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Summary Various debunking arguments concerning mathematical knowledge have been proposed.  Benacerraf formulated an influential early mathematical debunking argument, often called the access problem, which draws on a causal theory of knowledge to argue that accepting mathematical platonism would make the kinds of mathematical knowledge we take ourselves to have impossible. Field formulated a version of this worry which drops appeal to causal constraints on knowledge In favor of appeal to an unmet explanatory demand.  More recent work has compared access worries about mathematics to access worries about morals (inspired by companions in innocence defenses of moral realism which claim that access worries generated by accepting moral realism are no worse than access worries associated with accepting mathematical realism).
Key works In Benacerraf 1973 Benacerraf introduces a classic access worry about mathematical knowledge.  Field presents a very influential sharpening of Bencerraf’s worry in Field 1988.  Works such as Street 2006 and Joyce 2005 have been influential in pressing evolutionary debunking arguments within metaethics.  Clark-Doane's work in Clarke-Doane 2020 connects metaethical evolutionary debunking arguments to mathematical ones and explores related access worries.
Introductions Nutting 2022Vavova 2015, Wielenberg 2016
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  1. The Residual Access Problem.Sharon Berry - manuscript
    A range of current truth-value realist philosophies of mathematics allow one to reduce the Benacerraf Problem to a problem concerning mathematicians' ability to recognize which conceptions of pure mathematical structures are coherent – in a sense which can be cashed out in terms of logical possibility. In this paper I will clarify what it takes to solve this `residual' access problem and then present a framework for solving it.
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  2. Précis of Morality and Mathematics.Justin Clarke-Doane - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
  3. Debunking Arguments: Mathematics, Logic, and Modal Security.Justin Clarke-Doane - forthcoming - In Robert Richards and Michael Ruse (ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Evolutionary Ethics. Cambridge University Press.
    I discuss the structure of genealogical debunking arguments. I argue that they undermine our mathematical beliefs if they undermine our moral beliefs. The contrary appearance stems from a confusion of arithmetic truths with (first-order) logical truths, or from a confusion of reliability with justification. I conclude with a discussion of the cogency of debunking arguments, in light of the above. Their cogency depends on whether information can undermine all of our beliefs of a kind, F, without giving us direct reason (...)
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  4. Neutrality and Force in Field's Epistemological Objection to Platonism.Ylwa Sjölin Wirling - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Field’s challenge to platonists is the challenge to explain the reliable match between mathematical truth and belief. The challenge grounds an objection claiming that platonists cannot provide such an explanation. This objection is often taken to be both neutral with respect to controversial epistemological assumptions, and a comparatively forceful objection against platonists. I argue that these two characteristics are in tension: no construal of the objection in the current literature realises both, and there are strong reasons to think that no (...)
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  5. Pragmatic accounts of justification, epistemic analyticity, and other routes to easy knowledge of abstracta.Brett Topey - forthcoming - In Xavier de Donato-Rodríguez, José Falguera & Concha Martínez-Vidal (eds.), Deflationist Conceptions of Abstract Objects. Springer.
    One common attitude toward abstract objects is a kind of platonism: a view on which those objects are mind-independent and causally inert. But there's an epistemological problem here: given any naturalistically respectable understanding of how our minds work, we can't be in any sort of contact with mind-independent, causally inert objects. So platonists, in order to avoid skepticism, tend to endorse epistemological theories on which knowledge is easy, in the sense that it requires no such contact—appeals to Boghossian’s notion of (...)
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  6. Jan von Plato.* Can Mathematics be Proved Consistent?John W. Dawson - 2023 - Philosophia Mathematica 31 (1):104-111.
    The papers of Kurt Gödel were donated to the Institute for Advanced Study by his widow Adele shortly after his death in 1978. They were catalogued by the review.
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  7. Introduction.Diego E. Machuca - 2023 - In Evolutionary Debunking Arguments: Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Mathematics, Metaphysics, and Epistemology. New York: Routledge. pp. 1-12.
  8. Evolutionary Debunking Arguments: Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Mathematics, Metaphysics, and Epistemology.Diego E. Machuca (ed.) - 2023 - New York: Routledge.
    Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in evolutionary debunking arguments directed against certain types of belief, particularly moral and religious beliefs. According to those arguments, the evolutionary origins of the cognitive mechanisms that produce the targeted beliefs render these beliefs epistemically unjustified. The reason is that natural selection cares for reproduction and survival rather than truth, and false beliefs can in principle be as evolutionarily advantageous as true beliefs. The present volume brings together fourteen essays that examine evolutionary (...)
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  9. Calling for Explanation.Dan Baras - 2022 - New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
    The idea that there are some facts that call for explanation serves as an unexamined premise in influential arguments for the inexistence of moral or mathematical facts and for the existence of a god and of other universes. This book is the first to offer a comprehensive and critical treatment of this idea. It argues that calling for explanation is a sometimes-misleading figure of speech rather than a fundamental property of facts.
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  10. Mathematics and Metaphilosophy.Justin Clarke-Doane - 2022 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    This book discusses the problem of mathematical knowledge, and its broader philosophical ramifications. It argues that the challenge to explain the (defeasible) justification of our mathematical beliefs (‘the justificatory challenge’), arises insofar as disagreement over axioms bottoms out in disagreement over intuitions. And it argues that the challenge to explain their reliability (‘the reliability challenge’), arises to the extent that we could have easily had different beliefs. The book shows that mathematical facts are not, in general, empirically accessible, contra Quine, (...)
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  11. The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics: From Hamming to Wigner and Back Again.Arezoo Islami - 2022 - Foundations of Physics 52 (4):1-18.
    In a paper titled, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics”, published 20 years after Wigner’s seminal paper, the mathematician Richard W. Hamming discussed what he took to be Wigner’s problem of Unreasonable Effectiveness and offered some partial explanations for this phenomenon. Whether Hamming succeeds in his explanations as answers to Wigner’s puzzle is addressed by other scholars in recent years I, on the other hand, raise a more fundamental question: does Hamming succeed in raising the same question as Wigner? The answer (...)
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  12. Platonism and Mathematical Explanations.Fabrice Pataut - 2021 - Balkan Journal of Philosophy 13 (2):113-122.
    Ontological parsimony requires that if we can dispense with A when best explaining B, or when deducing a nominalistically statable conclusion B from nominalistically statable premises, we must indeed dispense with A. When A is a mathematical theory and it has been established that its conservativeness undermines the platonistic force of mathematical derivations (Field), or that a non numerical formulation of some explanans may be obtained so that the platonistic force of the best numerical-based account of the explanandum is also (...)
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  13. Realism, reliability, and epistemic possibility: on modally interpreting the Benacerraf–Field challenge.Brett Topey - 2021 - Synthese 199 (1-2):4415-4436.
    A Benacerraf–Field challenge is an argument intended to show that common realist theories of a given domain are untenable: such theories make it impossible to explain how we’ve arrived at the truth in that domain, and insofar as a theory makes our reliability in a domain inexplicable, we must either reject that theory or give up the relevant beliefs. But there’s no consensus about what would count here as a satisfactory explanation of our reliability. It’s sometimes suggested that giving such (...)
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  14. How can necessary facts call for explanation.Dan Baras - 2020 - Synthese 198 (12):11607-11624.
    While there has been much discussion about what makes some mathematical proofs more explanatory than others, and what are mathematical coincidences, in this article I explore the distinct phenomenon of mathematical facts that call for explanation. The existence of mathematical facts that call for explanation stands in tension with virtually all existing accounts of “calling for explanation”, which imply that necessary facts cannot call for explanation. In this paper I explore what theoretical revisions are needed in order to accommodate this (...)
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  15. Coincidence Avoidance and Formulating the Access Problem.Sharon Berry - 2020 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy.
    In this article, I discuss a trivialization worry for Hartry Field’s official formulation of the access problem for mathematical realists, which was pointed out by Øystein Linnebo (and has recently been made much of by Justin Clarke-Doane). I argue that various attempted reformulations of the Benacerraf problem fail to block trivialization, but that access worriers can better defend themselves by sticking closer to Hartry Field’s initial informal characterization of the access problem in terms of (something like) general epistemic norms of (...)
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  16. Coincidence Avoidance and Formulating the Access Problem.Sharon E. Berry - 2020 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 50 (6):687 - 701.
    In this article, I discuss a trivialization worry for Hartry Field’s official formulation of the access problem for mathematical realists, which was pointed out by Øystein Linnebo (and has recently been made much of by Justin Clarke-Doane). I argue that various attempted reformulations of the Benacerraf problem fail to block trivialization, but that access worriers can better defend themselves by sticking closer to Hartry Field’s initial informal characterization of the access problem in terms of (something like) general epistemic norms of (...)
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  17. Morality and Mathematics.Justin Clarke-Doane - 2020 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
    To what extent are the subjects of our thoughts and talk real? This is the question of realism. In this book, Justin Clarke-Doane explores arguments for and against moral realism and mathematical realism, how they interact, and what they can tell us about areas of philosophical interest more generally. He argues that, contrary to widespread belief, our mathematical beliefs have no better claim to being self-evident or provable than our moral beliefs. Nor do our mathematical beliefs have better claim to (...)
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  18. Platonism And Mathematical Explanations.Fabrice Pataut - 2020 - Balkan Journal of Philosophy 12 (2):63-74.
    Ontological parsimony requires that if we can dispense with A when best explaining B, or when deducing a nominalistically statable conclusion B from nominalistically statable premises, we must indeed dispense with A. When A is a mathematical theory and it has been established that its conservativeness undermines the platonistic force of mathematical derivations (Field), or that a nonnumerical formulation of some explanans may be obtained so that the platonistic force of the best numerical-based account of the explanandum is also undermined (...)
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  19. Debunking arguments.Daniel Z. Korman - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 14 (12):e12638.
    Debunking arguments—also known as etiological arguments, genealogical arguments, access problems, isolation objec- tions, and reliability challenges—arise in philosophical debates about a diverse range of topics, including causation, chance, color, consciousness, epistemic reasons, free will, grounding, laws of nature, logic, mathematics, modality, morality, natural kinds, ordinary objects, religion, and time. What unifies the arguments is the transition from a premise about what does or doesn't explain why we have certain mental states to a negative assessment of their epistemic status. I examine (...)
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  20. (Probably) Not companions in guilt.Sharon Berry - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (9):2285-2308.
    In this paper, I will attempt to develop and defend a common form of intuitive resistance to the companions in guilt argument. I will argue that one can reasonably believe there are promising solutions to the access problem for mathematical realism that don’t translate to moral realism. In particular, I will suggest that the structuralist project of accounting for mathematical knowledge in terms of some form of logical knowledge offers significant hope of success while no analogous approach offers such hope (...)
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  21. Debunking and Dispensability.Justin Clarke-Doane - 2016 - In Uri D. Leibowitz & Neil Sinclair (eds.), Explanation in Ethics and Mathematics: Debunking and Dispensability. Oxford University Press.
    In his précis of a recent book, Richard Joyce writes, “My contention…is that…any epistemological benefit-of-the-doubt that might have been extended to moral beliefs…will be neutralized by the availability of an empirically confirmed moral genealogy that nowhere…presupposes their truth.” Such reasoning – falling under the heading “Genealogical Debunking Arguments” – is now commonplace. But how might “the availability of an empirically confirmed moral genealogy that nowhere… presupposes” the truth of our moral beliefs “neutralize” whatever “epistemological benefit-of-the-doubt that might have been extended (...)
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  22. Justification and Explanation in Mathematics and Morality.Justin Clarke-Doane - 2015 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 10.
    In his influential book, The Nature of Morality, Gilbert Harman writes: “In explaining the observations that support a physical theory, scientists typically appeal to mathematical principles. On the other hand, one never seems to need to appeal in this way to moral principles.” What is the epistemological relevance of this contrast, if genuine? This chapter argues that ethicists and philosophers of mathematics have misunderstood it. They have confused what the chapter calls the justificatory challenge for realism about an area, D—the (...)
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  23. Are Evolutionary Debunking Arguments Really Self-Defeating?Fabio Sterpetti - 2015 - Philosophia 43 (3):877-889.
    Evolutionary Debunking Arguments are defined as arguments that appeal to the evolutionary genealogy of our beliefs to undermine their justification. Recently, Helen De Cruz and her co-authors supported the view that EDAs are self-defeating: if EDAs claim that human arguments are not justified, because the evolutionary origin of the beliefs which figure in such arguments undermines those beliefs, and EDAs themselves are human arguments, then EDAs are not justified, and we should not accept their conclusions about the fact that human (...)
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