Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Abstract Possibility

Filed under: General — m759 @ 1:01 PM

Today's NY Times  "Stone Links" to philosophy include
a link to a review of a collection of Hilary Putnam's papers.

Related material, from Putnam's "What is Mathematical
" (Historia Mathematica  2 (1975): 529-543)—

"In this paper I argue that mathematics should be interpreted realistically – that is, that mathematics makes assertions that are objectively true or false, independently of the human mind, and that something answers to such mathematical notions as ‘set’ and ‘function’. This is not to say that reality is somehow bifurcated – that there is one reality of material things, and then, over and above it, a second reality of ‘mathematical things’. A set of objects, for example, depends for its existence on those objects: if they are destroyed, then there is no longer such a set. (Of course, we may say that the set exists ‘tenselessly’, but we may also say the objects exist ‘tenselessly’: this is just to say that in pure mathematics we can sometimes ignore the important difference between ‘exists now’ and ‘did exist, exists now, or will exist’.) Not only are the ‘objects’ of pure mathematics conditional upon material objects; they are, in a sense, merely abstract possibilities. Studying how mathematical objects behave might better be described as studying what structures are abstractly possible and what structures are not abstractly possible."

See also Wittgenstein's Diamond and Plato's Diamond.

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