Science & Education 23 (5):997-1009 (2014)

Authors
Axel Gelfert
Technische Universität Berlin
Abstract
In his influential 1960 paper ‘The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences’, Eugene P. Wigner raises the question of why something that was developed without concern for empirical facts—mathematics—should turn out to be so powerful in explaining facts about the natural world. Recent philosophy of science has developed ‘Wigner’s puzzle’ in two different directions: First, in relation to the supposed indispensability of mathematical facts to particular scientific explanations and, secondly, in connection with the idea that aesthetic criteria track theoretical desiderata such as empirical success. An important aspect of Wigner’s article has, however, been overlooked in these debates: his worries about the underdetermination of physical theories by mathematical frameworks. The present paper argues that, by restoring this aspect of Wigner’s argument to its proper place, Wigner’s puzzle may become an instructive case study for the teaching of core issues in the philosophy of science and its history.
Keywords philosophy of mathematics  Wigner's puzzle  underdetermination
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DOI 10.1007/s11191-013-9606-5
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References found in this work BETA

What is Structural Realism?James Ladyman - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 29 (3):409-424.
The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences.Eugene Wigner - 1960 - Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics 13:1-14.

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Citations of this work BETA

Theory-Containment in Controversies: Neurath and Müller on Newton, Goethe, and Underdetermination.Gábor Zemplén - 2018 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 49 (4):533-549.

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