Review of C. S. Jenkins, Grounding Concepts: An Empirical Basis for Arithmetical Knowledge [Book Review]

Philosophia Mathematica 18 (3):360-367 (2010)
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This book is written so as to be ‘accessible to philosophers without a mathematical background’. The reviewer can assure the reader that this aim is achieved, even if only by focusing throughout on just one example of an arithmetical truth, namely ‘7+5=12’. This example’s familiarity will be reassuring; but its loneliness in this regard will not. Quantified propositions — even propositions of Goldbach type — are below the author’s radar.The author offers ‘a new kind of arithmetical epistemology’, one which ‘respects certain important intuitions’ 1 : apriorism, realism, and empiricism. The book contains some clarification of these ‘isms’, and some thoughtful critiques of major positions regarding them, as espoused by such representative figures as Boghossian, Bealer, Peacocke, Field, Bostock, Maddy, Locke, Kant, C.I. Lewis, Ayer, Quine, Fodor, and McDowell. The philosophical reader will find some interest and value in these wider-ranging discussions. Our concern in this review, however, is to examine closely the original positive proposal on offer.Arithmetical truths, the author maintains, are conceptual truths. Knowing truths like 7+5=12 involves no ‘epistemic reliance on any empirical evidence’; but that, she says, is not to claim ‘epistemic independence of the senses altogether’. She wants to show that "experience grounds our concepts … and then mere conceptual examination enables us to learn arithmetical truths ." Concepts that are ‘appropriately sensitive’ to ‘the nature of [an independent] reality’ she calls grounded. Because of the role of grounded concepts, ‘arithmetical truths explain our arithmetical beliefs in the right sort of way for those beliefs to count as knowledge’ .In the context of her concentration on the special nature of arithmetical knowledge, the author offers what could strike some bystanders as an unnecessarily over-ambitious account of knowledge tout court. Knowledge, for the author, is "true belief which … "
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Concept Formation and Concept Grounding.Sjögren, Jörgen & Bennet, Christian

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