Living in harmony: Nominalism and the explanationist argument for realism

International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 21 (1):19 – 33 (2007)
  Copy   BIBTEX


According to the indispensability argument, scientific realists ought to believe in the existence of mathematical entities, due to their indispensable role in theorising. Arguably the crucial sense of indispensability can be understood in terms of the contribution that mathematics sometimes makes to the super-empirical virtues of a theory. Moreover, the way in which the scientific realist values such virtues, in general, and draws on explanatory virtues, in particular, ought to make the realist ontologically committed to abstracta. This paper shows that this version of the indispensability argument glosses over crucial detail about how the scientific realist attempts to generate justificatory commitment to unobservables. The kind of role that the Platonist attributes to mathematics in scientific reasoning is compatible with nominalism, as far as scientific realist arguments are concerned.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 83,836

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

96 (#145,661)

6 months
1 (#501,187)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Juha Saatsi
University of Leeds

Citations of this work

Mathematical Explanation in Science.Alan Baker - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (3):611-633.
Plato's Problem: An Introduction to Mathematical Platonism.Marco Panza & Andrea Sereni - 2013 - New York: Palgrave-Macmillan. Edited by Andrea Sereni & Marco Panza.

View all 15 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 1991 - London and New York: Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group.
The Indispensability of Mathematics.Mark Colyvan - 2001 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

View all 28 references / Add more references