Introduction to Special Issue: Foundations of Mathematical Structuralism

Philosophia Mathematica 28 (3):291-295 (2020)
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Structuralism, the view that mathematics is the science of structures, can be characterized as a philosophical response to a general structural turn in modern mathematics. Structuralists aim to understand the ontological, epistemological, and semantical implications of this structural approach in mathematics. Theories of structuralism began to develop following the publication of Paul Benacerraf’s paper ‘What numbers could not be’ in 1965. These theories include non-eliminative approaches, formulated in a background ontology of sui generis structures, such as Stewart Shapiro’s ante rem structuralism and Michael Resnik’s pattern structuralism. In contrast, there are also eliminativist accounts of structuralism, such as Geoffrey Hellman’s modal structuralism, which avoids sui generis structures. These research projects have guided a more systematic focus on philosophical topics related to mathematical structuralism, including the identity criteria for objects in structures, dependence relations between objects and structures, and also, more recently, structural abstraction principles. Parallel to these developments are approaches that describe mathematical structure in category-theoretic terms. Category-theoretic approaches have been further developed using tools from homotopy type theory. Here we find a strong relationship between mathematical structuralism and the univalent foundations project, an approach to the foundations of mathematics based on higher category theory.



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Georg Schiemer
University of Vienna
John Wigglesworth
University of York

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