Putnam's indispensability argument revisited, reassessed, revived

Otávio Bueno


Crucial to Hilary Putnam's realism in the philosophy of mathematics is to maintain the objectivity of mathematics without the commitment to the existence of mathematical objects. Putnam's indispensability argument was devised as part of this conception. In this paper, I reconstruct and reassess Putnam's argument for the indispensability of mathematics, and distinguish it from the more familiar, Quinean version of the argument. Although I argue that Putnam's approach ultimately fails, I develop an alternative way of implementing his form of realism about mathematics that, by using different resources than those Putnam invokes, avoids the difficulties faced by his view.


Indispensability, Ontological Commitment, Objectivity, Platonism, Modalism, Putnam

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1387/theoria.18473