About this topic
Summary One way to avoid epistemic challenges that mathematical platonism runs into (how can mundane human beings have knowledge of aspatial and atemporal abstract objects?) and to develop a more naturalistically acceptable account of mathematical knowledge is to deny the existence of mathematical objects. The main challenge, if you follow this path, is to make sense of mathematics, of mathematical practice and of the applicability of mathematics without reference to abstract objects.  
Key works In the twentieth century early serious attempts at constructing nominalistic foundations of mathematics are due to S.Leśniewski (see Simons 2008 for a survey, Leśniewski et al 1991 and Urbaniak 2013 for details). The second major attempt is Goodman & Quine 1947. Nominalistic literature started flourishing in 1980s. The main proposals include: Chihara 1990 (see also a later book S. Chihara 2003), Field 1980, Gottlieb 1980, Hellman 1989 and  Azzouni 2004. See Burgess & Rosen 1997 for further references.
Introductions A well-written, although somewhat hostile, survey of nominalistic options is Burgess & Rosen 1997. A reasoned overview of philosophical motivations of nominalism can be found in Chihara 1990 and S. Chihara 2003
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  1. Existence, Mathematical Nominalism, and Meta-Ontology: An Objection to Azzouni on Criteria for Existence.Farbod Akhlaghi-Ghaffarokh - 2018 - Philosophia Mathematica 26 (2):251-265.
    Jody Azzouni argues that whilst it is indeterminate what the criteria for existence are, there is a criterion that has been collectively adopted to use ‘exist’ that we can employ to argue for positions in ontology. I raise and defend a novel objection to Azzouni: his view has the counterintuitive consequence that the facts regarding what exists can and will change when users of the word ‘exist’ change what criteria they associate with its usage. Considering three responses, I argue Azzouni (...)
  2. Indefiniteness of Mathematical Objects.Ken Akiba - 2000 - Philosophia Mathematica 8 (1):26--46.
    The view that mathematical objects are indefinite in nature is presented and defended, hi the first section, Field's argument for fictionalism, given in response to Benacerraf's problem of identification, is closely examined, and it is contended that platonists can solve the problem equally well if they take the view that mathematical objects are indefinite. In the second section, two general arguments against the intelligibility of objectual indefiniteness are shown erroneous, hi the final section, the view is compared to mathematical structuralism, (...)
  3. Calculus as Geometry.Frank Arntenius & Cian Dorr - 2012 - In Frank Arntzenius (ed.), Space, Time and Stuff. Oxford University Press.
    We attempt to extend the nominalistic project initiated in Hartry Field's Science Without Numbers to modern physical theories based in differential geometry.
  4. Taking the Easy Road Out of Dodge.J. Azzouni - 2012 - Mind 121 (484):951-965.
    I defend my nominalist account of mathematics from objections that have been raised to it by Mark Colyvan.
  5. How to Nominalize Formalism.J. Azzouni - 2005 - Philosophia Mathematica 13 (2):135-159.
    Formalism shares with nominalism a distaste for abstracta. But an honest exposition of the former position risks introducing abstracta as the stuff of syntax. This article describes the dangers, and offers a new escape route from platonism for the formalist. It is explained how the needed role of derivations in mathematical practice can be explained, not by a commitment to the derivations themselves, but by the commitment of the mathematician to a practice which is in accord with a theory of (...)
  6. 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.
  7. Metaphysical Myths, Mathematical Practice: The Ontology and Epistemology of the Exact Sciences.Jody Azzouni - 2008 - Cambridge University Press.
    Most philosophers of mathematics try to show either that the sort of knowledge mathematicians have is similar to the sort of knowledge specialists in the empirical sciences have or that the kind of knowledge mathematicians have, although apparently about objects such as numbers, sets, and so on, isn't really about those sorts of things as well. Jody Azzouni argues that mathematical knowledge really is a special kind of knowledge with its own special means of gathering evidence. He analyses the linguistic (...)
  8. 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.
  9. Deflating Existential Commitment: A Case for Nominalism.Jody Azzouni - 2004 - Oup Usa.
    If we take mathematical statements to be true, then must we also believe in the existence of invisible mathematical objects, accessible only by the power of thought? Jody Azzouni says we do not have to, and claims that the way to escape such a commitment is to accept - as an essential part of scientific doctrine - true statements which are 'about' objects which don't exist in any real sense.
  10. Deflating Existential Consequence: A Case for Nominalism.Jody Azzouni - 2004 - Oup Usa.
    If we must take mathematical statements to be true, must we also believe in the existence of abstract eternal invisible mathematical objects accessible only by the power of pure thought? Jody Azzouni says no, and he claims that the way to escape such commitments is to accept (as an essential part of scientific doctrine) true statements which are about objects that don't exist in any sense at all. Azzouni illustrates what the metaphysical landscape looks like once we avoid a militant (...)
  11. 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 (...)
  12. Does the Existence of Mathematical Objects Make a Difference?A. Baker - 2003 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (2):246 – 264.
    In this paper I examine a strategy which aims to bypass the technicalities of the indispensability debate and to offer a direct route to nominalism. The starting-point for this alternative nominalist strategy is the claim that--according to the platonist picture--the existence of mathematical objects makes no difference to the concrete, physical world. My principal goal is to show that the 'Makes No Difference' (MND) Argument does not succeed in undermining platonism. The basic reason why not is that the makes-no-difference claim (...)
  13. No Reservations Required? Defending Anti-Nominalism.Alan Baker - 2010 - Studia Logica 96 (2):127-139.
    In a 2005 paper, John Burgess and Gideon Rosen offer a new argument against nominalism in the philosophy of mathematics. The argument proceeds from the thesis that mathematics is part of science, and that core existence theorems in mathematics are both accepted by mathematicians and acceptable by mathematical standards. David Liggins (2007) criticizes the argument on the grounds that no adequate interpretation of “acceptable by mathematical standards” can be given which preserves the soundness of the overall argument. In this discussion (...)
  14. Book Review: Charles S. Chihara. A Structural Account of Mathematics. [REVIEW]Alan Baker - 2006 - Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 47 (3):435-442.
  15. Reply to Dieterle.Mark Balaguer - 2000 - Philosophia Mathematica 8 (3):310-315.
    In this paper, I respond to an objection that Jill Dieterle has raised to two arguments in my book, Platonism and Anti-Platonism in Mathematics. Dieterle argues that because I reject the notion of metaphysical necessity, I cannot rely upon the notion of supervenience, as I in fact do in two places in the book. I argue that Dieterle is mistaken about this by showing that neither of the two supervenience theses that I endorse requires a notion of metaphysical necessity.
  16. Inference to the Best Explanation and Mathematical Realism.Sorin Ioan Bangu - 2008 - Synthese 160 (1):13-20.
    Arguing for mathematical realism on the basis of Field’s explanationist version of the Quine–Putnam Indispensability argument, Alan Baker has recently claimed to have found an instance of a genuine mathematical explanation of a physical phenomenon. While I agree that Baker presents a very interesting example in which mathematics plays an essential explanatory role, I show that this example, and the argument built upon it, begs the question against the mathematical nominalist.
  17. Optimisation and Mathematical Explanation: Doing the Lévy Walk.Sam Baron - 2014 - Synthese 191 (3).
    The indispensability argument seeks to establish the existence of mathematical objects. The success of the indispensability argument turns on finding cases of genuine extra- mathematical explanation. In this paper, I identify a new case of extra- mathematical explanation, involving the search patterns of fully-aquatic marine predators. I go on to use this case to predict the prevalence of extra- mathematical explanation in science.
  18. A Truthmaker Indispensability Argument.Sam Baron - 2013 - Synthese 190 (12):2413-2427.
    Recently, nominalists have made a case against the Quine–Putnam indispensability argument for mathematical Platonism by taking issue with Quine’s criterion of ontological commitment. In this paper I propose and defend an indispensability argument founded on an alternative criterion of ontological commitment: that advocated by David Armstrong. By defending such an argument I place the burden back onto the nominalist to defend her favourite criterion of ontological commitment and, furthermore, show that criterion cannot be used to formulate a plausible form of (...)
  19. 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 (...)
  20. Kilka uwag w sprawie nezbędności matematyki w nauce.Tomasz Bigaj - 1994 - Filozofia Nauki 3.
    This is an attempt to defend Field's nominalistic program from the criticism raised by K. Wójtowicz in his article. The author argues for the following theses: (a) that Wójtowicz uses the notion of „mathematical theory” broader than Field does it; (b) that he misinterprets the conception of the „abstract counterparts” of nominalistic statements; (c) and that his general evaluation of Field's program is based on too high methodological standards which he applies to the possible nominalistic versions of empirical theories. The (...)
  21. Nominalist Platonism.George Boolos - 1985 - Philosophical Review 94 (3):327-344.
  22. Wittgenstein, Anti-Realism and Mathematical Propositions.Jacques Bouveresse - 1992 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 42:133-160.
    Wittgenstein is generally supposed to have abandoned in the 1930's a realistic conception of the meaning of mathematical propositions, founded on the idea of tmth-conditions which could in certain cases transcend any possibility of verification, for a realistic one, where the idea of truth-conditions is replaced by that of conditions of justification of assertability. It is argued that for Wittgenstein mathematical propositions, which are, as he says, "grammatical" propositions, have a meaning and a role which differ to a much greater (...)
  23. Platonism, Naturalism, and Mathematical Knowledge.James Robert Brown - 2011 - Routledge.
    This study addresses a central theme in current philosophy: Platonism vs Naturalism and provides accounts of both approaches to mathematics, crucially discussing Quine, Maddy, Kitcher, Lakoff, Colyvan, and many others. Beginning with accounts of both approaches, Brown defends Platonism by arguing that only a Platonistic approach can account for concept acquisition in a number of special cases in the sciences. He also argues for a particular view of applied mathematics, a view that supports Platonism against Naturalist alternatives. Not only does (...)
  24. From Weird Wonders to Stem Lineages: The Second Reclassification of the Burgess Shale Fauna.Keynyn Brysse - 2008 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 39 (3):298-313.
    The Burgess Shale, a set of fossil beds containing the exquisitely preserved remains of marine invertebrate organisms from shortly after the Cambrian explosion, was discovered in 1909, and first brought to widespread popular attention by Stephen Jay Gould in his 1989 bestseller Wonderful life: The Burgess Shale and the nature of history. Gould contrasted the initial interpretation of these fossils, in which they were ‘shoehorned’ into modern groups, with the first major reexamination begun in the 1960s, when the creatures were (...)
  25. An Easy Road to Nominalism.O. Bueno - 2012 - Mind 121 (484):967-982.
    In this paper, I provide an easy road to nominalism which does not rely on a Field-type nominalization strategy for mathematics. According to this proposal, applications of mathematics to science, and alleged mathematical explanations of physical phenomena, only emerge when suitable physical interpretations of the mathematical formalism are advanced. And since these interpretations are rarely distinguished from the mathematical formalism, the impression arises that mathematical explanations derive from the mathematical formalism alone. I correct this misimpression by pointing out, in the (...)
  26. Nominalism and the Application of Mathematics.Otávio Bueno - 2012 - Metascience 21 (2):301-304.
    Nominalism and the application of mathematics Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11016-012-9653-6 Authors Otávio Bueno, Department of Philosophy, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33124, USA Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
  27. Truth and Proof.Otávio Bueno - 2008 - Manuscrito 31 (1):419-440.
    Current versions of nominalism in the philosophy of mathematics face a significant problem to understand mathematical knowledge. They are unable to characterize mathematical knowledge as knowledge of the objects mathematical theories are taken to be about. Oswaldo Chateaubriand’s insightful reformulation of Platonism (Chateaubriand 2005) avoids this problem by advancing a broader conception of knowledge as justified truth beyond a reasonable doubt, and by introducing a suitable characterization of logical form in which the relevant mathematical facts play an important role in (...)
  28. A Nominalist's Dilemma and its Solution.Otávio Bueno & Edward N. Zalta - 2005 - Philosophia Mathematica 13 (3):297-307.
    Current versions of nominalism in the philosophy of mathematics have the benefit of avoiding commitment to the existence of mathematical objects. But this comes with the cost of not taking mathematical theories literally. Jody Azzouni's Deflating Existential Consequence has recently challenged this conclusion by formulating a nominalist view that lacks this cost. In this paper, we argue that, as it stands, Azzouni's proposal does not yet succeed. It faces a dilemma to the effect that either the view is not nominalist (...)
  29. A Nominalist's Dilemma and its Solution.Otávio Bueno & Edward N. Zalta - 2005 - Philosophia Mathematica 13 (3):294-307.
    Current versions of nominalism in the philosophy of mathematics have the benefit of avoiding commitment to the existence of mathematical objects. But this comes with the cost of not taking mathematical theories literally. Jody Azzouni's _Deflating Existential Consequence_ has recently challenged this conclusion by formulating a nominalist view that lacks this cost. In this paper, we argue that, as it stands, Azzouni's proposal does not yet succeed. It faces a dilemma to the effect that either the view is not nominalist (...)
  30. 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 (...)
  31. 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 (...)
  32. Deflating Existential Consequence: A Case for Nominalism.John P. Burgess - 2004 - Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 10 (4):573-577.
  33. Book Reviews. [REVIEW]John P. Burgess - 1993 - Philosophia Mathematica 1 (2):637-639.
  34. Review: Constructibility and Mathematical Existence by Charles S. Chihara. [REVIEW]John P. Burgess - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101:916-918.
  35. 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 (...)
  36. How to Be a Nominalist and a Fictional Realist.Ross P. Cameron - 2013 - In Christy Mag Uidhir (ed.), Art and Abstract Objects. Oxford University Press. pp. 179.
  37. Burgess's ‘Scientific’ Arguments for the Existence of Mathematical Objects.Chihara Charles - 2006 - Philosophia Mathematica 14 (3):318-337.
    This paper addresses John Burgess's answer to the ‘Benacerraf Problem’: How could we come justifiably to believe anything implying that there are numbers, given that it does not make sense to ascribe location or causal powers to numbers? Burgess responds that we should look at how mathematicians come to accept: There are prime numbers greater than 1010 That, according to Burgess, is how one can come justifiably to believe something implying that there are numbers. This paper investigates what lies behind (...)
  38. An Intrinsic Theory of Quantum Mechanics: Progress in Field's Nominalistic Program, Part I.Eddy Keming Chen - manuscript
    In this paper, I introduce an intrinsic account of the quantum state. This account contains three desirable features that the standard platonistic account lacks: (1) it does not refer to any abstract mathematical objects such as complex numbers, (2) it is independent of the usual arbitrary conventions in the wave function representation, and (3) it explains why the quantum state has its amplitude and phase degrees of freedom. -/- Consequently, this account extends Hartry Field’s program outlined in Science Without Numbers (...)
  39. New Directions for Nominalist Philosophers of Mathematics.Charles Chihara - 2010 - Synthese 176 (2):153 - 175.
    The present paper will argue that, for too long, many nominalists have concentrated their researches on the question of whether one could make sense of applications of mathematics (especially in science) without presupposing the existence of mathematical objects. This was, no doubt, due to the enormous influence of Quine's "Indispensability Argument", which challenged the nominalist to come up with an explanation of how science could be done without referring to, or quantifying over, mathematical objects. I shall admonish nominalists to enlarge (...)
  40. The Burgess-Rosen Critique of Nominalistic Reconstructions.Charles Chihara - 2006 - Philosophia Mathematica 15 (1):54--78.
    In the final chapter of their book A Subject With No Object, John Burgess and Gideon Rosen raise the question of the value of the nominalistic reconstructions of mathematics that have been put forward in recent years, asking specifically what this body of work is good for. The authors conclude that these reconstructions are all inferior to current versions of mathematics (or science) and make no advances in science. This paper investigates the reasoning that led to such a negative appraisal, (...)
  41. Tharp's 'Myth and Mathematics'.Charles Chihara - 1989 - Synthese 81 (2):153 - 165.
  42. Burgess's `Scientific' Arguments for the Existence of Mathematical Objects.Charles S. Chihara - 2006 - Philosophia Mathematica 14 (3):318-337.
    This paper addresses John Burgess's answer to the ‘Benacerraf Problem’: How could we come justifiably to believe anything implying that there are numbers, given that it does not make sense to ascribe location or causal powers to numbers? Burgess responds that we should look at how mathematicians come to accept: There are prime numbers greater than 1010That, according to Burgess, is how one can come justifiably to believe something implying that there are numbers. This paper investigates what lies behind Burgess's (...)
  43. Constructibility and Mathematical Existence.Charles S. Chihara - 1990 - Oxford University Press.
    This book is concerned with `the problem of existence in mathematics'. It develops a mathematical system in which there are no existence assertions but only assertions of the constructibility of certain sorts of things. It explores the philosophical implications of such an approach through an examination of the writings of Field, Burgess, Maddy, Kitcher, and others.
  44. A Gödelian Thesis Regarding Mathematical Objects: Do They Exist? And Can We Perceive Them?Charles S. Chihara - 1982 - Philosophical Review 91 (2):211-227.
  45. Ontology and the Vicious-Circle Principle.Charles S. Chihara - 1973 - Ithaca [N.Y.]Cornell University Press.
  46. On the Possibility of Completing an Infinite Process.Charles S. Chihara - 1965 - Philosophical Review 74 (1):74-87.
  47. Platonic Semantics.Justin Clarke-Doane - manuscript
    If anything is taken for granted in contemporary metaphysics, it is that platonism with respect to a discourse of metaphysical interest, such as fictional or mathematical discourse, affords a better account of the semantic appearances than nominalism, other things being equal. This belief is often motivated by the intuitively stronger one that the platonist can take the semantic appearances “at face-value” while the nominalist must resort to apparently ad hoc and technically problematic machinery in order to explain those appearances away. (...)
  48. Nominalist's Credo.James Henry Collin - unknown
    Introduction: I lay out the broad contours of my thesis: a defence of mathematical nominalism, and nominalism more generally. I discuss the possibility of metaphysics, and the relationship of nominalism to naturalism and pragmatism. Chapter 2: I delineate an account of abstractness. I then provide counter-arguments to claims that mathematical objects make a di erence to the concrete world, and claim that mathematical objects are abstract in the sense delineated. Chapter 3: I argue that the epistemological problem with abstract objects (...)
  49. Ontological Independence as the Mark of the Real: Review of J. Azzouni, Deflating Existential Consequence: A Case for Nominalism[REVIEW]M. Colyvan - 2005 - Philosophia Mathematica 13 (2):216-225.
  50. Review of P Maddy Naturalism in Mathematics. [REVIEW]M. Colyvan - 1999 - Mind 108 (No 431 (July 1999)):586-590.
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