Jenkins-Ichikawa, Carrie, and . Knowledge of Arithmetic

2005, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 56: 727-747.

Abstract: The goal of the research programme I describe in this article is a realist epistemology for arithmetic which respects arithmetic’s special epistemic status (the status usually described as a prioricity) yet accommodates naturalistic concerns by remaining funda- mentally empiricist. I argue that the central claims which would allow us to develop such an epistemology are (i) that arithmetical truths are known through an examination of our arithmetical concepts; (ii) that (at least our basic) arithmetical concepts are accurate mental representations of elements of the arithmetical structure of the inde- pendent world; (iii) that (ii) obtains in virtue of the normal functioning of our sensory apparatus. The first of these claims protects arithmetic’s special epistemic status relative, for example, to the laws of physics, the second preserves the independence of arithmetical truth, and the third ensures that we remain empiricists.

Comment: Useful as a primary or secondary reading in an advanced undergraduate course epistemology (in a section on a priori knowledge) or an advanced undergraduate course on philosophy of mathematics. This is not an easy paper, but it is clear. It is also useful within a teaching context, as it provides a summary of the influential neo-Fregean approach to mathematical knowledge.

Leng, Mary, and . What’s there to know?

2007, In M. Leng, A. Paseau, and M. Potter (eds.), Mathematical Knowledge. OUP

Summary: Defends an account of mathematical knowledge in which mathematical knowledge is a kind of modal knowledge. Leng argues that nominalists should take mathematical knowledge to consist in knowledge of the consistency of mathematical axiomatic systems, and knowledge of what necessarily follows from those axioms. She defends this view against objections that modal knowledge requires knowledge of abstract objects, and argues that we should understand possibility and necessity in a primative way.

Comment: This would be useful in an advanced undergraduate course on metaphysics, epistemology or philosophy of logic and mathematics. This is not an easy paper, but Leng does an excellent job of making clear some difficult ideas. The view defended is an important one in both philosophy of logic and philosophy of mathematics. Any reasonably comprehensive treatment of nominalism should include this paper.

Maddy, Penelope, and . Naturalism in Mathematics

1997, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Publisher’s Note: Our much-valued mathematical knowledge rests on two supports: the logic of proof and the axioms from which those proofs begin. Naturalism in Mathematics investigates the status of the latter, the fundamental assumptions of mathematics. These were once held to be self-evident, but progress in work on the foundations of mathematics, especially in set theory, has rendered that comforting notion obsolete. Given that candidates for axiomatic status cannot be proved, what sorts of considerations can be offered for or against them? That is the central question addressed in this book. One answer is that mathematics aims to describe an objective world of mathematical objects, and that axiom candidates should be judged by their truth or falsity in that world. This promising view – realism – is assessed and finally rejected in favour of another – naturalism – which attends less to metaphysical considerations of objective truth and falsity, and more to practical considerations drawn from within mathematics itself. Penelope Maddy defines this naturalism, explains the motivation for it, and shows how it can be helpfully applied in the assessment of candidates for axiomatic status in set theory. Maddy’s clear, original treatment of this fundamental issue is informed by current work in both philosophy and mathematics, and will be accessible and enlightening to readers from both disciplines.

Comment: Good further reading in advanced undergraduate or postgraduate courses on metaphysics, naturalism or philosophy of mathematics. Sections from the book - for instance, the chapters in Part II on indispensability considerations in scientific and mathematical practice - could be profitably read on their own. These sections may also be of interest in philosophy of science courses, as they provide a careful analysis of scientific practice (as it relates to what scientists take themselves to be ontologically committed to).