Non-mathematical Content by Mathematical Means

Abstract

In this paper, I consider the use of mathematical results in philosophical arguments arriving at conclusions with non-mathematical content, with the view that in general such usage requires additional justification. As a cautionary example, I examine Kreisel’s arguments that the Continuum Hypothesis is determined by the axioms of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory, and interpret Weston’s 1976 reply as showing that Kreisel fails to provide sufficient justification for the use of his main technical result. If we take the perspective that mathematical results are used in the context of a modelling of something not necessarily mathematical, then the situation is clarified somewhat, and the procedure for arriving at justification for the use of such results becomes clear. I give an example of a particularly strong form this justification might take, using the idea of formalism independence due to Gödel and Kennedy.

Author's Profile

Sam Adam-Day
Oxford University

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2020-11-06

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