Importance and Explanatory Relevance: The Case of Mathematical Explanations

Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 49 (3):393-412 (2018)
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Abstract

A way to argue that something plays an explanatory role in science is by linking explanatory relevance with importance in the context of an explanation. The idea is deceptively simple: a part of an explanation is an explanatorily relevant part of that explanation if removing it affects the explanation either by destroying it or by diminishing its explanatory power, i.e. an important part is an explanatorily relevant part. This can be very useful in many ontological debates. My aim in this paper is twofold. First of all, I will try to assess how this view on explanatory relevance can affect the recent ontological debate in the philosophy of mathematics—as I will argue, contrary to how it may appear at first glance, it does not help very much the mathematical realists. Second of all, I will show that there are big problems with it.

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Gabriel Târziu
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München

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