CORCORAN’S THUMBNAIL REVIEWS OF OPPOSING PHILOSOPHY OF LOGIC BOOKS

MATHEMATICAL REVIEWS 56:98-9 (1978-9)
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Abstract
PUTNAM has made highly regarded contributions to mathematics, to philosophy of logic and to philosophy of science, and in this book he brings his ideas in these three areas to bear on the traditional philosophic problem of materialism versus (objective) idealism. The book assumes that contemporary science (mathematical and physical) is largely correct as far as it goes, or at least that it is rational to believe in it. The main thesis of the book is that consistent acceptance of contemporary science requires the acceptance of some sort of Platonistic idealism affirming the existence of abstract, non-temporal, non-material, non-mental entities (numbers, scientific laws, mathematical formulas, etc.). The author is thus in direct opposition to the extreme materialism which had dominated philosophy of science in the first three quarters of this century. The book can be recommended to the scientifically literate, general reader whose acquaintance with these areas is limited to the literature of the 1950’s and before, when it had been assumed that empiricistic materialism was the only philosophy compatible with a scientific outlook. To this group the book presents an eye-opening challenge fulfilling the author’s intention of “shaking up preconceptions and stimulating further discussion”. QUINE’S book is not easy to read, partly because the level of sophistication fluctuates at high frequency between remote extremes and partly because of convoluted English prose style and devilish terminology. Almost all of the minor but troublesome technical errata in the first printing have been corrected [see reviews, e.g., the reviewer, Philos. Sci. 39 (1972), no. 1, 97–99]. In the opinion of the reviewer the book is not suitable for undergraduate instruction, and without external motivation few mathematicians are likely to have the patience to appreciate it. Nevertheless, a careful study of the book will more than repay the effort and one should expect to find frequent references to this book in coming years.
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