Naturalism in Mathematics investigates how the most fundamental assumptions of mathematics can be justified. One prevalent philosophical approach to the problem--realism--is examined and rejected in favor of another approach--naturalism. Penelope Maddy defines this naturalism, explains the motivation for it, and shows how it can be successfully applied in set theory. Her clear, original treatment of this fundamental issue is informed by current work in both philosophy and mathematics, and will be accessible and enlightening to readers from both disciplines.
Mathematicians tend to think of themselves as scientists investigating the features of real mathematical things, and the wildly successful application of mathematics in the physical sciences reinforces this picture of mathematics as an objective study. For philosophers, however, this realism about mathematics raises serious questions: What are mathematical things? Where are they? How do we know about them? Offering a scrupulously fair treatment of both mathematical and philosophical concerns, Penelope Maddy here delineates and defends a novel version of mathematical realism. (...) She answers the traditional questions and poses a challenging new one, refocusing philosophical attention on the pressing foundational issues of contemporary mathematics. (shrink)
Many philosophers these days consider themselves naturalists, but it's doubtful any two of them intend the same position by the term. In Second Philosophy, Penelope Maddy describes and practices a particularly austere form of naturalism called "Second Philosophy". Without a definitive criterion for what counts as "science" and what doesn't, Second Philosophy can't be specified directly ("trust only the methods of science" for example), so Maddy proceeds instead by illustrating the behaviors of an idealized inquirer she calls the "Second Philosopher". (...) mhis Second Philosopher begins from perceptual common sense experimentation, theory formation and testing, working all the while to asses, correct and improve her methods as she goes. Second Philosophy is then the result of the Second Philosopher's investigations. Maddy delineates the Second Philosopher's approach by tracing her reactions to various familiar skeptical and transcendental views (Descartes, Kant, Carnap, late Putnam, van Fraassen), comparing her methods to those of other self-described naturalists (especially Quine), and examining a prominent contemporary debate (between disquotationalists and correspondence theorists in the theory of truth) to extract a properly second-philosophical line of thought. She then undertakes to practice Second Philosophy in her reflections on the ground of logical truth, the methodology, ontology and epistemology of mathematics, and the general prospects for metaphysics naturalized. (shrink)
Part of the ambiguity lies in the various points of view from which this question might be considered. The crudest di erence lies between the point of view of the working mathematician and that of the logician concerned with the foundations of mathematics. Now some of my fellow mathematical logicians might protest this distinction, since they consider themselves to be just more of those \working mathematicians". Certainly, modern logic has established itself as a very respectable branch of mathematics, and there (...) are quite a few highly technical journals in logic, such as The Journal of Sym-. (shrink)
Mathematics depends on proofs, and proofs must begin somewhere, from some fundamental assumptions. For nearly a century, the axioms of set theory have played this role, so the question of how these axioms are properly judged takes on a central importance. Approaching the question from a broadly naturalistic or second-philosophical point of view, Defending the Axioms isolates the appropriate methods for such evaluations and investigates the ontological and epistemological backdrop that makes them appropriate. In the end, a new account of (...) the objectivity of mathematics emerges, one refreshingly free of metaphysical commitments. (shrink)
Perhaps some of the movie-goers among you have had the experience of sitting through a film with no discernable plot and no significant action, only to be accused by your companions of having missed the point. 'It's not supposed to be dramatic', they tell you, 'it's a Character Study! ' The conventions of this genre seem to require that it centre on an otherwise inconspicuous person who undergoes some familiar life passage or other with terribly subtle, if any, reactions or (...) results. Well, if a thesis is to a philosophy talk what a plot is to a movie, I'm afraid I'm about to inflict the counterpart to a Character Study: I' ll introduce a distinctive inquirer and record her progress through a particularly venerable philosophical neighbourhood. My apologies in advance for what will be more a saunter than a journey. (shrink)
This chapter compares and contrasts Quine’s naturalism with the versions of two post-Quineans on the nature of science, logic, and mathematics. The role of indispensability in the philosophy of mathematics is treated in detail.
Naturalism in philosophy is sometimes thought to imply both scientific realism and a brand of mathematical realism that has methodological consequences for the practice of mathematics. I suggest that naturalism does not yield such a brand of mathematical realism, that naturalism views ontology as irrelevant to mathematical methodology, and that approaching methodological questions from this naturalistic perspective illuminates issues and considerations previously overshadowed by (irrelevant) ontological concerns.
My topic here is metaphilosophy, the question of how philosophy is properly done. For some years now, I've been developing a particularly austere, roughly naturalistic approach to philosophical questions that I call 'second philosophy'. It has seemed to me that one effective way to convey the spirit of second philosophy is to compare and contrast it with other more familiar methods, like transcendental or therapeutic philosophy. Here I hope to pursue this sort of engagement with two other venerable schools of (...) thought: Hume's 'science of man' and Reid's 'philosophy of common sense'. Hume presents a fitting starting point for any discussion of naturalism -- even more so when Reid is on the agenda -- so my first pass at a portrait of the second philosopher traces her relations to the 'scientist of man'. Of course, Hume's cheerfully industrious inquirer eventually lands on the barren rock of skepticism, so we'll also take a second-philosophical look at the kinds of considerations that led poor Hume to his shipwreck. This sets the stage for Reid. (shrink)
Despite some discomfort with this grandly philosophical topic, I do in fact hope to address a venerable pair of philosophical chestnuts: mathematical truth and existence. My plan is to set out three possible stands on these issues, for an exercise in compare and contrast.' A word of warning, though, to philosophical purists (and perhaps of comfort to more mathematical readers): I will explore these philosophical positions with an eye to their interconnections with some concrete issues of set theoretic method.
My ultimate goal in this paper is to illuminate, from a naturalistic point of view, the significance of the application of mathematics in the natural sciences for the practice of contemporary set theory.
This talk surveys a range of positions on the fundamental metaphysical and epistemological questions about elementary logic, for example, as a starting point: what is the subject matter of logic—what makes its truths true? how do we come to know the truths of logic? A taxonomy is approached by beginning from well-known schools of thought in the philosophy of mathematics—Logicism, Intuitionism, Formalism, Realism—and sketching roughly corresponding views in the philosophy of logic. Kant, Mill, Frege, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Ayer, Quine, and Putnam (...) are among the philosophers considered along the way. (shrink)
My goal here is to explore the relationship between pure and applied mathematics and then, eventually, to draw a few morals for both. In particular, I hope to show that this relationship has not been static, that the historical rise of pure mathematics has coincided with a gradual shift in our understanding of how mathematics works in application to the world. In some circles today, it is held that historical developments of this sort simply represent changes in fashion, or in (...) social arrangements, governments, power structures, or some such thing, but I resist the full force of this way of thinking, clinging to the old school notion that we have gradually learned more about the world over time, that our opinions on these matters have improved, and that seeing how we reached the point we now occupy may help us avoid falling back into old philosophies that are now no longer viable. In that spirit, it seems to me that once we focus on the general question of how mathematics relates to science, one observation is immediate: the march of the centuries has produced an amusing reversal of philosophical fortunes. Let me begin there. In the beginning, that is, in Plato, mathematical knowledge was sharply distinguished from ordinary perceptual belief about the world. According to Plato’s metaphysics, mathematics is the study of eternal and unchanging abstract Forms,1 while science is uncertain and changeable opinion about the world of mere becoming. Indeed, in Plato’s lights, of the two, only mathematics deserves to be called ‘knowledge’ at all! Of course if sense perception cannot give us knowledge, if mathematics is not about perceivable things, then Plato owes us an account of how we ordinary humans achieve this wonderful insight into the properties of the abstract world of Forms. Plato’s answer is that we do not actually acquire mathematical knowledge at all; rather, we recollect it from a time before birth, when our souls, unencumbered by physical bodies, were free to commune with the Forms, and not just the mathematical ones, either – also Truth, Beauty, Justice, the Good, and so on.2 Whatever appeal this position may have held for the ancient Greeks, it will not begin to satisfy a contemporary, scientiﬁcally minded philosopher.. (shrink)
The effort to fit simple logical truths–like `if it's either red or green and it's not red, then it must be green'–into Kant's account of knowledge turns up a position more subtle and intriguing than might be expected at first glance.
For some time now, academic philosophers of mathematics have concentrated on intramural debates, the most conspicuous of which has centered on Benacerraf's epistemological challenge. By the late 1980s, something of a consensus had developed on how best to respond to this challenge. But answering Benacerraf leaves untouched the more advanced epistemological question of how the axioms are justified, a question that bears on actual practice in the foundations of set theory. I suggest that the time is ripe for philosophers of (...) mathematics to turn outward, to take on a problem of real importance for mathematics itself. (shrink)
Our goal in this course is to investigate radical skepticism about the external world, primarily to compare and contrast various naturalist and therapeutic reactions to it. We’ll largely side-step attempts to refute the skeptic and focus instead on naturalistic and therapeutic ways of reacting without refuting (though the boundary between these isn’t always sharp). The hope is that this exercise will help differentiate various strains of naturalism and clarify their interrelations with a range of therapeutic approaches.
There’s a tendency to suppose that a naturalist is automatically, by virtue of her naturalism, committed to some particular view of logic. These days, for example, the classical Quinean picture is sometimes taken to be the naturalistic standard: logic lies at the center of the web of belief; remote from sense experience, but widely confirmed by its role in all our successful theorizing; a posteriori like the rest, but also the most resistant to change, given the principle of minimum mutilation; (...) and thus apparently, or even practically, a priori. 1 But others, at other times, have held that other views of logic followed directly from naturalism, say psychologism, or simple inductivism, or some form of linguistic conventionalism. The trouble is that ‘naturalism’ means something different in each case, or that it comes encumbered with various inessential add-ons (like holism). (shrink)