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Mathematical Empiricism. A Methodological Proposal

Mathematical Empiricism. A Methodological Proposal

Workshop on Five Years MCMP: Quo Vadis, Mathematical Philosophy?
Tijd: 1:23:12
Hannes Leitgeb (LMU/MCMP) gives a talk at the Workshop on Five Years MCMP: Quo Vadis, Mathematical Philosophy? (2-4 June, 2016) titled "Mathematical Empiricism. A Methodological Proposal". Abstract: I will propose a way of doing (mathematical) philosophy which I am calling 'mathematical empiricism'. It is the proposal to rationally reconstruct language, thought, ends, decision-making, communication, social interaction, norms, ideals, and so on, in conceptual frameworks. The core of each such framework will be a space of "possibilities", however, these "possibilities" will consist of nothing else than mathematical structures labeled by empirical entities. Mathematical empiricism suggests to carry out (many) rational reconstructions in such mathematical-empirical conceptual frameworks. When the goal is to rationally reconstruct a part of empirical science itself (which is but one philosophical goal amongst many others), it will be reconstructed as "taking place" within such frameworks, whereas the frameworks themselves may be used to rationally reconstruct some of the presuppositions of that part of empirical science. While logic and parts of philosophy of science study such frameworks from an external point of view, with a focus on their formal properties, metaphysics will be embraced as studying such frameworks from within, with a focus on what the world looks like if viewed through a framework. When mathematical empiricists carry out their investigations in these and in other areas of philosophy, no entities will be postulated over and above those of mathematics and the empirical sciences, and no sources of epistemic justification will be invoked beyond those of mathematics, the empirical sciences, and personal and social experience (if consistent with the sciences). And yet mathematical empiricism, with its aim of rational reconstruction, will not be reducible to mathematics or empirical science. When a fragment of science is reconstructed in a framework, the epistemic authority of science will be acknowledged within the boundaries of the framework, while as philosophers we are free to choose the framework for reconstruction and to discuss our choices on the metalevel, all of which goes beyond the part of empirical science that is reconstructed in the framework. There is a great plurality of mathematical-empirical frameworks to choose from; even when ultimately each of them needs to answer to mathematical-empirical truth, this will underdetermine how successfully they will serve rational reconstruction. In particular, certain metaphysical questions will be taken to be settled only by our decisions for or against conceptual frameworks, and these decisions may be practically expedient for one purpose and less so for another. The overall hope will be to take what was good and right about the distinctively Carnapian version of logical empiricism, and to extend and transform it into a more tolerant, less constrained, and conceptually enriched logical-mathematical empiricism 2.0.
Aflevering-ID: 1000471822553
Releasedatum: 17-3-2018 16:16:36


Mathematical Philosophy - the application of logical and mathematical methods in philosophy - is about to experience a tremendous boom in various areas of philosophy. At the new Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, which is funded mostly by the German Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, philosophical research will be carried out mathematically, that is, by means of methods that are very close to those used by the scientists.
The purpose of doing philosophy in this way is not to reduce philosophy to mathematics or to natural science in any sense; rather mathematics is applied in order to derive philosophical conclusions from philosophical assumptions, just as in physics mathematical methods are used to derive physical predictions from physical laws.
Nor is the idea of mathematical philosophy to dismiss any of the ancient questions of philosophy as irrelevant or senseless: although modern mathematical philosophy owes a lot to the heritage of the Vienna and Berlin Circles of Logical Empiricism, unlike the Logical Empiricists most mathematical philosophers today are driven by the same traditional questions about truth, knowledge, rationality, the nature of objects, morality, and the like, which were driving the classical philosophers, and no area of traditional philosophy is taken to be intrinsically misguided or confused anymore. It is just that some of the traditional questions of philosophy can be made much clearer and much more precise in logical-mathematical terms, for some of these questions answers can be given by means of mathematical proofs or models, and on this basis new and more concrete philosophical questions emerge. This may then lead to philosophical progress, and ultimately that is the goal of the Center.

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