[FOM] Question on the relevance of pragmatism to mathematical abstraction

praatika@mappi.helsinki.fi praatika at mappi.helsinki.fi
Wed Nov 23 02:29:11 EST 2005

Richard Haney  wrote:

> Can anyone provide some modern references on the relation of pragmatism
> to mathematical abstractions?

I am not aware of any explicitly pragmatist views in the philosophy of 
mathematics, but Dummett's "anti-realism" can perhaps be viewed as a close 
relative of pragmatism.  (Dummett's "Realism and anti-realism", in: The 
Seas of Language, OUP 1993, is a good place to start.)

> I would be particularly interested in any references and/or discussion
> that might suggest or rebut the idea that "various mathematical ideas
> are meaningless because they do not have a pragmatic relevance or
> interpretation in terms of empirical phenomena".

One problem with all such views is that they would make, not only a large 
part of (all of?) mathematics, but also a large part of natural science 
meaningless. Hence one should think twice: Are such philosophical ideas on 
meaning and meaningfullness really more strongly justified than our best 

All the Best


Panu Raatikainen
Ph.D., Academy Research Fellow,
Docent in Theoretical Philosophy

Department of Philosophy
P.O. Box 9
FIN-00014 University of Helsinki

E-mail: panu.raatikainen at helsinki.fi


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