Set-theoretic pluralism and the Benacerraf problem

Philosophical Studies 177 (7):2013-2030 (2020)
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Set-theoretic pluralism is an increasingly influential position in the philosophy of set theory (Balaguer [1998], Linksy and Zalta [1995], Hamkins [2012]). There is considerable room for debate about how best to formulate set-theoretic pluralism, and even about whether the view is coherent. But there is widespread agreement as to what there is to recommend the view (given that it can be formulated coherently). Unlike set-theoretic universalism, set-theoretic pluralism affords an answer to Benacerraf’s epistemological challenge. The purpose of this paper is to determine what Benacerraf’s challenge could be such that this view is warranted. I argue that it could not be any of the challenges with which it has been traditionally identified by its advocates, like of Benacerraf and Field. Not only are none of the challenges easier for the pluralist to meet. None satisfies a key constraint that has been placed on Benacerraf’s challenge. However, I argue that Benacerraf’s challenge could be the challenge to show that our set-theoretic beliefs are safe – i.e., to show that we could not have easily had false ones. Whether the pluralist is, in fact, better positioned to show that our set-theoretic beliefs are safe turns on a broadly empirical conjecture which is outstanding. If this conjecture proves to be false, then it is unclear what the epistemological argument for set-theoretic pluralism is supposed to be.

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Justin Clarke-Doane
Columbia University

Citations of this work

Debunking Arguments.Daniel Z. Korman - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 14 (12).
Mathematics and Metaphilosophy.Justin Clarke-Doane - 2022 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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References found in this work

Philosophical Explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Harvard University Press.
Realism, Mathematics, and Modality.Hartry Field - 1988 - Philosophical Topics 16 (1):57-107.
Mathematical Truth.Paul Benacerraf - 1973 - Journal of Philosophy 70 (19):661-679.
Morality and Mathematics.Justin Clarke-Doane - 2020 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

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