The Harvard Review of Philosophy 13 (2):41-56 (2005)

John Burgess
Princeton University
When I first began to take an interest in the debate over nominalism in philosophy of mathematics, some twenty-odd years ago, the issue had already been under discussion for about a half-century. The terms of the debate had been set: W. V. Quine and others had given “abstract,” “nominalism,” “ontology,” and “Platonism” their modern meanings. Nelson Goodman had launched the project of the nominalistic reconstruction of science, or of the mathematics used in science, in which Quine for a time had joined him before turning against him. William Alston, Rudolf Carnap, and Michael Dummett had raised doubts about what the point of Goodman’s exercise could be, and though they had unfortunately been largely ignored, Quine’s contention that the exercise cannot be successfully completed had gained wide publicity as the so-called “indispensability” argument against nominalism. By contrast, two subtle discussions of Paul Benacerraf had been appropriated by nominalists and turned into the so-called “multiple reductions” and “epistemological” arguments for nominalism.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 1062-6239
DOI 10.5840/harvardreview200513212
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