Journal Article

Can Mathematics Explain Physical Phenomena?

Otávio Bueno and Steven French

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 63, issue 1, pages 85-113
Published in print March 2012 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online August 2011 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Can Mathematics Explain Physical Phenomena?

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Batterman ([2010]) raises a number of concerns for the inferential conception of the applicability of mathematics advocated by Bueno and Colyvan ([2011]). Here, we distinguish the various concerns, and indicate how they can be assuaged by paying attention to the nature of the mappings involved and emphasizing the significance of interpretation in this context. We also indicate how this conception can accommodate the examples that Batterman draws upon in his critique. Our conclusion is that ‘asymptotic reasoning’ can be straightforwardly accommodated within the inferential conception.


2Immersion, Inference and Partial Structures

3Idealization and Surplus Structure

4Renormalization and the Stability of Mathematical Representations

5Explanation and Eliminability

6Requirements for Explanation

7Interpretation and Idealization

8Explanation, Empirical Regularities and the Inferential Conception


Journal Article.  11962 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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