PhilSci Archive

On the Mathematical Constitution and Explanation of Physical Facts

Berkovitz, Joseph (2019) On the Mathematical Constitution and Explanation of Physical Facts. [Preprint]

[img]
Preview
Text
On the Mathematical Constitution and Explanation - PhilSc.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (701kB) | Preview

Abstract

The mathematical nature of modern physics suggests that mathematics is bound to play some role in explaining physical reality. Yet, there is an ongoing controversy about the prospects of mathematical explanations of physical facts and their nature. A common view has it that mathematics provides a rich and indispensable language for representing physical reality but that, ontologically, physical facts are not mathematical and, accordingly, mathematical facts cannot really explain physical facts. In what follows, I challenge this common view. I argue that, in addition to its representational role, in modern physics mathematics is constitutive of the physical. Granted the mathematical constitution of the physical, I propose an account of explanation in which mathematical frameworks, structures, and facts explain physical facts. In this account, mathematical explanations of physical facts are either species of physical explanations of physical facts in which the mathematical constitution of some physical facts in the explanans are highlighted, or simply explanations in which the mathematical constitution of physical facts are highlighted. In highlighting the mathematical constitution of physical facts, mathematical explanations of physical facts deepen and increase the scope of the understanding of the explained physical facts. I argue that, unlike other accounts of mathematical explanations of physical facts, the proposed account is not subject to the objection that mathematics only represents the physical facts that actually do the explanation. I conclude by briefly considering the implications that the mathematical constitution of the physical has for the question of the unreasonable effectiveness of the use of mathematics in physics.


Export/Citation: EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
Social Networking:
Share |

Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Berkovitz, Joseph
Keywords: mathematical explanation, mathematical constitution, relation between Mathematics and physics, effectiveness of mathematics in natural science
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Applicability
Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Explanation
General Issues > Explanation
Specific Sciences > Mathematics
Specific Sciences > Physics
Depositing User: Dr Joseph Berkovitz
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2019 08:06
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2019 08:06
Item ID: 16399
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Applicability
Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Explanation
General Issues > Explanation
Specific Sciences > Mathematics
Specific Sciences > Physics
Date: 2 September 2019
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/16399

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item