On the necessary existence of numbers

Noûs 31 (3):307-336 (1997)
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We examine the arguments on both sides of the recent debate (Hale and Wright v. Field) on the existence, and modal status, of the natural numbers. We formulate precisely, with proper attention to denotational commitments, the analytic conditionals that link talk of numbers with talk of numerosity and with counting. These provide conceptual controls on the concept of number. We argue, against Field, that there is a serious disanalogy between the existence of God and the existence of numbers. We give stronger reasons than those advanced by Wright for resisting Field's analogy. We argue that the rules governing the basic numerical notions commit us to the natural numbers as necessary existents. We also show that the latest twist in the debate involving 'surdons' leaves both sides in a stalemate



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Neil Tennant
Ohio State University

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