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Chihara, Charles. A Structural Account of Mathematics
2004, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Added by: Jamie Collin
Publisher's Note: Charles Chihara's new book develops and defends a structural view of the nature of mathematics, and uses it to explain a number of striking features of mathematics that have puzzled philosophers for centuries. The view is used to show that, in order to understand how mathematical systems are applied in science and everyday life, it is not necessary to assume that its theorems either presuppose mathematical objects or are even true. Chihara builds upon his previous work, in which he presented a new system of mathematics, the constructibility theory, which did not make reference to, or presuppose, mathematical objects. Now he develops the project further by analysing mathematical systems currently used by scientists to show how such systems are compatible with this nominalistic outlook. He advances several new ways of undermining the heavily discussed indispensability argument for the existence of mathematical objects made famous by Willard Quine and Hilary Putnam. And Chihara presents a rationale for the nominalistic outlook that is quite different from those generally put forward, which he maintains have led to serious misunderstandings. A Structural Account of Mathematics will be required reading for anyone working in this field. generally put forward, which he maintains have led to serious misunderstandings.

Comment: This book, or chapters from it, would provide useful further reading on nominalism in courses on metaphysics or the philosophy of mathematics. The book does a very good job of summarising and critiquing other positions in the debate. As such individual chapters on (e.g.) mathematical structuralism, Platonism and Field and Balaguer's respective developments of fictionalism could be helpful. The chapter on his own contructibility theory is also a good introduction to that position: shorter and less technical than his earlier (1991) book Constructibility and Mathematical Existence, but longer and more developed than his chapter on Nominalism in the Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic.

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