Volume 33, Issue 2, May 2018
Indispensability, causation and explanation
When considering mathematical realism, some scientific realists reject it, and express sympathy for the opposite view, mathematical nominalism; moreover, many justify this option by invoking the causal inertness of mathematical objects. The main aim of this note is to show that the scientific realists’ endorsement of this causal mathematical nominalism is in tension with another position some (many?) of them also accept, the doctrine of methodological naturalism. By highlighting this conflict, I intend to tip the balance in favor of a rival of mathematical nominalism, the mathematical realist position supported by the ‘Indispensability Argument’ —but I do this indirectly, by showing that the road toward it is not blocked by considerations from causation.