Journal Article

Is Mathematical Rigor Necessary in Physics?

Kevin Davey

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 54, issue 3, pages 439-463
Published in print September 2003 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online September 2003 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/54.3.439
Is Mathematical Rigor Necessary in Physics?

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Many arguments found in the physics literature involve concepts that are not well‐defined by the usual standards of mathematics. I argue that physicists are entitled to employ such concepts without rigorously defining them so long as they restrict the sorts of mathematical arguments in which these concepts are involved. Restrictions of this sort allow the physicist to ignore calculations involving these concepts that might lead to contradictory results. I argue that such restrictions need not be ad hoc, but can sometimes be justified by considering some of the metaphysical issues surrounding the question of the applicability of mathematics to physical reality.

1 Introduction

2 Rejecting inferential permissiveness

3 The agreement problem

4 Independent objections to the liberal view

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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