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An Epistemology for the Platonist? Platonism, Field's Dilemma, and Judgment-Dependent Truth

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According to Hartry Field, the mathematical Platonist is hostage of a dilemma. Faced with the request of explaining the mathematicians' reliability, one option could be to maintain that the mathematicians are reliably responsive to a realm populated with mathematical entities; alternatively, one might try to contend that the mathematical realm conceptually depends on, and for this reason is reliably reflected by, the mathematicians' (best) opinions; however, both alternatives are actually unavailable to the Platonist: the first one because it is in tension with the idea that mathematical entities are causally ineffective, the second one because it is in tension with the suggestion that mathematical entities are mind-independent. John Divers and Alexander Miller have tried to reject the conclusion of this argument—according to which Platonism is inconsistent with a satisfactory epistemology for arithmetic—by re-describing the second horn of the dilemma in light of Crispin Wright's notion of judgment-dependent truth; in particular they have contended that once arithmetical truth is conceived in this way the Platonist can have a substantial epistemology which does not conflict with the idea that the mathematical entities exist mind-independently. In this paper I analyze Wright's notion of judgment-dependent truth, and reject Divers and Miller's argument for the conclusion that arithmetical truth can be so characterized. In the final part, I address the worry that my argument generalizes very quickly to the conclusion that no area of discourse could be characterized as judgment-dependent. As against this conclusion, I indicate under what conditions—notably not satisfied in Divers and Miller's case, but possibly satisfied in others—a discourse's judgment-dependency can be successfully vindicated.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2011

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