Synthese 194 (12):4839-4861 (2017)

Arezoo Islami
San Francisco State University
In his seminal 1960 paper, the physicist Eugene Wigner formulated the question of the applicability of mathematics in physics in a way nobody had before. This formulation has been entirely overlooked due to an exclusive concern with solving Wigner’s problem and explaining the effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences, in one way or another. Many have attempted to attribute Wigner’s unjustified conclusion—that mathematics is unreasonably effective in the natural sciences—to his formalist views on mathematics. My goal is to show that this reading misses out on Wigner’s highly original formulation of the problem which is presented throughout his body of work in physics as well as in philosophy. This formulation, as I will show, leads us in a new direction in solving the applicability problem.
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-016-1171-4
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