Humans and other animals have an evolved ability to detect discrete magnitudes in their environment. Does this observation support evolutionary debunking arguments against mathematicalrealism, as has been recently argued by Clarke-Doane, or does it bolster mathematicalrealism, as authors such as Joyce and Sinnott-Armstrong have assumed? To find out, we need to pay closer attention to the features of evolved numerical cognition. I provide a detailed examination of the functional properties of evolved numerical cognition, and (...) propose that they prima facie favor a realist account of numbers. (shrink)
Indispensablists contend that accepting scientific realism while rejecting mathematicalrealism involves a double standard. I refute this contention by developing an enhanced version of scientific realism, which I call interactive realism. It holds that interactively successful theories are typically approximately true, and that the interactive unobservable entities posited by them are likely to exist. It is immune to the pessimistic induction while mathematicalrealism is susceptible to it.
Mathematicalrealism asserts that mathematical objects exist in the abstract world, and that a mathematical sentence is true or false, depending on whether the abstract world is as the mathematical sentence says it is. I raise two objections against mathematicalrealism. First, the abstract world is queer in that it allows for contradictory states of affairs. Second, mathematicalrealism does not have a theoretical resource to explain why a sentence about a (...) tricle is true or false. A tricle is an object that changes its shape from a triangle to a circle, and then back to a triangle with every second. (shrink)
Arguing for mathematicalrealism on the basis of Field’s explanationist version of the Quine–Putnam Indispensability argument, Alan Baker has recently claimed to have found an instance of a genuine mathematical explanation of a physical phenomenon. While I agree that Baker presents a very interesting example in which mathematics plays an essential explanatory role, I show that this example, and the argument built upon it, begs the question against the mathematical nominalist.
The dominant approach to analyzing the meaning of natural language sentences that express mathematical knowl- edge relies on a referential, formal semantics. Below, I discuss an argument against this approach and in favour of an internalist, conceptual, intensional alternative. The proposed shift in analytic method offers several benefits, including a novel perspective on what is required to track mathematical content, and hence on the Benacerraf dilemma. The new perspective also promises to facilitate discussion between philosophers of mathematics and (...) cognitive scientists working on topics of common interest. (shrink)
What can we infer from numerical cognition about mathematicalrealism? In this paper, I will consider one aspect of numerical cognition that has received little attention in the literature: the remarkable similarities of numerical cognitive capacities across many animal species. This Invariantism in Numerical Cognition (INC) indicates that mathematics and morality are disanalogous in an important respect: proto-moral beliefs differ substantially between animal species, whereas proto-mathematical beliefs (at least in the animals studied) seem to show more similarities. (...) This makes moral beliefs more susceptible to a contingency challenge from evolution compared to mathematical beliefs, and indicates that mathematical beliefs might be less vulnerable to evolutionary debunking arguments. I will then examine to what extent INC can be used to flesh out a positive case for mathematicalrealism. Finally, I will review two forms of mathematicalrealism that are promising in the light of the evolutionary evidence about numerical cognition, ante rem structuralism and Millean empiricism. (shrink)
Plausibly, mathematical claims are true, but the fundamental furniture of the world does not include mathematical objects. This can be made sense of by providing mathematical claims with paraphrases, which make clear how the truth of such claims does not require the fundamental existence of mathematical objects. This paper explores the consequences of this type of position for explanatory structure. There is an apparently straightforward relationship between this sort of structure, and the logical sort: i.e. logically (...) complex claims are explained by logically simpler ones. For example, disjunctions are explained by their (true) disjuncts, while generalizations are explained by their (true) instances. This would seem as plausible in the case of mathematics as elsewhere. Also, it would seem to be something that the anti-realist approaches at issue would want to preserve. It will be argued, however, that these approaches cannot do this: they lead not merely to violations of the familiar principles relating logical and explanatory structure, but even to reversals of these. That is, there are cases where generalizations explain their instances, or disjunctions their disjuncts. (shrink)
There is a wide range of realist but non-Platonist philosophies of mathematics—naturalist or Aristotelian realisms. Held by Aristotle and Mill, they played little part in twentieth century philosophy of mathematics but have been revived recently. They assimilate mathematics to the rest of science. They hold that mathematics is the science of X, where X is some observable feature of the (physical or other non-abstract) world. Choices for X include quantity, structure, pattern, complexity, relations. The article lays out and compares these (...) options, including their accounts of what X is, the examples supporting each theory, and the reasons for identifying the science of X with (most or all of) mathematics. Some comparison of the options is undertaken, but the main aim is to display the spectrum of viable alternatives to Platonism and nominalism. It is explained how these views answer Frege’s widely accepted argument that arithmetic cannot be about real features of the physical world, and arguments that such mathematical objects as large infinities and perfect geometrical figures cannot be physically realized. (shrink)
Since the publication of the Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, Wittgenstein’s interpreters have endeavored to reconcile his general constructivist/anti-realist attitude towards mathematics with his confessed anti-revisionary philosophy. In this article, the author revisits the issue and presents a solution. The basic idea consists in exploring the fact that the so-called “non-constructive results” could be interpreted so that they do not appear non-constructive at all. The author substantiates this solution by showing how the translation of mathematical results, given by (...) the possibility of translation between logics, can be seen as a tool for partially implementing the solution Wittgenstein had in mind. (shrink)
Callard (2007) argues that it is metaphysically possible that a mathematical object, although abstract, causally affects the brain. I raise the following objections. First, a successful defence of mathematicalrealism requires not merely the metaphysical possibility but rather the actuality that a mathematical object affects the brain. Second, mathematical realists need to confront a set of three pertinent issues: why a mathematical object does not affect other concrete objects and other mathematical objects, what (...) counts as a mathematical object, and how we can have knowledge about an unchanging object. (shrink)
In his influential book, The Nature of Morality, Gilbert Harman writes: “In explaining the observations that support a physical theory, scientists typically appeal to mathematical principles. On the other hand, one never seems to need to appeal in this way to moral principles.” What is the epistemological relevance of this contrast, if genuine? This chapter argues that ethicists and philosophers of mathematics have misunderstood it. They have confused what the chapter calls the justificatory challenge for realism about an (...) area, D—the challenge to justify our D-beliefs—with the reliability challenge for D-realism—the challenge to explain the reliability of our D-beliefs. Harman’s contrast is relevant to the first, but not, evidently, to the second. One upshot of the discussion is that genealogical debunking arguments are fallacious. Another is that indispensability considerations cannot answer the Benacerraf–Field challenge for mathematicalrealism. (shrink)
The existence of fundamental moral disagreements is a central problem for moral realism and has often been contrasted with an alleged absence of disagreement in mathematics. However, mathematicians do in fact disagree on fundamental questions, for example on which set-theoretic axioms are true, and some philosophers have argued that this increases the plausibility of moral vis-à-vis mathematicalrealism. I argue that the analogy between mathematical and moral disagreement is not as straightforward as those arguments present it. (...) In particular, I argue that pluralist accounts of mathematics render fundamental mathematical disagreements compatible with mathematicalrealism in a way in which moral disagreements and moral realism are not. 11. (shrink)
Call an explanation in which a non-mathematical fact is explained—in part or in whole—by mathematical facts: an extra-mathematical explanation. Such explanations have attracted a great deal of interest recently in arguments over mathematicalrealism. In this article, a theory of extra-mathematical explanation is developed. The theory is modelled on a deductive-nomological theory of scientific explanation. A basic DN account of extra-mathematical explanation is proposed and then redeveloped in the light of two difficulties that (...) the basic theory faces. The final view appeals to relevance logic and uses resources in information theory to understand the explanatory relationship between mathematical and physical facts. 1Introduction2Anchoring3The Basic Deductive-Mathematical Account4The Genuineness Problem5Irrelevance6Relevance and Information7Objections and Replies 7.1Against relevance logic7.2Too epistemic7.3Informational containment8Conclusion. (shrink)
We demonstrate how real progress can be made in the debate surrounding the enhanced indispensability argument. Drawing on a counterfactual theory of explanation, well-motivated independently of the debate, we provide a novel analysis of ‘explanatory generality’ and how mathematics is involved in its procurement. On our analysis, mathematics’ sole explanatory contribution to the procurement of explanatory generality is to make counterfactual information about physical dependencies easier to grasp and reason with for creatures like us. This gives precise content to key (...) intuitions traded in the debate, regarding mathematics’ procurement of explanatory generality, and adjudicates unambiguously in favour of the nominalist, at least as far as explanatory generality is concerned. (shrink)
This rich book differs from much contemporary philosophy of mathematics in the author’s witty, down to earth style, and his extensive experience as a working mathematician. It accords with the field in focusing on whether mathematical entities are real. Franklin holds that recent discussion of this has oscillated between various forms of Platonism, and various forms of nominalism. He denies nominalism by holding that universals exist and denies Platonism by holding that they are concrete, not abstract - looking to (...) Aristotle for inspiration. (shrink)
Indispensablists argue that when our belief system conflicts with our experiences, we can negate a mathematical belief but we do not because if we do, we would have to make an excessive revision of our belief system. Thus, we retain a mathematical belief not because we have good evidence for it but because it is convenient to do so. I call this view ‘ mathematical convenientism.’ I argue that mathematical convenientism commits the consequential fallacy and that (...) it demolishes the Quine-Putnam indispensability argument and Baker’s enhanced indispensability argument. (shrink)
I defend a new position in philosophy of mathematics that I call mathematical inferentialism. It holds that a mathematical sentence can perform the function of facilitating deductive inferences from some concrete sentences to other concrete sentences, that a mathematical sentence is true if and only if all of its concrete consequences are true, that the abstract world does not exist, and that we acquire mathematical knowledge by confirming concrete sentences. Mathematical inferentialism has several advantages over (...)mathematicalrealism and fictionalism. (shrink)
A new trend in the philosophical literature on scientific explanation is that of starting from a case that has been somehow identified as an explanation and then proceed to bringing to light its characteristic features and to constructing an account for the type of explanation it exemplifies. A type of this approach to thinking about explanation – the piecemeal approach, as I will call it – is used, among others, by Lange (2013) and Pincock (2015) in the context of their (...) treatment of the problem of mathematical explanations of physical phenomena. This problem is of central importance in two different recent philosophical disputes: the dispute about the existence on non-causal scientific explanations and the dispute between realists and antirealists in the philosophy of mathematics. My aim in this paper is twofold. I will first argue that Lange (2013) and Pincock (2015) fail to make a significant contribution to these disputes. They fail to contribute to the dispute in the philosophy of mathematics because, in this context, their approach can be seen as question begging. They also fail to contribute to the dispute in the general philosophy of science because, as I will argue, there are important problems with the cases discussed by Lange and Pincock. I will then argue that the source of the problems with these two papers has to do with the fact that the piecemeal approach used to account for mathematical explanation is problematic. (shrink)
The semantic view of theories is normally considered to be an ac-count of theories congenial to Scientific Realism. Recently, it has been argued that Ontic Structural Realism could be fruitfully applied, in combination with the semantic view, to some of the philosophical issues peculiarly related to bi-ology. Given the central role that models have in the semantic view, and the relevance that mathematics has in the definition of the concept of model, the fo-cus will be on population genetics, (...) which is one of the most mathematized areas in biology. We will analyse some of the difficulties which arise when trying to use Ontic Structural Realism to account for evolutionary biology. (shrink)
This paper argues that scientific realism commits us to a metaphysical determination relation between the mathematical entities that are indispensible to scientific explanation and the modal structure of the empirical phenomena those entities explain. The argument presupposes that scientific realism commits us to the indispensability argument. The viewpresented here is that the indispensability of mathematics commits us not only to the existence of mathematical structures and entities but to a metaphysical determination relation between those entities and (...) the modal structure of the physical world. The no-miracles argument is the primary motivation for scientific realism. It is a presupposition of this argument that unobservable entities are explanatory only when they determine the empirical phenomena they explain. I argue that mathematical entities should also be seen as explanatory only when they determine the empirical facts they explain, namely, the modal structure of the physical world. Thus, scientific realism commits us to a metaphysical determination relation between mathematics and physical modality that has not been previously recognized. The requirement to account for the metaphysical dependence of modal physical structure on mathematics limits the class of acceptable solutions to the applicability problem that are available to the scientific realist. (shrink)
The primary justification for mathematical structuralism is its capacity to explain two observations about mathematical objects, typically natural numbers. Non-eliminative structuralism attributes these features to the particular ontology of mathematics. I argue that attributing the features to an ontology of structural objects conflicts with claims often made by structuralists to the effect that their structuralist theses are versions of Quine’s ontological relativity or Putnam’s internal realism. I describe and argue for an alternative explanation for these features which (...) instead explains the attributes them to the mathematical practice of representing numbers using more concrete tokens, such as sets, strokes and so on. (shrink)
Three influential forms of realism are distinguished and interrelated: realism about the external world, construed as a metaphysical doctrine; scientific realism about non-observable entities postulated in science; and semantic realism as defined by Dummett. Metaphysical realism about everyday physical objects is contrasted with idealism and phenomenalism, and several potent arguments against these latter views are reviewed. -/- Three forms of scientific realism are then distinguished: (i) scientific theories and their existence postulates should be taken (...) literally; (ii) the existence of unobservable entities posited by our most successful scientific theories is justified scientifically; and (iii) our best current scientific theories are at least approximately true. It is argued that only some form of scientific realism can make proper sense of certain episodes in the history of science. -/- Finally, Dummett’s influential formulation of semantic issues about realism considered. Dummett argued that in some cases, the fundamental issue is not about the existence of entities, but rather about whether statements of some specified class (such as mathematics) have an objective truth value, independently of our means of knowing it. Dummett famously argued against such semantic realism and in favor of anti-realism. The relation of semantic realism to the metaphysical construal of realism and Dummett’s main argument against semantic realism is examined. (shrink)
The literature on the indispensability argument for mathematicalrealism often refers to the ‘indispensable explanatory role’ of mathematics. I argue that we should examine the notion of explanatory indispensability from the point of view of specific conceptions of scientific explanation. The reason is that explanatory indispensability in and of itself turns out to be insufficient for justifying the ontological conclusions at stake. To show this I introduce a distinction between different kinds of explanatory roles—some ‘thick’ and ontologically committing, (...) others ‘thin’ and ontologically peripheral—and examine this distinction in relation to some notable ‘ontic’ accounts of explanation. I also discuss the issue in the broader context of other ‘explanationist’ realist arguments. (shrink)
We introduce the notion of complexity, first at an intuitive level and then in relatively more concrete terms, explaining the various characteristic features of complex systems with examples. There exists a vast literature on complexity, and our exposition is intended to be an elementary introduction, meant for a broad audience. Briefly, a complex system is one whose description involves a hierarchy of levels, where each level is made of a large number of components interacting among themselves. The time evolution of (...) such a system is of a complex nature, depending on the interactions among subsystems in the next level below the one under consideration and, at the same time, conditioned by the level above, where the latter sets the context for the evolution. Generally speaking, the interactions among the constituents of the various levels lead to a dynamics characterized by numerous characteristic scales, each level having its own set of scales. What is more, a level commonly exhibits ‘emergent properties’ that cannot be derived from considerations relating to its component systems taken in isolation or to those in a different contextual setting. In the dynamic evolution of some particular level, there occurs a self-organized emergence of a higher level and the process is repeated at still higher levels. The interaction and self-organization of the components of a complex system follow the principle commonly expressed by saying that the ‘whole is different from the sum of the parts’. In the case of systems whose behavior can be expressed mathematically in terms of differential equations this means that the interactions are nonlinear in nature. While all of the above features are not universally exhibited by complex systems, these are nevertheless indicative of a broad commonness relative to which individual systems can be described and analyzed. There exist measures of complexity which, once again, are not of universal applicability, being more heuristic than exact. The present state of knowledge and understanding of complex systems is itself an emerging one. Still, a large number of results on various systems can be related to their complex character, making complexity an immensely fertile concept in the study of natural, biological, and social phenomena. All this puts a very definite limitation on the complete description of a complex system as a whole since such a system can be precisely described only contextually, relative to some particular level, where emergent properties rule out an exact description of more than one levels within a common framework. We discuss the implications of these observations in the context of our conception of the so-called noumenal reality that has a mind-independent existence and is perceived by us in the form of the phenomenal reality. The latter is derived from the former by means of our perceptions and interpretations, and our efforts at sorting out and making sense of the bewildering complexity of reality takes the form of incessant processes of inference that lead to theories. Strictly speaking, theories apply to models that are constructed as idealized versions of parts of reality, within which inferences and abstractions can be carried out meaningfully, enabling us to construct the theories. There exists a correspondence between the phenomenal and the noumenal realities in terms of events and their correlations, where these are experienced as the complex behavior of systems or entities of various descriptions. The infinite diversity of behavior of systems in the phenomenal world are explained within specified contexts by theories. The latter are constructs generated in our ceaseless attempts at interpreting the world, and the question arises as to whether these are reflections of `laws of nature' residing in the noumenal world. This is a fundamental concern of scientific realism, within the fold of which there exists a trend towards the assumption that theories express truths about the noumenal reality. We examine this assumption (referred to as a ‘point of view’ in the present essay) closely and indicate that an alternative point of view is also consistent within the broad framework of scientific realism. This is the view that theories are domain-specific and contextual, and that these are arrived at by independent processes of inference and abstractions in the various domains of experience. Theories in contiguous domains of experience dovetail and interpenetrate with one another, and bear the responsibility of correctly explaining our observations within these domains. With accumulating experience, theories get revised and the network of our theories of the world acquires a complex structure, exhibiting a complex evolution. There exists a tendency within the fold of scientific realism of interpreting this complex evolution in rather simple terms, where one assumes (this, again, is a point of view) that theories tend more and more closely to truths about Nature and, what is more, progress towards an all-embracing ‘ultimate theory’ -- a foundational one in respect of all our inquiries into nature. We examine this point of view closely and outline the alternative view -- one broadly consistent with scientific realism -- that there is no ‘ultimate’ law of nature, that theories do not correspond to truths inherent in reality, and that successive revisions in theory do not lead monotonically to some ultimate truth. Instead, the theories generated in succession are incommensurate with each other, testifying to the fact that a theory gives us a perspective view of some part of reality, arrived at contextually. Instead of resembling a monotonically converging series successive theories are analogous to asymptotic series. (shrink)
This book provides philosophers of science with new theoretical resources for making their own contributions to the scientific realism debate. Readers will encounter old and new arguments for and against scientific realism. They will also be given useful tips for how to provide influential formulations of scientific realism and antirealism. Finally, they will see how scientific realism relates to scientific progress, scientific understanding, mathematicalrealism, and scientific practice.
This essay explores the possibility of constructing a structural realist interpretation of spacetime theories that can resolve the ontological debate between substantivalists and relationists. Drawing on various structuralist approaches in the philosophy of mathematics, as well as on the theoretical complexities of general relativity, our investigation will reveal that a structuralist approach can be beneficial to the spacetime theorist as a means of deflating some of the ontological disputes regarding similarly structured spacetimes.
There are different narratives on mathematics as part of our world, some of which are more appropriate than others. Such narratives might be of the form ‘Mathematics is useful’, ‘Mathematics is beautiful’, or ‘Mathematicians aim at theorem-credit’. These narratives play a crucial role in mathematics education and in society as they are influencing people’s willingness to engage with the subject or the way they interpret mathematical results in relation to real-world questions; the latter yielding important normative considerations. Our strategy (...) is to frame current narratives of mathematics from a virtue-theoretic perspective. We identify the practice of mathematizing, put forward by Freudenthal’s ‘Realistic mathematics education’, as virtuous and use it to evaluate different narratives. We show that this can help to render the narratives more adequately, and to provide implications for societal organization. (shrink)
I discuss Benacerraf's epistemological challenge for realism about areas like mathematics, metalogic, and modality, and describe the pluralist response to it. I explain why normative pluralism is peculiarly unsatisfactory, and use this explanation to formulate a radicalization of Moore's Open Question Argument. According to the argument, the facts -- even the normative facts -- fail to settle the practical questions at the center of our normative lives. One lesson is that the concepts of realism and objectivity, which are (...) widely identified, are actually in tension. (shrink)
In his classic book “the Foundations of Statistics” Savage developed a formal system of rational decision making. The system is based on (i) a set of possible states of the world, (ii) a set of consequences, (iii) a set of acts, which are functions from states to consequences, and (iv) a preference relation over the acts, which represents the preferences of an idealized rational agent. The goal and the culmination of the enterprise is a representation theorem: Any preference relation that (...) satisfies certain arguably acceptable postulates determines a (finitely additive) probability distribution over the states and a utility assignment to the consequences, such that the preferences among acts are determined by their expected utilities. Additional problematic assumptions are however required in Savage's proofs. First, there is a Boolean algebra of events (sets of states) which determines the richness of the set of acts. The probabilities are assigned to members of this algebra. Savage's proof requires that this be a σ-algebra (i.e., closed under infinite countable unions and intersections), which makes for an extremely rich preference relation. On Savage's view we should not require subjective probabilities to be σ-additive. He therefore finds the insistence on a σ-algebra peculiar and is unhappy with it. But he sees no way of avoiding it. Second, the assignment of utilities requires the constant act assumption: for every consequence there is a constant act, which produces that consequence in every state. This assumption is known to be highly counterintuitive. The present work contains two mathematical results. The first, and the more difficult one, shows that the σ-algebra assumption can be dropped. The second states that, as long as utilities are assigned to finite gambles only, the constant act assumption can be replaced by the more plausible and much weaker assumption that there are at least two non-equivalent constant acts. The second result also employs a novel way of deriving utilities in Savage-style systems -- without appealing to von Neumann-Morgenstern lotteries. The paper discusses the notion of “idealized agent" that underlies Savage's approach, and argues that the simplified system, which is adequate for all the actual purposes for which the system is designed, involves a more realistic notion of an idealized agent. (shrink)
Some proponents of the indispensability argument for mathematicalrealism maintain that the empirical evidence that confirms our best scientific theories and explanations also confirms their pure mathematical components. I show that the falsity of this view follows from three highly plausible theses, two of which concern the nature of mathematical application and the other the nature of empirical confirmation. The first is that the background mathematical theories suitable for use in science are conservative in the (...) sense outlined by Hartry Field. The second is that the empirical relevance of mathematical statements suitable for use in science is mediated by their non-mathematical consequences. The third is that statements receive additional empirical confirmation only by way of generating additional empirical expectations. Since each of these is a thesis we have good reason to endorse, my argument poses a challenge to anyone who argues that science affords empirical grounds for mathematicalrealism. (shrink)
Scientific knowledge is not merely a matter of reconciling theories and laws with data and observations. Science presupposes a number of metatheoretic shaping principles in order to judge good methods and theories from bad. Some of these principles are metaphysical and some are methodological. While many shaping principles have endured since the scientific revolution, others have changed in response to conceptual pressures both from within science and without. Many of them have theistic roots. For example, the notion that nature conforms (...) to mathematical laws flows directly from the early modern presupposition that there is a divine Lawgiver. This interplay between theism and shaping principles is often unappreciated in discussions about the relation between science and religion. Today, of course, naturalists reject the influence of theism and prefer to do science on their terms. But as Robert Koons and Alvin Plantinga have argued, this is more difficult than is typically assumed. In particular, they argue, metaphysical naturalism is in conflict with several metatheoretic shaping principles, especially explanatory virtues such as simplicity and with scientific realism more broadly. These arguments will be discussed as well as possible responses. In the end, theism is able to provide justification for the philosophical foundations of science that naturalism cannot. (shrink)
Any philosophy of science ought to have something to say about the nature of mathematics, especially an account like constructive empiricism in which mathematical concepts like model and isomorphism play a central role. This thesis is a contribution to the larger project of formulating a constructive empiricist account of mathematics. The philosophy of mathematics developed is fictionalist, with an anti-realist metaphysics. In the thesis, van Fraassen's constructive empiricism is defended and various accounts of mathematics are considered and rejected. Constructive (...) empiricism cannot be realist about abstract objects; it must reject even the realism advocated by otherwise ontologically restrained and epistemologically empiricist indispensability theorists. Indispensability arguments rely on the kind of inference to the best explanation the rejection of which is definitive of constructive empiricism. On the other hand, formalist and logicist anti-realist positions are also shown to be untenable. It is argued that a constructive empiricist philosophy of mathematics must be fictionalist. Borrowing and developing elements from both Philip Kitcher's constructive naturalism and Kendall Walton's theory of fiction, the account of mathematics advanced treats mathematics as a collection of stories told about an ideal agent and mathematical objects as fictions. The account explains what true portions of mathematics are about and why mathematics is useful, even while it is a story about an ideal agent operating in an ideal world; it connects theory and practice in mathematics with human experience of the phenomenal world. At the same time, the make-believe and game-playing aspects of the theory show how we can make sense of mathematics as fiction, as stories, without either undermining that explanation or being forced to accept abstract mathematical objects into our ontology. All of this occurs within the framework that constructive empiricism itself provides the epistemological limitations it mandates, the semantic view of theories, and an emphasis on the pragmatic dimension of our theories, our explanations, and of our relation to the language we use. (shrink)
In the last decades two different and apparently unrelated lines of research have increasingly connected mathematics and evolutionism. Indeed, on the one hand different attempts to formalize darwinism have been made, while, on the other hand, different attempts to naturalize logic and mathematics have been put forward. Those researches may appear either to be completely distinct or at least in some way convergent. They may in fact both be seen as supporting a naturalistic stance. Evolutionism is indeed crucial for a (...) naturalistic perspective, and formalizing it seems to be a way to strengthen its scientificity. The paper shows that, on the contrary, those directions of research may be seen as conflicting, since the conception of knowledge on which they rest may be undermined by the consequences of accepting an evolutionary perspective. (shrink)
Two families of mathematical methods lie at the heart of investigating the hierarchical structure of genetic variation in Homo sapiens: /diversity partitioning/, which assesses genetic variation within and among pre-determined groups, and /clustering analysis/, which simultaneously produces clusters and assigns individuals to these “unsupervised” cluster classifications. While mathematically consistent, these two methodologies are understood by many to ground diametrically opposed claims about the reality of human races. Moreover, modeling results are sensitive to assumptions such as preexisting theoretical commitments to (...) certain linguistic, anthropological, and geographic human groups. Thus, models can be perniciously reified. That is, they can be conflated and confused with the world. This fact belies standard realist and antirealist interpretations of “race,” and supports a pluralist conventionalist interpretation. (shrink)
How do axioms, or first principles, in ethics compare to those in mathematics? In this companion piece to G.C. Field's 1931 "On the Role of Definition in Ethics", I argue that there are similarities between the cases. However, these are premised on an assumption which can be questioned, and which highlights the peculiarity of normative inquiry.
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. (shrink)
Lange argues that some natural phenomena can be explained by appeal to mathematical, rather than natural, facts. In these “distinctively mathematical” explanations, the core explanatory facts are either modally stronger than facts about ordinary causal law or understood to be constitutive of the physical task or arrangement at issue. Craver and Povich argue that Lange’s account of DME fails to exclude certain “reversals”. Lange has replied that his account can avoid these directionality charges. Specifically, Lange argues that in (...) legitimate DMEs, but not in their “reversals,” the empirical fact appealed to in the explanation is “understood to be constitutive of the physical task or arrangement at issue” in the explanandum. I argue that Lange’s reply is unsatisfactory because it leaves the crucial notion of being “understood to be constitutive of the physical task or arrangement” obscure in ways that fail to block “reversals” except by an apparent ad hoc stipulation or by abandoning the reliance on understanding and instead accepting a strong realism about essence. (shrink)
Modern philosophy of mathematics has been dominated by Platonism and nominalism, to the neglect of the Aristotelian realist option. Aristotelianism holds that mathematics studies certain real properties of the world – mathematics is neither about a disembodied world of “abstract objects”, as Platonism holds, nor it is merely a language of science, as nominalism holds. Aristotle’s theory that mathematics is the “science of quantity” is a good account of at least elementary mathematics: the ratio of two heights, for example, is (...) a perceivable and measurable real relation between properties of physical things, a relation that can be shared by the ratio of two weights or two time intervals. Ratios are an example of continuous quantity; discrete quantities, such as whole numbers, are also realised as relations between a heap and a unit-making universal. For example, the relation between foliage and being-a-leaf is the number of leaves on a tree,a relation that may equal the relation between a heap of shoes and being-a-shoe. Modern higher mathematics, however, deals with some real properties that are not naturally seen as quantity, so that the “science of quantity” theory of mathematics needs supplementation. Symmetry, topology and similar structural properties are studied by mathematics, but are about pattern, structure or arrangement rather than quantity. (shrink)
This paper focuses on the distinction between methods which are mathematically "clever", and those which are simply crude, typically repetitive and computer intensive, approaches for "crunching" out answers to problems. Examples of the latter include simulated probability distributions and resampling methods in statistics, and iterative methods for solving equations or optimisation problems. Most of these methods require software support, but this is easily provided by a PC. The paper argues that the crunchier methods often have substantial advantages from the perspectives (...) of user-friendliness, reliability (in the sense that misuse is less likely), educational efficiency and realism. This means that they offer very considerable potential for simplifying the mathematical syllabus underlying many areas of applied mathematics such as management science and statistics: crunchier methods can provide the same, or greater, technical power, flexibility and insight, while requiring only a fraction of the mathematical conceptual background needed by their cleverer brethren. (shrink)
At the beginning of the present century, a series of paradoxes were discovered within mathematics which suggested a fundamental unclarity in traditional mathematical methods. These methods rested on the assumption of a realm of mathematical idealities existing independently of our thinking activity, and in order to arrive at a firmly grounded mathematics different attempts were made to formulate a conception of mathematical objects as purely human constructions. It was, however, realised that such formulations necessarily result in a mathematics (...) which lacks the richness and power of the old ‘platonistic’ methods, and the latter are still defended, in various modified forms, as embodying truths about self-existent mathematical entities. Thus there is an idealism-realism dispute in the philosophy of mathematics in some respects parallel to the controversy over the existence of the experiential world to the settlement of which lngarden devoted his life. The present paper is an attempt to apply Ingarden’s methods to the sphere of mathematical existence. This exercise will reveal new modes of being applicable to non-real objects, and we shall put forward arguments to suggest that these modes of being have an importance outside mathematics, especially in the areas of value theory and the ontology of art. (shrink)
Turning away from entities and focusing instead exclusively on ‘structural’ aspects of scientific theories has been advocated as a cogent response to objections levelled at realist conceptions of the aim and success of science. Physical theories whose (predictive) past successes are genuine would, in particular, share with their successors structural traits that would ultimately latch on to ‘structural’ features of the natural world. Motives for subscribing to Structural Realism are reviewed and discussed. It is argued that structural retention claims (...) lose their force if one gives up merely historical readings of the transition from Galilean-relativistic classical mechanics to the ‘special’ theory of relativity, heeding instead basic requirements that lead to their common derivation. Further cause for scepticism is found upon realising that the basic mathematical framework of quantum theory essentially reflects its predictive purpose, without any necessary input, be it of a ‘structural’ kind, from the physical world. (shrink)
This paper addresses the issue of finite versus countable additivity in Bayesian probability and decision theory -- in particular, Savage's theory of subjective expected utility and personal probability. I show that Savage's reason for not requiring countable additivity in his theory is inconclusive. The assessment leads to an analysis of various highly idealised assumptions commonly adopted in Bayesian theory, where I argue that a healthy dose of, what I call, conceptual realism is often helpful in understanding the interpretational value (...) of sophisticated mathematical structures employed in applied sciences like decision theory. In the last part, I introduce countable additivity into Savage's theory and explore some technical properties in relation to other axioms of the system. (shrink)
This paper aims to reconstruct a possible answer to the classical Newman’s objection which has been used countless times to argue against structural realism. The reconstruction starts from the new strand of structural realism – informational structural realism – authored by Luciano Floridi. Newman’s objection had previously stated that all propositions which comprise the mathematical structures are merely trivial truths and can be instantiated by multiple models. This paper examines whether informational structural realism can overcome (...) this objection by analysing the previous attempts to answer this objection, attempts which either try to save the Ramseyfication of mathematical propositions or give up on it. The informational structural realism way is to attempt a third way, the neo-Kantian way inspired by the work of Ernst Cassirer, but also to change the formalism from a mathematical to an informational one. This paper shows how this original combination of neo-Kantianism, informational formalism and the method of levels of abstraction provide the tools to overcome Newman’s objection. (shrink)
Plato’s philosophy is important to Badiou for a number of reasons, chief among which is that Badiou considered Plato to have recognised that mathematics provides the only sound or adequate basis for ontology. The mathematical basis of ontology is central to Badiou’s philosophy, and his engagement with Plato is instrumental in determining how he positions his philosophy in relation to those approaches to the philosophy of mathematics that endorse an orthodox Platonic realism, i.e. the independent existence of a (...) realm of mathematical objects. The Platonism that Badiou makes claim to bears little resemblance to this orthodoxy. Like Plato, Badiou insists on the primacy of the eternal and immu- table abstraction of the mathematico-ontological Idea; however, Badiou’s reconstructed Platonism champions the mathematics of post-Cantorian set theory, which itself af rms the irreducible multiplicity of being. Badiou in this way recon gures the Platonic notion of the relation between the one and the multiple in terms of the multiple-without-one as represented in the axiom of the void or empty set. Rather than engage with the Plato that is gured in the ontological realism of the orthodox Platonic approach to the philosophy of mathematics, Badiou is intent on characterising the Plato that responds to the demands of a post-Cantorian set theory, and he considers Plato’s philosophy to provide a response to such a challenge. In effect, Badiou reorients mathematical Platonism from an epistemological to an ontological problematic, a move that relies on the plausibility of rejecting the empiricist ontology underlying orthodox mathematical Platonism. To draw a connec- tion between these two approaches to Platonism and to determine what sets them radically apart, this paper focuses on the use that they each make of model theory to further their respective arguments. (shrink)
This essay examines the philosophical significance of $\Omega$-logic in Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory with choice (ZFC). The duality between coalgebra and algebra permits Boolean-valued algebraic models of ZFC to be interpreted as coalgebras. The modal profile of $\Omega$-logical validity can then be countenanced within a coalgebraic logic, and $\Omega$-logical validity can be defined via deterministic automata. I argue that the philosophical significance of the foregoing is two-fold. First, because the epistemic and modal profiles of $\Omega$-logical validity correspond to those of second-order (...) logical consequence, $\Omega$-logical validity is genuinely logical, and thus vindicates a neo-logicist conception of mathematical truth in the set-theoretic multiverse. Second, the foregoing provides a modal-computational account of the interpretation of mathematical vocabulary, adducing in favor of a realist conception of the cumulative hierarchy of sets. (shrink)
Some recent work by philosophers of mathematics has been aimed at showing that our knowledge of the existence of at least some mathematical objects and/or sets can be epistemically grounded by appealing to perceptual experience. The sensory capacity that they refer to in doing so is the ability to perceive numbers, mathematical properties and/or sets. The chief defense of this view as it applies to the perception of sets is found in Penelope Maddy’s Realism in Mathematics, but (...) a number of other philosophers have made similar, if more simple, appeals of this sort. For example, Jaegwon Kim, John Bigelow, and John Bigelow and Robert Pargetter have all defended such views. The main critical issue that will be raised here concerns the coherence of the notions of set perception and mathematical perception, and whether appeals to such perceptual faculties can really provide any justification for or explanation of belief in the existence of sets, mathematical properties and/or numbers. (shrink)
The foundations of mathematics and physics no longer start with fundamental entities and their properties like spatial extension, points, lines or the billiard ball like particles of Newtonian physics. Mathematics has abolished these from its foundations in set theory by making all assumptions explicit and structural. Particle physics has become completely mathematical, connecting to physical reality only through experimental technique. Applying the principles guiding the foundations of mathematics and physics to philosophical analysis underscores that only conscious experience has an (...) intrinsic nature. This leads to a version of realistic monism in which the essence and totality of the existence of physical structure is immediate experience in some form. Identifying physical structure with conscious experience allows the application of mathematics to the evolution of consciousness. Some of the implications from Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem are connected to creativity and ethics. (shrink)
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