Mathematical Explanation in Science

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (3):611-633 (2009)
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Abstract

Does mathematics ever play an explanatory role in science? If so then this opens the way for scientific realists to argue for the existence of mathematical entities using inference to the best explanation. Elsewhere I have argued, using a case study involving the prime-numbered life cycles of periodical cicadas, that there are examples of indispensable mathematical explanations of purely physical phenomena. In this paper I respond to objections to this claim that have been made by various philosophers, and I discuss potential future directions of research for each side in the debate over the existence of abstract mathematical objects.

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Alan Baker
Swarthmore College

References found in this work

The explanatory power of phase spaces.Aidan Lyon & Mark Colyvan - 2008 - Philosophia Mathematica 16 (2):227-243.
Indispensability and Practice.Penelope Maddy - 1992 - Journal of Philosophy 89 (6):275.

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