An Aristotelian approach for contemporary mathematics
I will begin the talk with a brief sketch of Aristotle’s original philosophy of mathematics. This, I will argue, is based on two postulates. The first is the embodiment postulate, which states that mathematical objects do exist, though not in a separate Platonic world, but embodied in the material world. The second is that infinity is always potential and never actual. I will then consider the extent to which this Aristotelian approach holds for contemporary mathematics. I will assume that most contemporary mathematicians accept ZFC. This rules out Aristotle’s second postulate since ZFC’s axiom of infinity implies the existence of an actual infinity. However, I will claim that the embodiment postulate can still be defended for contemporary mathematics. At first sight this seems a curious claim since Cantor’s theory of transfinite alephs can be developed within ZFC, and surely transfinite alephs are not embodied in the material world. I will discuss this difficulty at length, and try to overcome it using ideas from Fictionalist and If ..then-ist philosophies of mathematics.
Date: 6 March 2017, 16:30 (Monday, 8th week, Hilary 2017)
Venue: Radcliffe Humanities, Woodstock Road OX2 6GG
Venue Details: Ryle Room, First Floor
Speaker: Donald Gillies (King’s College London)
Organising department: Faculty of Philosophy
Organisers: James Studd (University of Oxford), Daniel Isaacson (University of Oxford), Volker Halbach (University of Oxford)
Part of: Philosophy of Mathematics Seminar
Booking required?: Not required
Audience: Members of the University only
Editor: Andy Davies