About this topic
Summary Fictionalism denies the existence of abstract, aspatial and atemporal mathematical objects, at the same time claiming that mathematical theories are not true because there are no mathematical objects that those theories are supposed to be about. While this allows a fictionalist to avoid difficult questions about human knowledge of abstract objects, they have to handle a different problem. The applicability of mathematics and mathematicians' (usual) agreement suggest that there are some objective standards of correctness (if not truth) of mathematical theories and a fictionalist should explain what these standards are and how they are motivated.
Key works Freely accessible Balaguer 2008 contains an excellent list of key works in this field.
Introductions Nicely paced introductory surveys are Eklund 2010, Balaguer 2008 and Colyvan 2011
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1 — 50 / 79
  1. added 2018-03-27
    Conversational Exculpature.Daniel Hoek - 2018 - Philosophical Review 127 (2):151-196.
    Conversational exculpature is a pragmatic process whereby information is subtracted from, rather than added to, what the speaker literally says. This pragmatic content subtraction explains why we can say “Rob is six feet tall” without implying that Rob is between 5'0.99" and 6'0.01" tall, and why we can say “Ellen has a hat like the one Sherlock Holmes always wears” without implying Holmes exists or has a hat. This article presents a simple formalism for understanding this pragmatic mechanism, specifying how, (...)
  2. added 2018-02-17
    Revolutionary Fictionalism: A Call to Arms.Mary Leng - 2005 - Philosophia Mathematica 13 (3):277-293.
    This paper responds to John Burgess's ‘Mathematics and _Bleak House_’. While Burgess's rejection of hermeneutic fictionalism is accepted, it is argued that his two main attacks on revolutionary fictionalism fail to meet their target. Firstly, ‘philosophical modesty’ should not prevent philosophers from questioning the truth of claims made within successful practices, provided that the utility of those practices as they stand can be explained. Secondly, Carnapian scepticism concerning the meaningfulness of _metaphysical_ existence claims has no force against a _naturalized_ version (...)
  3. added 2017-11-01
    Can Mathematical Objects Be Causally Efficacious?Seungbae Park - 2018 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:00-00.
    Callard (2007) argues that it is metaphysically possible that a mathematical object, although abstract, causally affects the brain. I raise the following objections. First, a successful defence of mathematical realism requires not merely the metaphysical possibility but rather the actuality that a mathematical object affects the brain. Second, mathematical realists need to confront a set of three pertinent issues: why a mathematical object does not affect other concrete objects and other mathematical objects, what counts as a mathematical object, and how (...)
  4. added 2017-06-17
    Optimal Representations and the Enhanced Indispensability Argument.Manuel Barrantes - 2017 - Synthese:1-17.
    The Enhanced Indispensability Argument (EIA) appeals to the existence of Mathematical Explanations of Physical Phenomena (MEPPs) to justify mathematical Platonism, following the principle of Inference to the Best Explanation. In this paper, I examine one example of a MEPP —the explanation of the 13-year and 17-year life cycle of magicicadas— and argue that this case cannot be used to justify mathematical Platonism. I then generalize my analysis of the cicada case to other MEPPs, and show that these explanations rely on (...)
  5. added 2017-06-17
    The Game of Fictional Mathematics. Review of “Mathematics and Reality” by Mary Leng.Joachim Frans - 2012 - Constructivist Foundations 8 (1):126-128.
  6. added 2017-03-11
    In Defense of Mathematical Inferentialism.Seungbae Park - 2017 - Analysis and Metaphysics 16:70-83.
    I defend a new position in philosophy of mathematics that I call mathematical inferentialism. It holds that a mathematical sentence can perform the function of facilitating deductive inferences from some concrete sentences to other concrete sentences, that a mathematical sentence is true if and only if all of its concrete consequences are true, that the abstract world does not exist, and that we acquire mathematical knowledge by confirming concrete sentences. Mathematical inferentialism has several advantages over mathematical realism and fictionalism.
  7. added 2017-03-06
    The Inaccuracy of Partial Truth in Yablovian If-Thenism.Joseph Ulatowski - 2017 - Australasian Philosophical Review 1 (2):206-211.
    Yablo has argued for an alternative form of if-thenism that is more conducive with his figurative fictionalism. This commentary sets out to challenge whether the remainder, ρ, tends to be an inaccurate representation of the conditions that are supposed to complete the enthymeme from φ to Ψ. Whilst by some accounts the inaccuracies shouldn't set off any alarm bells, the truth of ρ is too inexact. The content of ρ, a partial truth, must display a sensitivity to the contextual background (...)
  8. added 2017-01-23
    Mathematics and Reality, by Mary Leng.J. W. Roland - 2013 - Mind 122 (485):297-302.
  9. added 2017-01-22
    Review of Mary Leng, Mathematics and Reality[REVIEW]Gregory Lavers - 2010 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2010 (9).
  10. added 2017-01-20
    Mathematical Fictionalism.David Papineau - 1988 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 2 (2):151 – 174.
  11. added 2017-01-15
    Mathematical Fictionalism - No Comedy of Errors.C. Daly - 2006 - Analysis 66 (3):208-216.
  12. added 2016-12-08
    Mathematical Instrumentalism Meets the Conjunction Objection.Hawthorne James - 1996 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 25 (4):363-397.
    Scientific realists often appeal to some version of the conjunction objection to argue that scientific instrumentalism fails to do justice to the full empirical import of scientific theories. Whereas the conjunction objection provides a powerful critique of scientific instrumentalism, I will show that mathematical instnrunentalism escapes the conjunction objection unscathed.
  13. added 2016-11-04
    Fictionalism and Mathematical Objectivity.Iulian D. Toader - 2012 - In Metaphysics and Science. Festschrift for Professor Ilie Pârvu. University of Bucharest Press. pp. 137-158.
  14. added 2016-11-01
    Modal Structuralism and Theism.Silvia Jonas - forthcoming - In Fiona Ellis (ed.), New Models of Religious Understanding. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Drawing an analogy between modal structuralism about mathematics and theism, I o er a structuralist account that implicitly de nes theism in terms of three basic relations: logical and metaphysical priority, and epis- temic superiority. On this view, statements like `God is omniscient' have a hypothetical and a categorical component. The hypothetical component provides a translation pattern according to which statements in theistic language are converted into statements of second-order modal logic. The categorical component asserts the logical possibility of the (...)
  15. added 2016-09-05
    Philosophy of Mathematics for the Masses : Extending the Scope of the Philosophy of Mathematics.Stefan Buijsman - 2016 - Dissertation, Stockholm University
    One of the important discussions in the philosophy of mathematics, is that centered on Benacerraf’s Dilemma. Benacerraf’s dilemma challenges theorists to provide an epistemology and semantics for mathematics, based on their favourite ontology. This challenge is the point on which all philosophies of mathematics are judged, and clarifying how we might acquire mathematical knowledge is one of the main occupations of philosophers of mathematics. In this thesis I argue that this discussion has overlooked an important part of mathematics, namely mathematics (...)
  16. added 2016-03-03
    Accessibility of Reformulated Mathematical Content.Stefan Buijsman - 2017 - Synthese 194 (6).
    I challenge a claim that seems to be made when nominalists offer reformulations of the content of mathematical beliefs, namely that these reformulations are accessible to everyone. By doing so, I argue that these theories cannot account for the mathematical knowledge that ordinary people have. In the first part of the paper I look at reformulations that employ the concept of proof, such as those of Mary Leng and Ottavio Bueno. I argue that ordinary people don’t have many beliefs about (...)
  17. added 2016-02-26
    The Semantics of Social Constructivism.Shay Allen Logan - 2015 - Synthese 192 (8):2577-2598.
    This essay will examine some rather serious trouble confronting claims that mathematicalia might be social constructs. Because of the clarity with which he makes the case and the philosophical rigor he applies to his analysis, our exemplar of a social constructivist in this sense is Julian Cole, especially the work in his 2009 and 2013 papers on the topic. In a 2010 paper, Jill Dieterle criticized the view in Cole’s 2009 paper for being unable to account for the atemporality of (...)
  18. added 2016-02-26
    Categories and Constructs.Shay Logan - 2015 - Dissertation, University of Minnesota
  19. added 2016-02-25
    Abstract Objects: A Case Study.Stephen Yablo - 2002 - Philosophical Issues 12 (1):220-240.
  20. added 2015-12-08
    The Myth of Seven.Stephen Yablo - 2005 - In Mark Eli Kalderon (ed.), Fictionalism in Metaphysics. Clarendon Press. pp. 88--115.
  21. added 2015-11-17
    Multiple Realization and Expressive Power in Mathematics and Ethics.David Liggins - 2016 - In Uri D. Leibowitz & Neil Sinclair (eds.), Explanation in Ethics and Mathematics: Debunking and Dispensability. Oxford University Press.
    According to a popular ‘explanationist’ argument for moral or mathematical realism the best explanation of some phenomena are moral or mathematical, and this implies the relevant form of realism. One popular way to resist the premiss of such arguments is to hold that any supposed explanation provided by moral or mathematical properties is in fact provided only by the non-moral or non-mathematical grounds of those properties. Many realists have responded to this objection by urging that the explanations provided by the (...)
  22. added 2015-10-22
    What's Wrong with Indispensability?Mary Leng - 2002 - Synthese 131 (3):395 - 417.
    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 (...)
  23. added 2015-10-21
    Intrinsic Explanation and Field’s Dispensabilist Strategy.Russell Marcus - 2007 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 21 (2):163-183.
    Philosophy of mathematics for the last half-century has been dominated in one way or another by Quine’s indispensability argument. The argument alleges that our best scientific theory quantifies over, and thus commits us to, mathematical objects. In this paper, I present new considerations which undermine the most serious challenge to Quine’s argument, Hartry Field’s reformulation of Newtonian Gravitational Theory.
  24. added 2015-08-05
    Mathematics: Truth and Fiction? Review of Mark Balaguer's Platonism and Anti-Platonism in Mathematics.Mark Colyvan & Edward N. Zalta - 1999 - Philosophia Mathematica 7 (3):336-349.
    Mark Balaguer’s project in this book is extremely ambitious; he sets out to defend both platonism and fictionalism about mathematical entities. Moreover, Balaguer argues that at the end of the day, platonism and fictionalism are on an equal footing. Not content to leave the matter there, however, he advances the anti-metaphysical conclusion that there is no fact of the matter about the existence of mathematical objects.1 Despite the ambitious nature of this project, for the most part Balaguer does not shortchange (...)
  25. added 2015-06-14
    Good Weasel Hunting.Robert Knowles & David Liggins - 2015 - Synthese 192 (10):3397-3412.
    The ‘indispensability argument’ for the existence of mathematical objects appeals to the role mathematics plays in science. In a series of publications, Joseph Melia has offered a distinctive reply to the indispensability argument. The purpose of this paper is to clarify Melia’s response to the indispensability argument and to advise Melia and his critics on how best to carry forward the debate. We will begin by presenting Melia’s response and diagnosing some recent misunderstandings of it. Then we will discuss four (...)
  26. added 2015-04-22
    Mathematics as Make-Believe: A Constructive Empiricist Account.Sarah Elizabeth Hoffman - 1999 - Dissertation, University of Alberta (Canada)
    Any philosophy of science ought to have something to say about the nature of mathematics, especially an account like constructive empiricism in which mathematical concepts like model and isomorphism play a central role. This thesis is a contribution to the larger project of formulating a constructive empiricist account of mathematics. The philosophy of mathematics developed is fictionalist, with an anti-realist metaphysics. In the thesis, van Fraassen's constructive empiricism is defended and various accounts of mathematics are considered and rejected. Constructive empiricism (...)
  27. added 2015-04-14
    True Nominalism: Referring Versus Coding.Jody Azzouni & Otávio Bueno - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (3):781-816.
    One major motivation for nominalism, at least according to Hartry Field, is the desirability of intrinsic explanations: explanations that don’t invoke objects that are causally irrelevant to the phenomena being explained. There is something right about the search for such explanations. But that search must be carefully implemented. Nothing is gained if, to avoid a certain class of objects, one only introduces other objects and relations that are just as nominalistically questionable. We will argue that this is the case for (...)
  28. added 2015-04-04
    Moderate Mathematical Fictionism.Mario Bunge - 1997 - In Evandro Agazzi & György Darvas (eds.), Philosophy of Mathematics Today. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 51--71.
  29. added 2015-03-18
    Mathematical Knowledge, Edited by Mary Leng, Alexander Paseau, and Michael Potter. [REVIEW]E. Chudnoff - 2009 - Mind 118 (471):846-850.
    Review of Mathematical Knowledge eds. Leng, Paseau, and Potter.
  30. added 2014-10-09
    Musil's Imaginary Bridge.Achille C. Varzi - 2014 - The Monist 97 (1):30-46.
    In a calculation involving imaginary numbers, we begin with real numbers that represent concrete measures and we end up with numbers that are equally real, but in the course of the operation we find ourselves walking “as if on a bridge that stands on no piles”. How is that possible? How does that work? And what is involved in the as-if stance that this metaphor introduces so beautifully? These are questions that bother Törless deeply. And that Törless is bothered by (...)
  31. added 2014-04-02
    Abstract Expressionism and the Communication Problem.David Liggins - 2014 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (3):599-620.
    Some philosophers have recently suggested that the reason mathematics is useful in science is that it expands our expressive capacities. Of these philosophers, only Stephen Yablo has put forward a detailed account of how mathematics brings this advantage. In this article, I set out Yablo’s view and argue that it is implausible. Then, I introduce a simpler account and show it is a serious rival to Yablo’s. 1 Introduction2 Yablo’s Expressionism3 Psychological Objections to Yablo’s Expressionism4 Introducing Belief Expressionism5 Objections and (...)
  32. added 2014-04-02
    Christopher Pincock. Mathematics and Scientific Representation. Oxford University Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-19-975710-7. Pp. Xv + 330. [REVIEW]Michael Liston - 2013 - Philosophia Mathematica 21 (3):371-385.
  33. added 2014-04-02
    Pretense, Mathematics, and Cognitive Neuroscience.Jonathan Tallant - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (4):axs013.
    A pretense theory of a given discourse is a theory that claims that we do not believe or assert the propositions expressed by the sentences we token (speak, write, and so on) when taking part in that discourse. Instead, according to pretense theory, we are speaking from within a pretense. According to pretense theories of mathematics, we engage with mathematics as we do a pretense. We do not use mathematical language to make claims that express propositions and, thus, we do (...)
  34. added 2014-04-02
    Why Pragmaticism is Neither Mathematical Structuralism nor Fictionalism.AhtiVeikko Pietarinen - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 41:19-25.
    Despite some surface similarities, Charles Peirce’s philosophy of mathematics, pragmaticism, is incompatible with both mathematical structuralism and fictionalism. Pragmaticism has to do with experimentation and observation concerning the forms of relations in diagrammatic and iconic representations ofmathematical entities. It does not presuppose mathematical foundations although it has these representations as its objects of study. But these objects do have a reality which structuralism and fictionalism deny.
  35. added 2014-04-02
    Taking Mathematical Fictions Seriously.Michael Liston - 1993 - Synthese 95 (3):433 - 458.
    I argue on the basis of an example, Fourier theory applied to the problem of vibration, that Field's program for nominalizing science is unlikely to succeed generally, since no nominalistic variant will provide us with the kind of physical insight into the phenomena that the standard theory supplies. Consideration of the same example also shows, I argue, that some of the motivation for mathematical fictionalism, particularly the alleged problem of cognitive access, is more apparent than real.
  36. added 2014-03-29
    Mathematics and Reality.Mary Leng (ed.) - 2010 - Oxford University Press.
    Mary Leng defends a philosophical account of the nature of mathematics which views it as a kind of fiction. On this view, the claims of our ordinary mathematical theories are more closely analogous to utterances made in the context of storytelling than to utterances whose aim is to assert literal truths.
  37. added 2014-03-29
    Why Deflationists Should Be Pretense Theorists (and Perhaps Already Are).Bradley Armour-Garb & James A. Woodbridge - 2010 - In Cory D. Wright & Nikolaj J. L. L. Pedersen (eds.), New Waves in Truth. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 59-77.
    In this paper, we do two things. First, we clarify the notion of deflationism, with special attention to deflationary accounts of truth. Seocnd, we argue that one who endorses a deflationary account of truth (or of semantic notions, generally) should be, or perhaps already is, a pretense theorist regarding truth-talk. In §1 we discuss mathematical fictionalism, where we focus on Yablo’s pretense account of mathematical discourse. §2 briefly introduces the key elements of deflationism and explains deflationism about truth in particular. (...)
  38. added 2014-03-29
    Talking About Nothing: Numbers, Hallucinations, and Fictions.Jody Azzouni - 2010 - Oxford University Press.
    Numbers -- Hallucinations -- Fictions -- Scientific languages, ontology, and truth -- Truth conditions and semantics.
  39. added 2014-03-26
    A Fictionalist Account of the Indispensable Applications of Mathematics.Mark Balaguer - 1996 - Philosophical Studies 83 (3):291 - 314.
  40. added 2014-03-25
    From Mathematical Fictionalism to Truth‐Theoretic Fictionalism.Bradley Armour‐Garb & James A. Woodbridge - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (1):93-118.
    We argue that if Stephen Yablo (2005) is right that philosophers of mathematics ought to endorse a fictionalist view of number-talk, then there is a compelling reason for deflationists about truth to endorse a fictionalist view of truth-talk. More specifically, our claim will be that, for deflationists about truth, Yablo’s argument for mathematical fictionalism can be employed and mounted as an argument for truth-theoretic fictionalism.
  41. added 2014-03-22
    A Subject with No Object: Strategies for Nominalistic Interpretation of Mathematics.John P. Burgess & Gideon Rosen - 1997 - Oxford University Press.
    Numbers and other mathematical objects are exceptional in having no locations in space or time or relations of cause and effect. This makes it difficult to account for the possibility of the knowledge of such objects, leading many philosophers to embrace nominalism, the doctrine that there are no such objects, and to embark on ambitious projects for interpreting mathematics so as to preserve the subject while eliminating its objects. This book cuts through a host of technicalities that have obscured previous (...)
  42. added 2014-03-20
    On Mathematical Instrumentalism.Patrick Caldon & Aleksandar Ignjatović - 2005 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 70 (3):778 - 794.
    In this paper we devise some technical tools for dealing with problems connected with the philosophical view usually called mathematical instrumentalism. These tools are interesting in their own right, independently of their philosophical consequences. For example, we show that even though the fragment of Peano's Arithmetic known as IΣ₁ is a conservative extension of the equational theory of Primitive Recursive Arithmetic (PRA). IΣ₁ has a super-exponential speed-up over PRA. On the other hand, theories studied in the Program of Reverse Mathematics (...)
  43. added 2014-03-17
    Mathematical Knowledge.Mary Leng, Alexander Paseau & Michael Potter (eds.) - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
    What is the nature of mathematical knowledge? Is it anything like scientific knowledge or is it sui generis? How do we acquire it? Should we believe what mathematicians themselves tell us about it? Are mathematical concepts innate or acquired? Eight new essays offer answers to these and many other questions. Written by some of the world's leading philosophers of mathematics, psychologists, and mathematicians, Mathematical Knowledge gives a lively sense of the current state of debate in this fascinating field. Contents 1. (...)
  44. added 2014-03-12
    Kitcher, Ideal Agents, and Fictionalism.Sarah Hoffman - 2004 - Philosophia Mathematica 12 (1):3-17.
    Kitcher urges us to think of mathematics as an idealized science of human operations, rather than a theory describing abstract mathematical objects. I argue that Kitcher's invocation of idealization cannot save mathematical truth and avoid platonism. Nevertheless, what is left of Kitcher's view is worth holding onto. I propose that Kitcher's account should be fictionalized, making use of Walton's and Currie's make-believe theory of fiction, and argue that the resulting ideal-agent fictionalism has advantages over mathematical-object fictionalism.
  45. added 2014-03-12
    The Derivation-Indicator View of Mathematical Practice.Jody Azzouni - 2004 - Philosophia Mathematica 12 (2):81-106.
    The form of nominalism known as 'mathematical fictionalism' is examined and found wanting, mainly on grounds that go back to an early antinominalist work of Rudolf Carnap that has unfortunately not been paid sufficient attention by more recent writers.
  46. added 2014-03-12
    Mathematics and Bleak House.John P. Burgess - 2004 - Philosophia Mathematica 12 (1):18-36.
    The form of nominalism known as 'mathematical fictionalism' is examined and found wanting, mainly on grounds that go back to an early antinominalist work of Rudolf Carnap that has unfortunately not been paid sufficient attention by more recent writers.
  47. added 2014-03-10
    On 'Average'.Christopher Kennedy & Jason Stanley - 2009 - Mind 118 (471):583 - 646.
    This article investigates the semantics of sentences that express numerical averages, focusing initially on cases such as 'The average American has 2.3 children'. Such sentences have been used both by linguists and philosophers to argue for a disjuncture between semantics and ontology. For example, Noam Chomsky and Norbert Hornstein have used them to provide evidence against the hypothesis that natural language semantics includes a reference relation holding between words and objects in the world, whereas metaphysicians such as Joseph Melia and (...)
  48. added 2014-03-06
    Mathematics and Conceptual Analysis.Antony Eagle - 2008 - Synthese 161 (1):67–88.
    Gödel argued that intuition has an important role to play in mathematical epistemology, and despite the infamy of his own position, this opinion still has much to recommend it. Intuitions and folk platitudes play a central role in philosophical enquiry too, and have recently been elevated to a central position in one project for understanding philosophical methodology: the so-called ‘Canberra Plan’. This philosophical role for intuitions suggests an analogous epistemology for some fundamental parts of mathematics, which casts a number of (...)
  49. added 2013-03-27
    A Yablovian Dilemma.Richard Woodward - 2012 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 1 (3):200-209.
    Stephen Yablo (2001) argues that traditional fictionalist strategies run into trouble due to a mismatch between the modal status of a claim like ‘2 + 3 = 5’ and the modal status of its fictionalist paraphrase. I argue here that Yablo is best seen as confronting the fictionalist with a dilemma, and then go on to show how this dilemma can be resolved.
  50. added 2013-03-19
    Matematyka - narzędzie czy opis? Instrumentalistyczna i realistyczna interpretacja zastosowań matematyki.Jarosław Mrozek - 1996 - Filozofia Nauki 2.
    In the paper there are presented two proposals of the interpretations of the applications of mathematics in the natural sciences - realistic and instrumentalistic. The realistic conception, in accordance with the successes of science, maintains that there exists some kind of correspondence between the mathematical structures and the internal structure of the world. It is expressed in the thesis of the mathematicality of nature. The instrumentalistic approach separates the cognitive content of the scientific theory from the mathematical means of expression (...)
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