Volume 11, Issue 2, 2014
A Journal of Analytic Scholasticism
Toward a Neoaristotelian Inherence Philosophy of Mathematical Entities
The fundamental idea of a Neoaristotelian inherence ontology of mathematical entities parallels that of an Aristotelian approach to the ontology of universals. It is proposed that mathematical objects are nominalizations especially of dimensional and related structural properties that inhere as formal species and hence as secondary substances of Aristotelian primary substances in the actual world of existent physical spatiotemporal entities. The approach makes it straightforward to understand the distinction between pure and applied mathematics, and the otherwise enigmatic success of applied mathematics in the natural sciences. It also raises an interesting set of challenges for conventional mathematics, and in particular for the ontic status of infinity, infinite sets and series, infinitesimals, and transfinite cardinalities. The final arbiter of all such questions on an Aristotelian inherentist account of the nature of mathematical entities are the requirements of practicing scientists for infinitary versus strictly finite mathematics in describing, explaining, predicting and retrodicting physical spatiotemporal phenomena. Following Quine, we classify all mathematics that falls outside of this sphere of applied scientific need as belonging to pure, and, with no prejudice or downplaying of its importance, ‘recreational’, mathematics. We consider a number of important problems in the philosophy of mathematics, and indicate how a Neoaristotelian inherence metaphysics of mathematical entities provides a plausible answer to Benacerraf’s metaphilosophical dilemma, pitting the semantics of mathematical truth conditions against the epistemic possibilities for justifying an abstract realist ontology of mathematical entities and truth conditions.