A Match Made on Earth: On the Applicability of Mathematics in Physics

  • Arezoo IslamiEmail author
  • Harald A. Wiltsche
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 429)


Anyone interested in understanding the nature of modern physics will at some point encounter a problem that was popularized in the 1960s by the physicist Eugene Wigner: Why is it that mathematics is so effective and useful for describing, explaining and predicting the kinds of phenomena we are concerned with in the sciences? In this chapter, we will propose a phenomenological solution for this “problem” of the seemingly unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the physical sciences. In our view, the “problem” can only be solved—or made to evaporate—if we shift our attention away from the why-question—Why can mathematics play the role it does in physics?—, and focus on the how-question instead. Our question, then, is this: How is mathematics actually used in the practice of modern physics?


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySan Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Culture and Society (IKOS)Linköping UniversityLinköpingSweden

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