Categories for the working mathematician: making the impossible possible

Synthese 162 (1):1-13 (2008)
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Abstract

This paper discusses the notion of necessity in the light of results from contemporary mathematical practice. Two descriptions of necessity are considered. According to the first, necessarily true statements are true because they describe ‘unchangeable properties of unchangeable objects’. The result that I present is argued to provide a counterexample to this description, as it concerns a case where objects are moved from one category to another in order to change the properties of these objects. The second description concerns necessary ‘structural properties’. Although I grant that mathematical statements could be considered as necessarily true in this sense, I question whether this justifies the claim that mathematics as a whole is necessary.

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