Poincaré's conception of the objectivity of mathematics

Philosophia Mathematica 2 (3):202-227 (1994)
There is a basic division in the philosophy of mathematics between realist, ‘platonist’ theories and anti-realist ‘constructivist’ theories. Platonism explains how mathematical truth is strongly objective, but it does this at the cost of invoking mind-independent mathematical objects. In contrast, constructivism avoids mind-independent mathematical objects, but the cost tends to be a weakened conception of mathematical truth. Neither alternative seems ideal. The purpose of this paper is to show that in the philosophical writings of Henri Poincaré there is a coherent argument for an interesting position between the two traditional poles in the philosophy of mathematics. Relying on a semi-Kantian framework, Poincaré combines an epistemological and metaphysical constructivism with a more realist account of the nature of mathematical truth.
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DOI 10.1093/philmat/2.3.202
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