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The epistemology of abstractionism

Oldemeier, Alexander Christoph Reinhard (2012) The epistemology of abstractionism. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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I examine the nature and the structure of basic logico-mathematical knowledge. What justifies the truth of the Dedekind-Peano axioms and the validity of Modus Ponens? And is the justification we possess reflectively available? To make progress with these questions, I ultimately embed Hale's and Wright's neo-Fregeanism in a general internalistic epistemological framework. In Part I, I provide an introduction to the problems in the philosophy of mathematics to motivate the investigations to follow. I present desiderata for a fully satisfactory epistemology of mathematics and discuss relevant positions. All these positions turn out to be unsatisfactory, which motivates the abstractionist approach. I argue that abstractionism is in need of further explication when it comes to its central epistemological workings. I fill this gap by embedding neo-Fregeanism in an internalistic epistemological framework. In Part 11, I motivate, outline, and discuss the consequences of the frame- work. I argue: (1) we need an internalistic notion of warrant in our epistemology and every good epistemology accounts for the possession of such warrant; (2) to avoid scepticism, we need to invoke a notion of non-evidential warrant (entitlement); (3) because entitlements cannot be upgraded, endorsing entitlements for mathematical axioms and validity claims would entail that such propositions cannot be claimed to be known. Because of (3), the framework appears to yield sceptical consequences. In Part 111, I discuss (i) whether we can accept these consequences and (ii) whether we have to accept these consequences. As to (i), I argue that there is a tenable solely entitlement- based philosophy of mathematics and logic. However, I also argue that we can over- come limitations by vindicating the neo-Fregean proposal that implicit definitions can underwrite basic logico-mathematical knowledge. One key manoeuvre here is to acknowledge that the semantic success of creative implicit definitions rests on substantial presuppositions - but to argue that relevant presuppositions are entitlements.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science
Other academic unit: Department of Philosophy
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.581861
Depositing User: Ethos Import
Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2016 15:41
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2016 15:41
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/11312

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