Logicism, Interpretability, and Knowledge of Arithmetic

Review of Symbolic Logic 7 (1):84-119 (2014)
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A crucial part of the contemporary interest in logicism in the philosophy of mathematics resides in its idea that arithmetical knowledge may be based on logical knowledge. Here an implementation of this idea is considered that holds that knowledge of arithmetical principles may be based on two things: (i) knowledge of logical principles and (ii) knowledge that the arithmetical principles are representable in the logical principles. The notions of representation considered here are related to theory-based and structure-based notions of representation from contemporary mathematical logic. It is argued that the theory-based versions of such logicism are either too liberal (the plethora problem) or are committed to intuitively incorrect closure conditions (the consistency problem). Structure-based versions must on the other hand respond to a charge of begging the question (the circularity problem) or explain how one may have a knowledge of structure in advance of a knowledge of axioms (the signature problem). This discussion is significant because it gives us a better idea of what a notion of representation must look like if it is to aid in realizing some of the traditional epistemic aims of logicism in the philosophy of mathematics.

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Sean Walsh
University of California, Los Angeles


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