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Mathematics plays a central role in much of contemporary science, but philosophers have struggled to understand what this role is or how significant it might be for mathematics and science. In this book Christopher Pincock tackles this perennial question in a new way by asking how mathematics contributes to the success of our best scientific representations. In the first part of the book this question is posed and sharpened using a proposal for how we can determine the content of a scientific representation. Several different sorts of contributions from mathematics are then articulated. Pincock argues that each contribution can be understood as broadly epistemic, so that what mathematics ultimately contributes to science is best connected with our scientific knowledge. In the second part of the book, Pincock critically evaluates alternative approaches to the role of mathematics in science. These include the potential benefits for scientific discovery and scientific explanation. A major focus of this part of the book is the indispensability argument for mathematical platonism.Using the results of part one, Pincock argues that this argument can at best support a weak form of realism about the truth-value of the statements of mathematics. The book concludes with a chapter on pure mathematics and the remaining options for making sense of its interpretation and epistemology. Thoroughly grounded in case studies drawn from scientific practice, this book aims to bring together current debates in both the philosophy of mathematics and the philosophy of science and to demonstrate the philosophical importance of applications of mathematics.
Oxford University Press
December 25, 2014
About the author
Christopher Pincock received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley in 2002. After eight years at Purdue University, he recently joined the philosophy department at the University of Missouri as an Associate Professor.
Mathematics and Scientific Representation is an engaging piece of contemporary philosophy of mathematics and science. Its deeply science-informed approach and focus on applied mathematics, with an aim to seriously tackle also more traditional issues in philosophy of mathematics, exemplify exciting and fertile scholarly 'border-hopping'. Juha Saatsi, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews