Philosophy of Science 84 (5):916-930 (2017)

Authors
Samantha Wakil
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Abstract
Pure mathematics can play an indispensable role explaining empirical phenomena if recent accounts of insect evolution are correct. In particular, the prime life cycles of cicadas and the geometric structure of honeycombs are taken to undergird an inference to the best explanation about mathematical entities. Neither example supports this inference or the mathematical realism it is intended to establish. Both incorrectly assume that facts about mathematical optimality drove selection for the respective traits and explain why they exist. We show how this problem can be avoided, identify limitations of explanatory indispensability arguments, and attempt to clarify the nature of mathematical explanation.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1086/694154
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,066
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Realism, Mathematics and Modality.Hartry Field - 1988 - Philosophical Topics 16 (1):57-107.
What Makes a Scientific Explanation Distinctively Mathematical?Marc Lange - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (3):485-511.
Mathematical Explanation in Science.Alan Baker - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (3):611-633.
The Explanatory Power of Phase Spaces.Aidan Lyon & Mark Colyvan - 2008 - Philosophia Mathematica 16 (2):227-243.

View all 15 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Bipedal Gait Costs: a new case study of mathematical explanation in science.Alan Baker - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (3):1-22.
Mathematical Explanation and Indispensability.Vineberg Susan - 2018 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 33 (2):233-247.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Mathematical Explanation in Science.Alan Baker - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (3):611-633.
Mathematical Explanations Of Empirical Facts, And Mathematical Realism.Aidan Lyon - 2012 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (3):559-578.
What Are Mathematical Coincidences ?M. Lange - 2010 - Mind 119 (474):307-340.
Against Mathematical Explanation.Mark Zelcer - 2013 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 44 (1):173-192.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2017-12-15

Total views
35 ( #322,845 of 2,498,778 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #422,193 of 2,498,778 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes