Inference to the best explanation and mathematical realism

Synthese 160 (1):13-20 (2008)
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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


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Sorin Bangu
University of Bergen

Citations of this work

Mathematical Explanation in Science.Alan Baker - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (3):611-633.
Mathematical Explanation by Law.Sam Baron - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (3):683-717.
The Narrow Ontic Counterfactual Account of Distinctively Mathematical Explanation.Mark Povich - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (2):511-543.
Counterfactual Scheming.Sam Baron - 2020 - Mind 129 (514):535-562.
Mathematical Explanations Of Empirical Facts, And Mathematical Realism.Aidan Lyon - 2012 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (3):559-578.

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References found in this work

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Science Without Numbers: A Defence of Nominalism.Hartry Field - 1980 - Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.
The Scientific Image.William Demopoulos & Bas C. van Fraassen - 1982 - Philosophical Review 91 (4):603.
Realism, Mathematics, and Modality.Hartry Field - 1988 - Philosophical Topics 16 (1):57-107.

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