Ketland, Jeffrey John
(1999)
The mathematicization of nature.
PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.
Abstract
This thesis defends the QuinePutnam indispensability argument for mathematical realism and introduces a new indispensability argument for a substantial conception of truth. Chapters 1 and 2 formulate the main components of the QuinePutnam argument, namely that virtually all scientific laws quantify over mathematical entities and thus logically presuppose the existence thereof. Chapter 2 contains a detailed discussion of the logical structure of some scientific theories that incorporate or apply mathematics. Chapter 3 then reconstructs the central assumptions of Quine's argument, concluding (provocatively) that "science entails platonism". Chapter 4 contains a brief discussion of some major theories of truth, including deflationary views (redundancy, disquotation). Chapter 5 introduces a new argument against such deflationary views, based on certain logical properties of truth theories. Chapter 6 contains a further discussion of mathematical truth. In particular, nonstandard conceptions of mathematical truth such as "ifthenism" and "hermeneuticism". Chapter 7 introduces the programmes of reconstrual and reconstruction proposed by recent nominalism. Chapters 8 discusses modal nominalism, concluding that modalism is implausible as an interpretation of mathematics (if taken seriously, it suffers from exactly those epistemological problems allegedly suffered by realism). Chapter 9 discusses Field's deflationism, whose central motivating idea is that mathematics is (pace Quine and Putnam) dispensable in applications. This turns on a conservativeness claim which, as Shapiro pointed out in 1983, must be incorrect (using Godel's Theorems). I conclude in Chapter 10 that nominalistic views of mathematics and deflationist views of truth are both inadequate to the overall explanatory needs of science.
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