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Robert Knowles
University of Bristol
  1. Mathematics and Explanatory Generality: Nothing but Cognitive Salience.Juha Saatsi & Robert Knowles - 2021 - Erkenntnis 86 (5):1119-1137.
    We demonstrate how real progress can be made in the debate surrounding the enhanced indispensability argument. Drawing on a counterfactual theory of explanation, well-motivated independently of the debate, we provide a novel analysis of ‘explanatory generality’ and how mathematics is involved in its procurement. On our analysis, mathematics’ sole explanatory contribution to the procurement of explanatory generality is to make counterfactual information about physical dependencies easier to grasp and reason with for creatures like us. This gives precise content to key (...)
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  2. Heavy Duty Platonism.Robert Knowles - 2015 - Erkenntnis 80 (6):1255-1270.
    Heavy duty platonism is of great dialectical importance in the philosophy of mathematics. It is the view that physical magnitudes, such as mass and temperature, are cases of physical objects being related to numbers. Many theorists have assumed HDP’s falsity in order to reach their own conclusions, but they are only justified in doing so if there are good arguments against HDP. In this paper, I present all five arguments against HDP alluded to in the literature and show that they (...)
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  3. Good Weasel Hunting.Robert Knowles & David Liggins - 2015 - Synthese 192 (10):3397-3412.
    The ‘indispensability argument’ for the existence of mathematical objects appeals to the role mathematics plays in science. In a series of publications, Joseph Melia has offered a distinctive reply to the indispensability argument. The purpose of this paper is to clarify Melia’s response to the indispensability argument and to advise Melia and his critics on how best to carry forward the debate. We will begin by presenting Melia’s response and diagnosing some recent misunderstandings of it. Then we will discuss four (...)
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  4. Platonic Relations and Mathematical Explanations.Robert Knowles - forthcoming - The Philosophical Quarterly.
    Some scientific explanations appear to turn on pure mathematical claims. The enhanced indispensability argument appeals to these ‘mathematical explanations’ in support of mathematical platonism. I argue that the success of this argument rests on the claim that mathematical explanations locate pure mathematical facts on which their physical explananda depend, and that any account of mathematical explanation that supports this claim fails to provide an adequate understanding of mathematical explanation.
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    Platonic Relations and Mathematical Explanations.Robert Knowles - 2021 - Philosophical Quarterly 71 (3):623-644.
    Some scientific explanations appear to turn on pure mathematical claims. The enhanced indispensability argument appeals to these ‘mathematical explanations’ in support of mathematical platonism. I argue that the success of this argument rests on the claim that mathematical explanations locate pure mathematical facts on which their physical explananda depend, and that any account of mathematical explanation that supports this claim fails to provide an adequate understanding of mathematical explanation.
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    The Uncanny Accuracy of God's Mathematical Beliefs.Robert Knowles - forthcoming - Religious Studies.
    I show how mathematical platonism combined with belief in the God of classical theism can respond to Field's epistemological objection. I defend an account of divine mathematical knowledge by showing that it falls out of an independently motivated general account of divine knowledge. I use this to explain the accuracy of God's mathematical beliefs, which in turn explains the accuracy of our own. My arguments provide good news for theistic platonists, while also shedding new light on Field's influential objection.
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  7. What ‘the Number of Planets is Eight’ Means.Robert Knowles - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (10):2757-2775.
    ‘The following sentence is true only if numbers exist: The number of planets is eight. It is true; hence, numbers exist.’ So runs a familiar argument for realism about mathematical objects. But this argument relies on a controversial semantic thesis: that ‘The number of planets’ and ‘eight’ are singular terms standing for the number eight, and the copula expresses identity. This is the ‘Fregean analysis’.I show that the Fregean analysis is false by providing an analysis of sentences such as that (...)
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    Unification and mathematical explanation.Robert Knowles - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (12):3923-3943.
    This paper provides a sorely-needed evaluation of the view that mathematical explanations in science explain by unifying. Illustrating with some novel examples, I argue that the view is misguided. For believers in mathematical explanations in science, my discussion rules out one way of spelling out how they work, bringing us one step closer to the right way. For non-believers, it contributes to a divide-and-conquer strategy for showing that there are no such explanations in science. My discussion also undermines the appeal (...)
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    Towards a Fictionalist Philosophy of Mathematics.Robert Knowles - unknown
    In this thesis, I aim to motivate a particular philosophy of mathematics characterised by the following three claims. First, mathematical sentences are generally speaking false because mathematical objects do not exist. Second, people typically use mathematical sentences to communicate content that does not imply the existence of mathematical objects. Finally, in using mathematical language in this way, speakers are not doing anything out of the ordinary: they are performing straightforward assertions. In Part I, I argue that the role played by (...)
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    Semantic Assumptions in the Philosophy of Mathematics.Robert Knowles - 2016 - In Francesca Boccuni & Andrea Sereni (eds.), Objectivity, Realism, and Proof. Filmat Studies in the Philosophy of Mathematics. Springer Verlag.
    The standard semantic analysis of sentences such as ‘The number of planets in the solar system is eight’ is that they are identity statements that identify certain mathematical objects, namely numbers. The analysis thereby facilitates arguments for a controversial philosophical position, namely realism about mathematical objects. Accordingly, whether or not this analysis is accurate should concern philosophers greatly. Recently, several authors have offered rival analyses of sentences such as these. In this paper, I will consider a wide range of linguistic (...)
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