Synthese 192 (8):2577-2598 (2015)

Shay Logan
Kansas State University
This essay will examine some rather serious trouble confronting claims that mathematicalia might be social constructs. Because of the clarity with which he makes the case and the philosophical rigor he applies to his analysis, our exemplar of a social constructivist in this sense is Julian Cole, especially the work in his 2009 and 2013 papers on the topic. In a 2010 paper, Jill Dieterle criticized the view in Cole’s 2009 paper for being unable to account for the atemporality of mathematical existents. Cole’s 2013 paper addresses this objection, providing a modification of his 2009 paper allowing for atemporal mathematicalia. An unusual consequence of Cole’s account is that at least some existential claims about mathematicalia used to be false but now have always been true. By examining the semantics of such claims, we demonstrate that social constructivism is in fact, despite Cole’s attempts to rectify matters, incompatible with atemporal mathematicalia. In the course of examining these semantic details, however, an alternative hybrid view of fictionalism and social constructivism emerges. Those tempted by social constructivism, while perhaps disappointed by the negative results of the paper, may be encouraged by how much of their view can be recovered in this alternative account.
Keywords Semantics  Social constructivism  Philosophy of mathematics  Temporal logic  Philosophy of language  Metaphysics
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-015-0674-8
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