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 mathematical realism. 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)
I argue that certain species of belief, such as mathematical, logical, and normative beliefs, are insulated from a form of Harman-style debunking argument whereas moral beliefs, the primary target of such arguments, are not. Harman-style arguments have been misunderstood as attempts to directly undermine our moral beliefs. They are rather best given as burden-shifting arguments, concluding that we need additional reasons to maintain our moral beliefs. If we understand them this way, then we can see why moral beliefs are vulnerable (...) to such arguments while mathematical, logical, and normative beliefs are not—the very construction of Harman-style skeptical arguments requires the truth of significant fragments of our mathematical, logical, and normative beliefs, but requires no such thing of our moral beliefs. Given this property, Harman-style skeptical arguments against logical, mathematical, and normative beliefs are self-effacing; doubting these beliefs on the basis of such arguments results in the loss of our reasons for doubt. But we can cleanly doubt the truth of morality. (shrink)
Recent experimental evidence from developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience indicates that humans are equipped with unlearned elementary mathematical skills. However, formal mathematics has properties that cannot be reduced to these elementary cognitive capacities. The question then arises how human beings cognitively deal with more advanced mathematical ideas. This paper draws on the extended mind thesis to suggest that mathematical symbols enable us to delegate some mathematical operations to the external environment. In this view, mathematical symbols are not only used (...) to express mathematical concepts—they are constitutive of the mathematical concepts themselves. Mathematical symbols are epistemic actions, because they enable us to represent concepts that are literally unthinkable with our bare brains. Using case-studies from the history of mathematics and from educational psychology, we argue for an intimate relationship between mathematical symbols and mathematical cognition. (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)
In these days, there is an increasing technological development in intelligent tutoring systems. This field has become interesting to many researchers. In this paper, we present an intelligent tutoring system for teaching mathematics that help students understand the basics of math and that helps a lot of students of all ages to understand the topic because it's important for students of adding and subtracting. Through which the student will be able to study the course and solve related problems. An (...) evaluation of the intelligent tutoring systems was carried out and the results were encouraging. (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 mathematical realism. 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 mathematical realism in a way in which moral disagreements and moral realism are not. 11. (shrink)
An analysis of the counter-intuitive properties of infinity as understood differently in mathematics, classical physics and quantum physics allows the consideration of various paradoxes under a new light (e.g. Zeno’s dichotomy, Torricelli’s trumpet, and the weirdness of quantum physics). It provides strong support for the reality of abstractness and mathematical Platonism, and a plausible reason why there is something rather than nothing in the concrete universe. The conclusions are far reaching for science and philosophy.
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)
Vehicle externalism maintains that the vehicles of our mental representations can be located outside of the head, that is, they need not be instantiated by neurons located inside the brain of the cogniser. But some disagree, insisting that ‘non-derived’, or ‘original’, content is the mark of the cognitive and that only biologically instantiated representational vehicles can have non-derived content, while the contents of all extra-neural representational vehicles are derived and thus lie outside the scope of the cognitive. In this paper (...) we develop one aspect of Menary’s vehicle externalist theory of cognitive integration—the process of enculturation—to respond to this longstanding objection. We offer examples of how expert mathematicians introduce new symbols to represent new mathematical possibilities that are not yet understood, and we argue that these new symbols have genuine non-derived content, that is, content that is not dependent on an act of interpretation by a cognitive agent and that does not derive from conventional associations, as many linguistic representations do. (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 mathematical realism. (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 mathematical realism 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 “What Makes a Scientific Explanation Distinctively Mathematical?” (2013b), Lange uses several compelling examples to argue that certain explanations for natural phenomena appeal primarily to mathematical, rather than natural, facts. In such explanations, the core explanatory facts are modally stronger than facts about causation, regularity, and other natural relations. We show that Lange's account of distinctively mathematical explanation is flawed in that it fails to account for the implicit directionality in each of his examples. This inadequacy is remediable in each (...) case by appeal to ontic facts that account for why the explanation is acceptable in one direction and unacceptable in the other direction. The mathematics involved in these examples cannot play this crucial normative role. While Lange's examples fail to demonstrate the existence of distinctively mathematical explanations, they help to emphasize that many superficially natural scientific explanations rely for their explanatory force on relations of stronger-than-natural necessity. These are not opposing kinds of scientific explanations; they are different aspects of scientific explanation. (shrink)
PurposeIn this article, we aim to present and defend a contextual approach to mathematical explanation.MethodTo do this, we introduce an epistemic reading of mathematical explanation.ResultsThe epistemic reading not only clarifies the link between mathematical explanation and mathematical understanding, but also allows us to explicate some contextual factors governing explanation. We then show how several accounts of mathematical explanation can be read in this approach.ConclusionThe contextual approach defended here clears up the notion of explanation and pushes us towards a pluralist vision (...) on mathematical explanation. (shrink)
Gödel argued that intuition has an important role to play in mathematical epistemology, and despite the infamy of his own position, this opinion still has much to recommend it. Intuitions and folk platitudes play a central role in philosophical enquiry too, and have recently been elevated to a central position in one project for understanding philosophical methodology: the so-called ‘Canberra Plan’. This philosophical role for intuitions suggests an analogous epistemology for some fundamental parts of mathematics, which casts a number (...) of themes in recent philosophy of mathematics (concerning a priority and fictionalism, for example) in revealing new light. (shrink)
Published in 1903, this book was the first comprehensive treatise on the logical foundations of mathematics written in English. It sets forth, as far as possible without mathematical and logical symbolism, the grounds in favour of the view that mathematics and logic are identical. It proposes simply that what is commonly called mathematics are merely later deductions from logical premises. It provided the thesis for which _Principia Mathematica_ provided the detailed proof, and introduced the work of Frege (...) to a wider audience. In addition to the new introduction by John Slater, this edition contains Russell's introduction to the 1937 edition in which he defends his position against his formalist and intuitionist critics. (shrink)
This chapter tries to answer the following question: How should we conceive of the method of mathematics, if we take a naturalist stance? The problem arises since mathematical knowledge is regarded as the paradigm of certain knowledge, because mathematics is based on the axiomatic method. Moreover, natural science is deeply mathematized, and science is crucial for any naturalist perspective. But mathematics seems to provide a counterexample both to methodological and ontological naturalism. To face this problem, some authors (...) tried to naturalize mathematics by relying on evolutionism. But several difficulties arise when we try to do this. This chapter suggests that, in order to naturalize mathematics, it is better to take the method of mathematics to be the analytic method, rather than the axiomatic method, and thus conceive of mathematical knowledge as plausible knowledge. (shrink)
We argue that if Stephen Yablo (2005) is right that philosophers of mathematics ought to endorse a fictionalist view of number-talk, then there is a compelling reason for deflationists about truth to endorse a fictionalist view of truth-talk. More specifically, our claim will be that, for deflationists about truth, Yablo’s argument for mathematical fictionalism can be employed and mounted as an argument for truth-theoretic fictionalism.
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 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)
Some authors have begun to appeal directly to studies of argumentation in their analyses of mathematical practice. These include researchers from an impressively diverse range of disciplines: not only philosophy of mathematics and argumentation theory, but also psychology, education, and computer science. This introduction provides some background to their work.
An influential position in the philosophy of biology claims that there are no biological laws, since any apparently biological generalization is either too accidental, fact-like or contingent to be named a law, or is simply reducible to physical laws that regulate electrical and chemical interactions taking place between merely physical systems. In the following I will stress a neglected aspect of the debate that emerges directly from the growing importance of mathematical models of biological phenomena. My main aim is to (...) defend, as well as reinforce, the view that there are indeed laws also in biology, and that their difference in stability, contingency or resilience with respect to physical laws is one of degrees, and not of kind . (shrink)
In the present article we attempt to show that Aristotle's syllogistic is an underlying logiC which includes a natural deductive system and that it isn't an axiomatic theory as had previously been thought. We construct a mathematical model which reflects certain structural aspects of Aristotle's logic. We examine the relation of the model to the system of logic envisaged in scattered parts of Prior and Posterior Analytics. Our interpretation restores Aristotle's reputation as a logician of consummate imagination and skill. Several (...) attributions of shortcomings and logical errors to Aristotle are shown to be without merit. Aristotle's logic is found to be self-sufficient in several senses: his theory of deduction is logically sound in every detail. (His indirect deductions have been criticized, but incorrectly on our account.) Aristotle's logic presupposes no other logical concepts, not even those of propositional logic. The Aristotelian system is seen to be complete in the sense that every valid argument expressible in his system admits of a deduction within his deductive system: every semantically valid argument is deducible. (shrink)
Mathematicians distinguish between proofs that explain their results and those that merely prove. This paper explores the nature of explanatory proofs, their role in mathematical practice, and some of the reasons why philosophers should care about them. Among the questions addressed are the following: what kinds of proofs are generally explanatory (or not)? What makes a proof explanatory? Do all mathematical explanations involve proof in an essential way? Are there really such things as explanatory proofs, and if so, how do (...) they relate to the sorts of explanation encountered in philosophy of science and metaphysics? (shrink)
Some have argued for a division of epistemic labor in which mathematicians supply truths and philosophers supply their necessity. We argue that this is wrong: mathematics is committed to its own necessity. Counterfactuals play a starring role.
Philosophy can shed light on mathematical modeling and the juxtaposition of modeling and empirical data. This paper explores three philosophical traditions of the structure of scientific theory—Syntactic, Semantic, and Pragmatic—to show that each illuminates mathematical modeling. The Pragmatic View identifies four critical functions of mathematical modeling: (1) unification of both models and data, (2) model fitting to data, (3) mechanism identification accounting for observation, and (4) prediction of future observations. Such facets are explored using a recent exchange between two groups (...) of mathematical modelers in plant biology. Scientific debate can arise from different modeling philosophies. (shrink)
Einstein, like most philosophers, thought that there cannot be mathematical truths which are both necessary and about reality. The article argues against this, starting with prima facie examples such as "It is impossible to tile my bathroom floor with regular pentagonal tiles." Replies are given to objections based on the supposedly purely logical or hypothetical nature of mathematics.
Humans and other animals have an evolved ability to detect discrete magnitudes in their environment. Does this observation support evolutionary debunking arguments against mathematical realism, as has been recently argued by Clarke-Doane, or does it bolster mathematical realism, 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)
Of all twentieth century philosophers, it is Gilles Deleuze whose work agitates most forcefully for a worldview privileging becoming over being, difference over sameness; the world as a complex, open set of multiplicities. Nevertheless, Deleuze remains singular in enlisting mathematical resources to underpin and inform such a position, refusing the hackneyed opposition between ‘static’ mathematical logic versus ‘dynamic’ physical world. This is an international collection of work commissioned from foremost philosophers, mathematicians and philosophers of science, to address the wide range (...) of problematics and influences in this most important strand of Deleuze’s thinking. Contributors are Charles Alunni, Alain Badiou, Gilles Châtelet, Manuel DeLanda, Simon Duffy, Robin Durie, Aden Evens, Arkady Plotnitsky, Jean-Michel Salanskis, Daniel Smith and David Webb. (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)
Mathematical models provide explanations of limited power of specific aspects of phenomena. One way of articulating their limits here, without denying their essential powers, is in terms of contrastive explanation.
The reconstruction of Leibniz’s metaphysics that Deleuze undertakes in The Fold provides a systematic account of the structure of Leibniz’s metaphysics in terms of its mathematical foundations. However, in doing so, Deleuze draws not only upon the mathematics developed by Leibniz—including the law of continuity as reflected in the calculus of infinite series and the infinitesimal calculus—but also upon developments in mathematics made by a number of Leibniz’s contemporaries—including Newton’s method of fluxions. He also draws upon a number (...) of subsequent developments in mathematics, the rudiments of which can be more or less located in Leibniz’s own work—including the theory of functions and singularities, the Weierstrassian theory of analytic continuity, and Poincaré’s theory of automorphic functions. Deleuze then retrospectively maps these developments back onto the structure of Leibniz’s metaphysics. While the Weierstrassian theory of analytic continuity serves to clarify Leibniz’s work, Poincaré’s theory of automorphic functions offers a solution to overcome and extend the limits that Deleuze identifies in Leibniz’s metaphysics. Deleuze brings this elaborate conjunction of material together in order to set up a mathematical idealization of the system that he considers to be implicit in Leibniz’s work. The result is a thoroughly mathematical explication of the structure of Leibniz’s metaphysics. This essay is an exposition of the very mathematical underpinnings of this Deleuzian account of the structure of Leibniz’s metaphysics, which, I maintain, subtends the entire text of The Fold. (shrink)
The published works of scientists often conceal the cognitive processes that led to their results. Scholars of mathematical practice must therefore seek out less obvious sources. This article analyzes a widely circulated mathematical joke, comprising a list of spurious proof types. An account is proposed in terms of argumentation schemes: stereotypical patterns of reasoning, which may be accompanied by critical questions itemizing possible lines of defeat. It is argued that humor is associated with risky forms of inference, which are essential (...) to creative mathematics. The components of the joke are explicated by argumentation schemes devised for application to topic-neutral reasoning. These in turn are classified under seven headings: retroduction, citation, intuition, meta-argument, closure, generalization, and definition. Finally, the wider significance of this account for the cognitive science of mathematics is discussed. (shrink)
In his famous article “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences” Eugen Wigner argues for a unique tie between mathematics and physics, invoking even religious language: “The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve”. The possible existence of such a unique match between mathematics and physics has been extensively discussed by philosophers and historians of (...)mathematics. Whatever the merits of this claim are, a further question can be posed with regard to mathematization in science more generally: What happens when we leave the area of theories and laws of physics and move over to the realm of mathematical modeling in interdisciplinary contexts? Namely, in modeling the phenomena specific to biology or economics, for instance, scientists often use methods that have their origin in physics. How is this kind of mathematical modeling justified? (shrink)
Some scientific explanations appear to turn on pure mathematical claims. The enhanced indispensability argument appeals to these ‘mathematical explanations’ in support of mathematical platonism. I argue that the success of this argument rests on the claim that mathematical explanations locate pure mathematical facts on which their physical explananda depend, and that any account of mathematical explanation that supports this claim fails to provide an adequate understanding of mathematical explanation.
The human attempts to access, measure and organize physical phenomena have led to a manifold construction of mathematical and physical spaces. We will survey the evolution of geometries from Euclid to the Algebraic Geometry of the 20th century. The role of Persian/Arabic Algebra in this transition and its Western symbolic development is emphasized. In this relation, we will also discuss changes in the ontological attitudes toward mathematics and its applications. Historically, the encounter of geometric and algebraic perspectives enriched the (...) mathematical practices and their foundations. Yet, the collapse of Euclidean certitudes, of over 2300 years, and the crisis in the mathematical analysis of the 19th century, led to the exclusion of “geometric judgments” from the foundations of Mathematics. After the success and the limits of the logico-formal analysis, it is necessary to broaden our foundational tools and re-examine the interactions with natural sciences. In particular, the way the geometric and algebraic approaches organize knowledge is analyzed as a cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural issue and will be examined in Mathematical Physics and Biology. We finally discuss how the current notions of mathematical (phase) “space” should be revisited for the purposes of life sciences. (shrink)
A basic thesis of Neokantian epistemology and philosophy of science contends that the knowing subject and the object to be known are only abstractions. What really exists, is the relation between both. For the elucidation of this “knowledge relation ("Erkenntnisrelation") the Neokantians of the Marburg school used a variety of mathematical metaphors. In this con-tribution I reconsider some of these metaphors proposed by Paul Natorp, who was one of the leading members of the Marburg school. It is shown that Natorp's (...) metaphors are not unrelated to those used in some currents of contemporary epistemology and philosophy of science. (shrink)
Investigation into the sequence structure of the genetic code by means of an informatic approach is a real success story. The features of human language are also the object of investigation within the realm of formal language theories. They focus on the common rules of a universal grammar that lies behind all languages and determine generation of syntactic structures. This universal grammar is a depiction of material reality, i.e., the hidden logical order of things and its relations determined by natural (...) laws. Therefore mathematics is viewed not only as an appropriate tool to investigate human language and genetic code structures through computer sciencebased formal language theory but is itself a depiction of material reality. This confusion between language as a scientific tool to describe observations/experiences within cognitive constructed models and formal language as a direct depiction of material reality occurs not only in current approaches but was the central focus of the philosophy of science debate in the twentieth century, with rather unexpected results. This article recalls these results and their implications for more recent mathematical approaches that also attempt to explain the evolution of human language. (shrink)
Mathematics is obviously important in the sciences. And so it is likely to be equally important in any effort that aims to understand God in a scientifically significant way or that aims to clarify the relations between science and theology. The degree to which God has any perfection is absolutely infinite. We use contemporary mathematics to precisely define that absolute infinity. For any perfection, we use transfinite recursion to define an endlessly ascending series of degrees of that perfection. (...) That series rises to an absolutely infinite degree of that perfection. God has that absolutely infinite degree. We focus on the perfections of knowledge, power, and benevolence. Our model of divine infinity thus builds a bridge between mathematics and theology. (shrink)
For over thirty years I have argued that all branches of science and scholarship would have both their intellectual and humanitarian value enhanced if pursued in accordance with the edicts of wisdom-inquiry rather than knowledge-inquiry. I argue that this is true of mathematics. Viewed from the perspective of knowledge-inquiry, mathematics confronts us with two fundamental problems. (1) How can mathematics be held to be a branch of knowledge, in view of the difficulties that view engenders? What could (...)mathematics be knowledge about? (2) How do we distinguish significant from insignificant mathematics? This is a fundamental philosophical problem concerning the nature of mathematics. But it is also a practical problem concerning mathematics itself. In the absence of the solution to the problem, there is the danger that genuinely significant mathematics will be lost among the unchecked growth of a mass of insignificant mathematics. This second problem cannot, it would seem, be solved granted knowledge-inquiry. For, in order to solve the problem, mathematics needs to be related to values, but this is, it seems, prohibited by knowledge-inquiry because it could only lead to the subversion of mathematical rigour. Both problems are solved, however, when mathematics is viewed from the perspective of wisdom-inquiry. (1) Mathematics is not a branch of knowledge. It is a body of systematized, unified and inter-connected problem-solving methods, a body of problematic possibilities. (2) A piece of mathematics is significant if (a) it links up to the interconnected body of existing mathematics, ideally in such a way that some problems difficult to solve in other branches become much easier to solve when translated into the piece of mathematics in question; (b) it has fruitful applications for (other) worthwhile human endeavours. If ever the revolution from knowledge to wisdom occurs, I would hope wisdom mathematics would flourish, the nature of mathematics would become much more transparent, more pupils and students would come to appreciate the fascination of mathematics, and it would be easier to discern what is genuinely significant in mathematics (something that baffled even Einstein). As a result of clarifying what should count as significant, the pursuit of wisdom mathematics might even lead to the development of significant new mathematics. (shrink)
Until recently, discussion of virtues in the philosophy of mathematics has been fleeting and fragmentary at best. But in the last few years this has begun to change. As virtue theory has grown ever more influential, not just in ethics where virtues may seem most at home, but particularly in epistemology and the philosophy of science, some philosophers have sought to push virtues out into unexpected areas, including mathematics and its philosophy. But there are some mathematicians already there, (...) ready to meet them, who have explicitly invoked virtues in discussing what is necessary for a mathematician to succeed. In both ethics and epistemology, virtue theory tends to emphasize character virtues, the acquired excellences of people. But people are not the only sort of thing whose excellences may be identified as virtues. Theoretical virtues have attracted attention in the philosophy of science as components of an account of theory choice. Within the philosophy of mathematics, and mathematics itself, attention to virtues has emerged from a variety of disparate sources. Theoretical virtues have been put forward both to analyse the practice of proof and to justify axioms; intellectual virtues have found multiple applications in the epistemology of mathematics; and ethical virtues have been offered as a basis for understanding the social utility of mathematical practice. Indeed, some authors have advocated virtue epistemology as the correct epistemology for mathematics (and perhaps even as the basis for progress in the metaphysics of mathematics). This topical collection brings together several of the researchers who have begun to study mathematical practices from a virtue perspective with the intention of consolidating and encouraging this trend. (shrink)
One of the key features of modern mathematics is the adoption of the abstract method. Our goal in this paper is to propose an explication of that method that is rooted in the history of the subject.
Both literalism, the view that mathematical objects simply exist in the empirical world, and fictionalism, the view that mathematical objects do not exist but are rather harmless fictions, have been both ascribed to Aristotle. The ascription of literalism to Aristotle, however, commits Aristotle to the unattractive view that mathematics studies but a small fragment of the physical world; and there is evidence that Aristotle would deny the literalist position that mathematical objects are perceivable. The ascription of fictionalism also faces (...) a difficult challenge: there is evidence that Aristotle would deny the fictionalist position that mathematics is false. I argue that, in Aristotle's view, the fiction of mathematics is not to treat what does not exist as if existing but to treat mathematical objects with an ontological status they lack. This form of fictionalism is consistent with holding that mathematics is true. (shrink)
Anyone who has read Plato’s Republic knows it has a lot to say about mathematics. But why? I shall not be satisfied with the answer that the future rulers of the ideal city are to be educated in mathematics, so Plato is bound to give some space to the subject. I want to know why the rulers are to be educated in mathematics. More pointedly, why are they required to study so much mathematics, for so long?
The literature on mathematics suggests that intuition plays a role in it as a ground of belief. This article explores the nature of intuition as it occurs in mathematical thinking. Section 1 suggests that intuitions should be understood by analogy with perceptions. Section 2 explains what fleshing out such an analogy requires. Section 3 discusses Kantian ways of fleshing it out. Section 4 discusses Platonist ways of fleshing it out. Section 5 sketches a proposal for resolving the main problem (...) facing Platonists—the problem of explaining how our experiences make contact with mathematical reality. (shrink)
The label “mathematical scepticism” was coined in Floridi [1998] to refer to the body of sceptical arguments developed against mathematical knowledge. Focusing on the debate between Hobbes and Wallis, this paper traces the development of modern mathematical scepticism. -/- Section 1 provides a summary of the salient points, while Sections 2 and 3 provide the necessary background against which the remarks on mathematical scepticism, occurring in the debate between Hobbes and Wallis, need to be interpreted. Sections 4 and 5 introduce (...) Hobbes’ and Wallis’ position respectively. Section 6 contains an analysis of the references to mathematical scepticism in the debate between Hobbes and Wallis. Section 7 offers an interpretation of the role played by scepticism in Hobbes. Section 8 provides a conclusion. (shrink)
We make some remarks on the mathematics and metaphysics of the hole argument, in response to a recent article in this journal by Weatherall ([2018]). Broadly speaking, we defend the mainstream philosophical literature from the claim that correct usage of the mathematics of general relativity `blocks' the argument.
We have reached the peculiar situation where the advance of mainstream science has required us to dismiss as unreal our own existence as free, creative agents, the very condition of there being science at all. Efforts to free science from this dead-end and to give a place to creative becoming in the world have been hampered by unexamined assumptions about what science should be, assumptions which presuppose that if creative becoming is explained, it will be explained away as an illusion. (...) In this paper it is shown that this problem has permeated the whole of European civilization from the Ancient Greeks onwards, leading to a radical disjunction between cosmology which aims at a grasp of the universe through mathematics and history which aims to comprehend human action through stories. By going back to the Ancient Greeks and tracing the evolution of the denial of creative becoming, I trace the layers of assumptions that must in some way be transcended if we are to develop a truly post-Egyptian science consistent with the forms of understanding and explanation that have evolved within history. (shrink)
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