The varieties of indispensability arguments

Synthese 193 (2):469-516 (2016)


The indispensability argument comes in many different versions that all reduce to a general valid schema. Providing a sound IA amounts to providing a full interpretation of the schema according to which all its premises are true. Hence, arguing whether IA is sound results in wondering whether the schema admits such an interpretation. We discuss in full details all the parameters on which the specification of the general schema may depend. In doing this, we consider how different versions of IA can be obtained, also through different specifications of the notion of indispensability. We then distinguish between schematic and genuine IA, and argue that no genuine sound IA is available or easily forthcoming. We then submit that this holds also in the particularly relevant case in which indispensability is conceived as explanatory indispensability

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,856

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

92 (#130,160)

6 months
4 (#162,461)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

The Epistemic Indispensability Argument.Cristian Soto - 2019 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 50 (1):145-161.
Direct and converse applications: Two sides of the same coin?Daniele Molinini - 2022 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 12 (1):1-21.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Indispensability Without Platonism.Anne Newstead & James Franklin - 2012 - In Alexander Bird, Brian Ellis & Howard Sankey (eds.), Properties, Powers, and Structures: Issues in the Metaphysics of Realism. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 81-97.
In Defence of Indispensability.Mark Colyvan - 1998 - Philosophia Mathematica 6 (1):39-62.
On the Indispensability of the Distinctively Mathematical.C. Juhl - 2012 - Philosophia Mathematica 20 (3):324-338.
Indispensability Arguments and Instrumental Nominalism.Richard Pettigrew - 2012 - Review of Symbolic Logic 5 (4):687-709.
How Not to Enhance the Indispensability Argument.Russell Marcus - 2014 - Philosophia Mathematica 22 (3):345-360.
A Truthmaker Indispensability Argument.Sam Baron - 2013 - Synthese 190 (12):2413-2427.