The Epistemic Indispensability Argument

  • Cristian SotoEmail author


This article elaborates the epistemic indispensability argument, which fully embraces the epistemic contribution of mathematics to science, but rejects the contention that such a contribution is a reason for granting reality to mathematicalia. Section 1 introduces the distinction between ontological and epistemic readings of the indispensability argument. Section 2 outlines some of the main flaws of the first premise of the ontological reading. Section 3 advances the epistemic indispensability argument in view of both applied and pure mathematics. And Sect. 4 makes a case for the epistemic approach, which firstly calls into question the appeal to inference to the best explanation in the defense of the indispensability claim; secondly, distinguishes between mathematical and physical posits; and thirdly, argues that even though some may think that inference to the best explanation works in the postulation of physical posits, no similar considerations are available for postulating mathematicalia.


Indispensability argument Epistemic approach Mathematics Science Inference to the best explanation Ontology 



This article is a result of the governmental funded research Grant FONDECYT de Iniciación, No. 11160324, “The Physico-Mathematical Structure of Scientific Laws: On the Roles of Mathematics, Models, Measurements, and Metaphysics in the Construction of Laws in Physics,” CONICYT, Chile.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de FilosofíaUniversidad de ChileÑuñoaChile

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