The first part of the essay describes how mathematics, in particular mathematical concepts, are applicable to nature. mathematical constructs have turned out to correspond to physical reality. this correlation between the world and mathematical concepts, it is argued, is a true phenomenon. the second part of this essay argues that the applicability of mathematics to nature is mysterious, in that not only is there no known explanation for the correlation between mathematics and physical reality, but there is a good reason (...) to except no such correlation. it is argued that there is a subjective element in the decision as to what constitutes a mathematical concept. a number of purported solutions to the mystery of the applicability of mathematics to nature are discarded, until we are left with eugene wigner's thesis that we are here confronted with a "miracle that we neither understand nor deserve.". (shrink)
Discussions of the applicability of mathematics in the natural sciences have been flawed by failure to realize that there are multiple senses in which mathematics can be ‘applied’ and, correspondingly, multiple problems that stem from the applicability of mathematics. I discuss semantic, metaphysical, descriptive, and and epistemological problems of mathematical applicability, dwelling on Frege's contribution to the solution of the first two types. As for the remaining problems, I discuss the contributions of Hartry Field and Eugene Wigner. Finally, I argue (...) that there are epistemological problems concerning the applicability of mathematics that nobody in the philosophical community has yet confronted, though the problems are well known to physicists. (shrink)
During the course of about ten years, Wittgenstein revised some of his most basic views in philosophy of mathematics, for example that a mathematical theorem can have only one proof. This essay argues that these changes are rooted in his growing belief that mathematical theorems are ‘internally’ connected to their canonical applications, i.e. , that mathematical theorems are ‘hardened’ empirical regularities, upon which the former are supervenient. The central role Wittgenstein increasingly assigns to empirical regularities had profound implications for all (...) of his later philosophy; some of these implications (particularly to rule following) are addressed in the essay. (shrink)
Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, Wittgenstein, despite his official 'mathematical nonrevisionism', slips into attempting to refute Gödel's theorem. Actually, Wittgenstein could have used Gödel's theorem to good effect, to support his view that proof, and even truth, are 'family resemblance' concepts. The reason that Wittgenstein did not see all this is that Gödel's theorem had become an icon of mathematical realism, and he was blinded by his own ideology. The essay is a reply to Juliet Floyd's work on Gödel: (...) what she says Wittgenstein said, I say he should have said, but didn't (couldn't). (shrink)
For the past hundred years, mathematics, for its own reasons, has been shifting away from the study of “mathematical objects” and towards the study of “structures”. One would have expected philosophers to jump onto the bandwagon, as in many other cases, to proclaim that this shift is no accident, since mathematics is “essentially” about structures, not objects. In fact, structuralism has not been a very popular philosophy of mathematics, probably because of the hostility of Frege and other influential logicists, and (...) quasi-logicists like Quine. Recently, however, structuralism has finally penetrated the philosophical community and a number of “structuralist” volumes in the philosophy of mathematics have seen the light of day. Michael Resnik is one of the most distinguished representatives of this school, along with Stewart Shapiro, who has also recently published a structuralist tract. (shrink)
Quine has expressed the view that the reduction of one mathematical theory to another is merely the "modeling" of the one in the other. i argue that, just as in the physical sciences, some reductions "explain" the phenomena they reduce in addition to "modeling" them; and that, conversely, "modeling" one theory in another may actually destroy the explanatory value of the former.
In 1996, the Ministry of Health in Ghana included emergency contraception in its newly issued National Reproductive Health Service Policy and Standards. A short survey was conducted in the summer of 1997 to evaluate health providers' knowledge of EC. Of the 325 providers interviewed, about one-third had heard of EC. No provider had sufficient knowledge to prescribe EC correctly. A well-coordinated training programme for providers will have to precede successful introduction of EC in Ghana. Moreover, a dedicated product may be (...) critical for the successful introduction of EC in a country like Ghana, where provider knowledge is low. (shrink)