Noûs 41 (2):253-275 (2007)

Authors
Christopher Pincock
Ohio State University
Abstract
Conflicting accounts of the role of mathematics in our physical theories can be traced to two principles. Mathematics appears to be both (1) theoretically indispensable, as we have no acceptable non-mathematical versions of our theories, and (2) metaphysically dispensable, as mathematical entities, if they existed, would lack a relevant causal role in the physical world. I offer a new account of a role for mathematics in the physical sciences that emphasizes the epistemic benefits of having mathematics around when we do science. This account successfully reconciles theoretical indispensability and metaphysical dispensability and has important consequences for both advocates and critics of indispensability arguments for platonism about mathematics.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-0068.2007.00646.x
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References found in this work BETA

Science Without Numbers: A Defence of Nominalism.Hartry H. Field - 1980 - Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.
Realism, Mathematics and Modality.Hartry Field - 1988 - Philosophical Topics 16 (1):57-107.
The Indispensability of Mathematics.Mark Colyvan - 2001 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

View all 42 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

What Makes a Scientific Explanation Distinctively Mathematical?Marc Lange - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (3):485-511.
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On the Explanatory Role of Mathematics in Empirical Science.Robert W. Batterman - 2010 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (1):1-25.

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