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April 1:  David DeVidi   (University of Waterloo)

“Mathematical Pluralism, Disagreement and Translation”

Joint Colloquium with Mathematics and Statistics, HH 305

Abstract: It’s fairly easy to find philosophers and mathematicians (especially mathematicians) who are “of course” pluralists, i.e., who will say “Of course mathematical pluralism is true”. But mathematical pluralism is, in fact, a weird idea—while the twentieth century forced us to come to terms with the idea that there might be no correct answers to some mathematical questions, it is harder to swallow the idea that there might be more than one. So pluralists have some explaining to do. When pressed, “of course” pluralists often turn out to have in mind notions of pluralism that are either trivial or uninteresting, for instance because they imply that we’ve all really been mathematical pluralists all along. In this paper I argue that there are interesting and non-trivial versions of this weird idea that are worth discussing. In particular, an interesting mathematical pluralism owes us an account of how there can be correct mathematical accounts of a single subject matter that disagree in some significant way. Both the notions of subject matter and of disagreement are problematic. I shall argue that the current best bet for a coherent, interesting notion of pluralism that sorts out these problems should be built on consideration recently advanced by certain Italian constructivist mathematicians and discuss what work would need to be done to get from those suggestions to a really satisfactory account of mathematical pluralism.


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Date(s) - April 1, 2016
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

McMaster University, Hamilton Hall 305


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