Quine, Putnam, and the 'Quine-Putnam' indispensability argument

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Abstract

Much recent discussion in the philosophy of mathematics has concerned the indispensability argument-an argument which aims to establish the existence of abstract mathematical objects through appealing to the role that mathematics plays in empirical science. The indispensability argument is standardly attributed to W. V. Quine and Hilary Putnam. In this paper, I show that this attribution is mistaken. Quine's argument for the existence of abstract mathematical objects differs from the argument which many philosophers of mathematics ascribe to him. Contrary to appearances, Putnam did not argue for the existence of abstract mathematical objects at all. I close by suggesting that attention to Quine and Putnam's writings reveals some neglected arguments for platonism which may be superior to the indispensability argument. © 2007 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-127
Number of pages14
JournalErkenntnis
Volume68
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008

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