Journal Article

Speaking with Shadows: A Study of Neo‐Logicism

Fraser MacBride

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 54, issue 1, pages 103-163
Published in print March 2003 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online March 2003 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/54.1.103
Speaking with Shadows: A Study of Neo‐Logicism

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According to the species of neo‐logicism advanced by Hale and Wright, mathematical knowledge is essentially logical knowledge. Their view is found to be best understood as a set of related though independent theses: (1) neo‐fregeanism—a general conception of the relation between language and reality; (2) the method of abstraction—a particular method for introducing concepts into language; (3) the scope of logic—second‐order logic is logic. The criticisms of Boolos, Dummett, Field and Quine (amongst others) of these theses are explicated and assessed. The issues discussed include reductionism, rejectionism, the Julius Caesar problem, the Bad Company objections, and the charge that second‐order logic is set theory in disguise.

The irresistible metaphor is that pure abstract objects […] are no more than shadows cast by the syntax of our discourse. And the aptness of the metaphor is enhanced by the reflection that shadows are, after their own fashion, real. (Crispin Wright [1992], p. 181–2)

But I feel conscious that many a reader will scarcely recognise in the shadowy forms which I bring before him his numbers which all his life long have accompanied him as faithful and familiar friends; (Richard Dedekind [1963], p. 33)

1 Introduction

2 Logical‐historical preliminaries

3 The linguistic turn

4 Reductionism

5 Rejectionism

6 The ‘Julius Caesar’ problem

7 Second‐order logic

8 Bad company objections

9 Conclusion

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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