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Episode 2389             Episode 2391
Episode 2390

Quine–Putnam indispensability argument
Mon, 2023-Nov-20 00:43 UTC
Length - 3:22

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Welcome to featured Wiki of the Day where we read the summary of the featured Wikipedia article every day.

The featured article for Monday, 20 November 2023 is Quine–Putnam indispensability argument.

The Quine–Putnam indispensability argument is an argument in the philosophy of mathematics for the existence of abstract mathematical objects such as numbers and sets, a position known as mathematical platonism. It was named after the philosophers Willard Quine and Hilary Putnam, and is one of the most important arguments in the philosophy of mathematics.

Although elements of the indispensability argument may have originated with thinkers such as Gottlob Frege and Kurt Gödel, Quine's development of the argument was unique for introducing to it a number of his philosophical positions such as naturalism, confirmational holism, and the criterion of ontological commitment. Putnam gave Quine's argument its first detailed formulation in his 1971 book Philosophy of Logic. He later came to disagree with various aspects of Quine's thinking, however, and formulated his own indispensability argument based on the no miracles argument in the philosophy of science. A standard form of the argument in contemporary philosophy is credited to Mark Colyvan; whilst being influenced by both Quine and Putnam, it differs in important ways from their formulations. It is presented in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

We ought to have ontological commitment to all and only the entities that are indispensable to our best scientific theories.

Mathematical entities are indispensable to our best scientific theories.

Therefore, we ought to have ontological commitment to mathematical entities. Nominalists, philosophers who reject the existence of abstract objects, have argued against both premises of this argument. An influential argument by Hartry Field claims that mathematical entities are dispensable to science. This argument has been supported by attempts to demonstrate that scientific and mathematical theories can be reformulated to remove all references to mathematical entities. Other philosophers, including Penelope Maddy, Elliott Sober, and Joseph Melia, have argued that we do not need to believe in all of the entities that are indispensable to science. The arguments of these writers inspired a new explanatory version of the argument, which Alan Baker and Mark Colyvan support, that argues mathematics is indispensable to specific scientific explanations as well as whole theories.

This recording reflects the Wikipedia text as of 00:43 UTC on Monday, 20 November 2023.

For the full current version of the article, see Quine–Putnam indispensability argument on Wikipedia.

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