its own right, and as an important landmark in the broader philosophical landscape. Mathematical knowledge has long been regarded as a paradigm of human knowledge with truths that are both necessary and certain, so giving an account of mathematical knowledge is an important part of epistemology. Mathematical objects like numbers and sets are archetypical examples of abstracta, since we treat (...) such objects in our discourse as though they are independent of time and space; finding a place for such objects in a broader framework of thought is a central task of ontology, or metaphysics. The rigor and precision of mathematical language depends on the fact that it is based on a limited vocabulary and very structured grammar, and semantic accounts of mathematical discourse often serve as a starting point for the philosophy of language. Although mathematical thought has exhibited a strong degree of stability through history, the practice has also evolved over time, and some developments have evoked controversy and debate; clarifying the basic goals of the practice and the methods that are appropriate to it is therefore an important foundational and methodological task, locating the philosophy of mathematics within the broader philosophy of science. (shrink)
The purpose of this note is to examine the relationship between the practice of mathematics and the philosophy of mathematics, ontology in particular. One conclusion is that the enterprises are (or should be) closely related, with neither one dominating the other. One cannot 'read off' the correct way to do mathematics from the true ontology, for example, nor can one ‘read off’ the true ontology from mathematics as practiced.
The philosophy of mathematics has long been concerned with determining the means that are appropriate for justifying claims of mathematical knowledge, and the metaphysical considerations that render them so. But, as of late, many philosophers have called attention to the fact that a much broader range of normative judgments arise in ordinary mathematical practice; for example, questions can be interesting, theorems important, proofs explanatory, concepts powerful, and so on. The associated values are often loosely classified as aspects of (...) “mathematical understanding.” Meanwhile, in a branch of computer science known as “formal verification,” the practice of interactive theorem proving has given rise to software tools and systems designed to support the development of complex formal axiomatic proofs. Such efforts require one to develop models of mathematical language and inference that are more robust than the the simple foundational models of the last century. This essay explores some of the insights that emerge from this work, and some of the ways that these insights can inform, and be informed by, philosophical theories of mathematical understanding. (shrink)
The notion of idealization has received considerable attention in contemporary philosophy of science but less in philosophy of mathematics. An exception was the ‘critical idealism’ of the neo-Kantian philosopher Ernst Cassirer. According to Cassirer the methodology of idealization plays a central role for mathematics and empirical science. In this paper it is argued that Cassirer's contributions in this area still deserve to be taken into account in the current debates in philosophy of mathematics. For (...) extremely useful criticisms on earlier versions I am grateful to B.P. Larvor and another anonymous journal referee. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Breathing fresh air into the philosophy of mathematics Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9470-8 Authors Marco Panza, IHPST, 13, rue du Four, 75006 Paris, France Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
The ten contributions in this volume range widely over topics in the philosophy of mathematics. The four papers in Part I (entitled "Set Theory, Inconsistency, and Measuring Theories") take up topics ranging from proposed resolutions to the paradoxes of naïve set theory, paraconsistent logics as applied to the early infinitesimal calculus, the notion of "purity of method" in the proof of mathematical results, and a reconstruction of Peano's axiom that no two distinct numbers have the same successor. Papers (...) in the second part ("The Challenge of Nominalism") concern the nominalistic thesis that there are no abstract objects. The two contributions in Part III ("Historical Background") consider the contributions of Mill, Frege, and Descartes to the philosophy of mathematics. (shrink)
During the course of about ten years, Wittgenstein revised some of his most basic views in philosophy of mathematics, for example that a mathematical theorem can have only one proof. This essay argues that these changes are rooted in his growing belief that mathematical theorems are ‘internally’ connected to their canonical applications, i.e. , that mathematical theorems are ‘hardened’ empirical regularities, upon which the former are supervenient. The central role Wittgenstein increasingly assigns to empirical regularities had profound implications (...) for all of his later philosophy; some of these implications (particularly to rule following) are addressed in the essay. (shrink)
This paper offers an exposition of Husserl's mature philosophy of mathematics, expounded for the first time in Logische Untersuchungen and maintained without any essential change throughout the rest of his life. It is shown that Husserl's views on mathematics were strongly influenced by Riemann, and had clear affinities with the much later Bourbaki school.
This essay explores structural realist interpretation of spacetime with special emphasis on the close interrelationship between, on the one hand, ontological debates in spacetime structural realism and, on the other, foundational investigations in structural realism in the philosophy of mathematics. Drawing on various structuralist approaches in the philosophy of mathematics, as well as on the theoretical complexities of General Relativity, this investigation will reveal that a structuralist approach can serve as a useful means of deflating some (...) of the ontological and metaphysical disputes regarding similarly structured substantivalist and relationist spacetimes. Our analysis only covers spacetime theories up to the standard models in General Relativity (GTR), with its extension to theories of quantum gravity left for future investigations. This presentation is based on Slowik (2005), and includes a more detailed discussion in section 2.3 (which came out a bit garbled in the earlier paper). (shrink)
This article attempts to motivate a new approach to anti-realism (or nominalism) in the philosophy of mathematics. I will explore the strongest challenges to anti-realism, based on sympathetic interpretations of our intuitions that appear to support realism. I will argue that the current anti-realistic philosophies have not yet met these challenges, and that is why they cannot convince realists. Then, I will introduce a research project for a new, truly naturalistic, and completely scientific approach to philosophy of (...)mathematics. It belongs to anti-realism, but can meet those challenges and can perhaps convince some realists, at least those who are also naturalists. (shrink)
In recent philosophy of mathematics avariety of writers have presented ``structuralist''views and arguments. There are, however, a number ofsubstantive differences in what their proponents take``structuralism'' to be. In this paper we make explicitthese differences, as well as some underlyingsimilarities and common roots. We thus identifysystematically and in detail, several main variants ofstructuralism, including some not often recognized assuch. As a result the relations between thesevariants, and between the respective problems theyface, become manifest. Throughout our focus is onsemantic and (...) metaphysical issues, including what is orcould be meant by ``structure'' in this connection. (shrink)
The paper outlines a project in the philosophy of mathematics based on a proposed view of the nature of mathematical reasoning. It also contains a brief evaluative overview of the discipline and some historical observations; here it points out and illustrates the division between the philosophical dimension, where questions of realism and the status of mathematics are treated, and the more descriptive and looser dimension of epistemic efficiency, which has to do with ways of organizing the mathematical (...) material. The paper’s concern is with the first. The grand tradition in the philosophy of mathematics goes back to the foundational debates at the end of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th century. Logicism went together with a realistic view of actual infinities; rejection of, or skepticism about actual infinities derived from conceptions that were Kantian in spirit. Yet questions about the nature of mathematical reasoning should be distinguished from questions about realism (the extent of objective knowledge– independent mathematical truth). Logicism is now dead. Recent attempts to revive it are based on a redefinition of “logic”, which exploits the flexibility of the concept; they yield no interesting insight into the nature of mathematics. A conception of mathematical reasoning, broadly speaking along Kantian lines, need not imply anti–realism and can be pursued and investigated, leaving questions of realism open. Using some concrete examples of non–formal mathematical proofs, the paper proposes that mathematics is the study of forms of organization—-a concept that should be taken as primitive, rather than interpreted in terms of set–theoretic structures. For set theory itself is a study of a particular form of organization, albeit one that provides a modeling for the other known mathematical systems. In a nutshell: “We come to know mathematical truths through becoming aware of the properties of some of the organizational forms that underlie our world. This is possible, due to a capacity we have: to reflect on some of our own practices and the ways of organizing our world, and to realize what they imply.. (shrink)
Kitcher and Aspray distinguish a mainstream tradition in the philosophy of mathematics concerned with foundationalist epistemology, and a ‘maverick’ or naturalistic tradition, originating with Lakatos. My claim is that if the consequences of Lakatos's contribution are fully worked out, no less than a radical reconceptualization of the philosophy of mathematics is necessitated, including history, methodology and a fallibilist epistemology as central to the field. In the paper an interpretation of Lakatos's philosophy of mathematics is (...) offered, followed by some critical discussion, and an extension to a social constructivist position (which might well have been unacceptable to Lakatos). (shrink)
Contemporary philosophy's three main naturalisms are methodological, ontological and epistemological. Methodological naturalism states that the only authoritative standards are those of science. Ontological and epistemological naturalism respectively state that all entities and all valid methods of inquiry are in some sense natural. In philosophy of mathematics of the past few decades methodological naturalism has received the lion's share of the attention, so we concentrate on this. Ontological and epistemological naturalism in the philosophy of mathematics are (...) discussed more briefly in section 6. (shrink)
Julian Cole argues that mathematical domains are the products of social construction. This view has an initial appeal in that it seems to salvage much that is good about traditional platonistic realism without taking on the ontological baggage. However, it also has problems. After a brief sketch of social constructivist theories and Cole’s philosophy of mathematics, I evaluate the arguments in favor of social constructivism. I also discuss two substantial problems with the theory. I argue that unless and (...) until social constructivists can address the two concerns, we have reason to be skeptical about social constructivism in the philosophy of mathematics. (shrink)
This book is an important contribution to the philosophy of mathematics. It aims to clarify and answer questions about realism in connection with mathematics, in particular whether there exist mathematical objects (ontological realism) and whether all meaningful mathematical statements have objective and determinate truth-values (truth-value realism). The author develops a novel structuralist account of mathematics that answers both questions affirmatively. By regarding mathematics as ‘the science of structure’ (p. 5), he attempts to render both forms (...) of realism naturalistically respectable. The resulting philosophy of mathematics is extremely interesting and deserves the attention of anyone with a serious interest in the field. (shrink)
The distinction between analytic and synthetic propositions, and with that the distinction between a priori and a posteriori truth, is being abandoned in much of analytic philosophy and the philosophy of most of the sciences. These distinctions should also be abandoned in the philosophy of mathematics. In particular, we must recognize the strong empirical component in our mathematical knowledge. The traditional distinction between logic and mathematics, on the one hand, and the natural sciences, on the (...) other, should be dropped. Abstract mathematical objects, like transcendental numbers or Hilbert spaces, are theoretical entities on a par with electromagnetic fields or quarks. Mathematical theories are not primarily logical deductions from axioms obtained by reflection on concepts but, rather, are constructions chosen to solve some collection of problems while fitting smoothly into the other theoretical commitments of the mathematician who formulates them. In other words, a mathematical theory is a scientific theory like any other, no more certain but also no more devoid of content. (shrink)
This article canvasses five senses in which one might introduce an historical element into the philosophy of mathematics: 1. The temporal dimension of logic; 2. Explanatory Appeal to Context rather than to General Principles; 3. Heraclitean Flux; 4. All history is the History of Thought; and 5. History is Non-Judgmental. It concludes by adapting Bernard Williams’ distinction between ‘history of philosophy’ and ‘history of ideas’ to argue that the philosophy of mathematics is unavoidably historical, but (...) need not and must not merge with historiography. (shrink)
In recent philosophy of mathematics a variety of writers have presented "structuralist" views and arguments. There are, however, a number of substantive differences in what their proponents take "structuralism" to be. In this paper we make explicit these differences, as well as some underlying similarities and common roots. We thus identify, systematically and in detail, several main variants of structuralism, including some not often recognized as such. As a result the relations between these variants, and between the respective (...) problems they face, become manifest. Throughout our focus is on semantic and metaphysical issues, including what is or could be meant by "structure" in this connection. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to present and discuss the philosophical views concerning mathematics of the founders of the so called Warsaw Mathematical School, i.e., Wacław Sierpiński, Zygmunt Janiszewski and Stefan Mazurkiewicz. Their interest in the philosophy of mathematics and their philosophical papers will be considered. We shall try to answer the question whether their philosophical views influenced their proper mathematical investigations. Their views towards set theory and its rôle in mathematics will be emphasized.
The late Imre Lakatos once hoped to found a school of dialectical philosophy of mathematics. The aim of this paper is to ask what that might possibly mean. But Lakatos's philosophy has serious shortcomings. The paper elaborates a conception of dialectical philosophy of mathematics that repairs these defects and considers the work of three philosophers who in some measure fit the description: Yehuda Rav, Mary Leng and David Corfield.
The thirty year long friendship between Imre Lakatos and the classic scholar and historian of mathematics Árpád Szabó had a considerable influence on the ideas, scholarly career and personal life of both scholars. After recalling some relevant facts from their lives, this paper will investigate Szabó's works about the history of pre-Euclidean mathematics and its philosophy. We can find many similarities with Lakatos' philosophy of mathematics and science, both in the self-interpretation of early axiomatic Greek (...)mathematics as Szabó reconstructs it, and in the general overview Szabó provides us about the turn from the intuitive methods of Greek mathematicians to the strict axiomatic method of Euclid's Elements. As a conclusion, I will argue that the correct explanation of these similarities is that in their main works they developed ideas they had in common from the period of intimate intellectual contact in Hungarian academic life in the mid-twentieth century. In closing, I will recall some relevant features of this background that deserve further research. (shrink)
The circumstance that the text of Imre Lakatos' doctoral thesis from the University of Debrecen did not survive makes the evaluation of his career in Hungary and the research of aspects of continuity of his lifework difficult. My paper tries to reconstruct these newer aspects of continuity, introducing the influence of László Kalmár the mathematician and his fellow student, and Sándor Karácsony the philosopher and his mentor on Lakatos' work. The connection between the understanding of the empirical basis of exact (...) ideas—which is a common feature in the papers of the members of the Karácsony-circle—and Lakatos' way of thinking regarding mathematics is more direct and can be documented through his connection to Kalmár. The central element of Lakatos' philosophy of mathematics is criticism of formalism and his tendency is to use the empirical view. Discussions at the 1965 International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science in London were very helpful in clarifying the quasi-empirical conception. Kalmár's lecture in London, based on one of his papers published by Karácsony in 1942, emphasized the empirical character of mathematics. After this colloquium some elements of the heritage of the Karácsony-circle were integrated again in the development of Lakatos' way of thinking. First I will analyze the Kalmár lecture of 1965 at the Colloquium of Philosophy of Science and Lakatos's reflections on the problem of the foundation of mathematics. Then I will present their common Hungarian background, their education and the beginning of their career, which have many important common features; third I draw attention to the network of contacts of Karácsony-disciples. (shrink)
William Tait is one of the most distinguished philosophers of mathematics of the last fifty years. This volume collects his most important published philosophical papers from the 1980's to the present. The articles cover a wide range of issues in the foundations and philosophy of mathematics, including some on historical figures ranging from Plato to Gödel. Tait's main contributions were initially in proof theory and constructive mathematics, later moving on to more philosophical subjects including finitism and (...) skepticism about mathematics. This collection, presented as a whole, reveals the underlying unity of Tait's work. The volume includes an introduction in which Tait reflects more generally on the evolution of his point of view, as well as an appendix and added endnotes in which he gives some interesting background to the original essays. This is an important collection of the work of one of the most eminent philosophers of mathematics in this generation. (shrink)
Dynamic interaction is said to occur when two significanrly different fields A and B come into relation, and their interaction is dynamic in the sense that at first the flow of ideas is principally from A to B, but later ideas from B come to influence A. Two examples are given of dynamic interactions with the philosophy of mathematics. The first is with philosophy of scicnce, and thc sccond with computer science. Theanalysis cnables Lakatos to be charactcrised (...) as thc first to devclop the philosophy of mathematics using ideas taken from thc philosophy of science. (shrink)
Dynamic interaction is said to occur when two significanrly different fields A and B come into relation, and their interaction is dynamic in the sense that at first the flow of ideas is principally from A to B, but later ideas from B come to influence A. Two examples are given of dynamic interactions with the philosophy of mathematics. The first is with philosophy of scicnce, and the sccond with computer science. The analysis enables Lakatos to be (...) charactcrised as the first to develop the philosophy of mathematics using ideas taken from the philosophy of science. (shrink)
THE CLOSE CONNECTION BETWEEN mathematics and philosophy has long been recognized by practitioners of both disciplines. The apparent timelessness of mathematical truth, the exactness and objective nature of its concepts, its applicability to the phenomena of the empirical world—explicating such facts presents philosophy with some of its subtlest problems. We shall discuss some of the attempts made by philosophers and mathematicians to explain the nature of mathematics. We begin with a brief presentation of the views of (...) four major classical philosophers: Plato, Aristotle, Leibniz, and Kant. We conclude with a more detailed discussion of the three “schools” of mathematical philosophy which have emerged in the twentieth century: Logicism, Formalism, and Intuitionism. (shrink)
When Bishop published Foundations of Constructive Analysis he showed that it was possible to do ordinary analysis within a constructive framework. Bishop's reasons for doing his mathematics constructively are explicitly philosophical. In this paper, I will expound, examine, and amplify his philosophical arguments for constructivism in mathematics. In the end, however, I argue that Bishop's philosophical comments cannot be rounded out into an adequate philosophy of constructive mathematics.
The first part of this paper consists of an exposition of the views expressed by Pierre Duhem in his Aim and Structure of Physical Theory concerning the philosophy and historiography of mathematics. The second part provides a critique of these views, pointing to the conclusion that they are in need of reformulation. In the concluding third part, it is suggested that a number of the most important claims made by Duhem concerning physical theory, e.g., those relating to the (...) Newtonian method, the limited falsifiability of theories, and the restricted role of logic, can be meaningfully applied to mathematics. (shrink)
In this first modern, critical assessment of the place of mathematics in Berkeley's philosophy and Berkeley's place in the history of mathematics, Douglas M. Jesseph provides a bold reinterpretation of Berkeley's work.
When mathematicians think of the philosophy of mathematics, they probably think of endless debates about what numbers are and whether they exist. Since plenty of mathematical progress continues to be made without taking a stance on either of these questions, mathematicians feel confident they can work without much regard for philosophical reflections. In his sharp–toned, sprawling book, David Corfield acknowledges the irrelevance of much contemporary philosophy of mathematics to current mathematical practice, and proposes reforming the subject (...) accordingly. (shrink)
1. Introduction : the mathematical image -- 2. Platonism -- 3. Picture-proofs and Platonism -- 4. What is applied mathematics? -- 5. Hilbert and Gödel -- 6. Knots and notation -- 7. What is a definition? -- 8. Constructive approaches -- 9. Proofs, pictures and procedures in Wittgenstein -- 10. Computation, proof and conjecture -- 11. How to refute the continuum hypothesis -- 12. Calling the bluff.
This paper is a contribution to the question of how aspects of science have been perceived through history. In particular, I will discuss how the contribution of axiomatics to the development of science and mathematics was viewed in 20th century philosophy of science and philosophy of mathematics. It will turn out that in connection with scientiﬁc methodology, in particular regarding its use in the context of discovery, axiomatics has received only very little attention. This is a (...) rather surprising result, since axiomatizations have been employed extensively in mathematics, science, and also by the philosophers themselves. (shrink)
Mathematical fictionalism (or as I'll call it, fictionalism) is best thought of as a reaction to mathematical platonism. Platonism is the view that (a) there exist abstract mathematical objects (i.e., nonspatiotemporal mathematical objects), and (b) our mathematical sentences and theories provide true descriptions of such objects. So, for instance, on the platonist view, the sentence ‘3 is prime’ provides a straightforward description of a certain object—namely, the number 3—in much the same way that the sentence ‘Mars is red’ provides a (...) description of Mars. But whereas Mars is a physical object, the number 3 is (according to platonism) an abstract object. And abstract objects, platonists tell us, are wholly nonphysical, nonmental, nonspatial, nontemporal, and noncausal. Thus, on this view, the number 3 exists independently of us and our thinking, but it does not exist in space or time, it is not a physical or mental object, and it does not enter into causal relations with other objects. This view has been endorsed by Plato, Frege (1884, 1893-1903, 1919), Gödel (1964), and in some of their writings, Russell (1912) and Quine (1948, 1951), not to mention numerous more recent philosophers of mathematics, e.g., Putnam (1971), Parsons (1971), Steiner (1975), Resnik (1997), Shapiro (1997), Hale (1987), Wright (1983), Katz (1998), Zalta (1988), and Colyvan (2001). (shrink)
We shall argue that the attempt carried out by certain philosophers in this century to parrot the language, the method, and the results of mathematics has harmed philosophy. Such an attempt results from a misunderstanding of both mathematics and philosophy, and has harmed both subjects.
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)
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.
The beginning of the journey -- What this book is about : using ideas from mathematics, economics, and physics to tackle the big questions in philosophy : what is real? what can we know? what is the difference between right and wrong? and how should we live? -- Reality and unreality -- On what there is -- Why is there something instead of nothing? the best answer I have : mathematics exists because it must and everything else (...) exists because it is made of mathematics, with an excursion into artificial intelligence -- Unfinished business -- Unfinished business from chapter two : the nature and purpose of economic models -- How Richard Dawkins got it wrong -- Why Dawkins's argument against intelligent design can't be right and a mathematical analysis of the arguments for the existence of God -- Belief -- Daydream believers -- Most beliefs are ill-considered because most false beliefs are costless to hold -- The next several chapters will explore the consequences of this observation before we return to the question of where our beliefs and knowledge come from -- Unfinished business -- Unfinished business from the preceding chapter : how color vision works, sound, and water waves, the sheer craziness of economic protectionism -- Do believers believe? -- Our ill-considered beliefs about religion : why I believe that almost nobody is deeply religious -- On what there obviously is -- Our ill-considered beliefs about free will, ESP, and life after death -- Diogenes's nightmare -- How is legitimate disagreement possible if you're arguing with someone who is as intelligent and informed as you are, shouldn't you put just as much weight on your opponent's arguments as your own? -- The fact that we persist in disagreeing is strong evidence that we don't really care what's true -- Knowledge -- Knowing your math -- Where mathematical knowledge comes from and logic and why evidence and logic are not enough -- Unfinished business -- Unfinished business from the preceding chapter : the tale of hercules and the hydra, with an excursion into the lore of very large numbers -- Incomplete thinking -- Godel's incompleteness theorem and what it doesn't say about the limits of human knowledge -- The rules of logic and the tale of a Potbellied pig -- The power of logical thought, with excursions into the most counterintuitive theorem in all of mathematics and the tale of a potbellied pig -- The rules of evidence -- What we can and can't learn from evidence, with excursions into the value of preschool and how internet porn prevents rape -- The limits to knowledge -- What physics does and doesn't tell us about what we can and cannot know -- Understanding Heisenberg's uncertainty principle -- Unfinished business -- The oddness of the quantum world and why it matters to game theorists -- Right and wrong -- Telling right from wrong -- Some hard questions about right and wrong and about life and death -- The economist's golden rule -- A rule of thumb for good behavior -- How to be socially responsible -- Putting the rule of thumb into practice -- On not being a jerk -- Goofus and gallant on immigration policy -- The economist on the playground -- Our ill-considered beliefs about fairness in the market place and in the voting booth, contrasted with our carefully considered beliefs about fairness on the playground -- Unfinished business -- How ancient talmudic scholars anticipated modern economic theory -- The life of the mind -- How to think -- Some basic rules for clear thinking, mostly about economics, but also about arithmetic, neurobiology, sin, and eschewing blather -- What to study -- Advice to college students : stay away from the English department and approach the philosophy department with caution, with an excursion into the remarkable life of Frank Ramsey. (shrink)