Strict Constructivism and the Philosophy of Mathematics

Dissertation, Princeton University (2000)

Abstract
The dissertation studies the mathematical strength of strict constructivism, a finitistic fragment of Bishop's constructivism, and explores its implications in the philosophy of mathematics. ;It consists of two chapters and four appendixes. Chapter 1 presents strict constructivism, shows that it is within the spirit of finitism, and explains how to represent sets, functions and elementary calculus in strict constructivism. Appendix A proves that the essentials of Bishop and Bridges' book Constructive Analysis can be developed within strict constructivism. Appendix B further develops, within strict constructivism, the essentials of the functional analysis applied in quantum mechanics, including the spectral theorem, Stone's theorem, and the self-adjointness of some common quantum mechanical operators. Some comparisons with other related work, in particular, a comparison with S. Simpson's partial realization of Hilbert's program, and a discussion of the relevance of M. B. Pour-El and J. I. Richards' negative results in recursive analysis are given in Appendix C. ;Chapter 2 explores the possible philosophical implications of these technical results. It first suggests a fictionalistic account for the ontology of pure mathematics. This leaves a puzzle about how truths about fictional mathematical entities are applicable to science. The chapter then explains that for those applications of mathematics that can be reduced to applications of strict constructivism, fictional entities can be eliminated in the applications and the puzzle of applicability can be resolved. Therefore, if strict constructivism were essentially sufficient for all scientific applications, the applicability of mathematics of mathematics in science would be accountable. The chapter then argues that the reduction of mathematics to strict constructivism also reduces the epistemological question about mathematics to that about elementary arithmetic. The dissertation ends with a suggestion that a proper epistemological basis for arithmetic is perhaps a mixture of Mill's empiricism and the Kantian views
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Indispensability Argument and Anti-Realism in Philosophy of Mathematics.Y. E. Feng - 2007 - Frontiers of Philosophy in China 2 (4):614-628.

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