, Volume 187, Issue 2, pp 489-508
Date: 11 Nov 2010

Can the new indispensability argument be saved from Euclidean rescues?

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Abstract

The traditional formulation of the indispensability argument for the existence of mathematical entities (IA) has been criticised due to its reliance on confirmational holism. Recently a formulation of IA that works without appeal to confirmational holism has been defended. This recent formulation is meant to be superior to the traditional formulation in virtue of it not being subject to the kind of criticism that pertains to confirmational holism. I shall argue that a proponent of the version of IA that works without appeal to confirmational holism will struggle to answer a challenge readily answered by proponents of a version of IA that does appeal to confirmational holism. This challenge is to explain why mathematics applied in falsified scientific theories is not considered to be falsified along with the rest of the theory. In cases where mathematics seemingly ought to be falsified it is saved from falsification, by a so called ‘Euclidean rescue’. I consider a range of possible answers to this challenge and conclude that each answer fails.