Holism and indispensability

Jörgen Sjögren


One questioned premiss in the indispensability argument of Quine and Putnam is confirmational holism. In this paper I argue for a weakened form of holism, and thus a strengthened version of the indispensability argument. The argument is based on an idea of concept formation in mathematics. Mathematical concepts are arrived at via a sequence of explications, in Carnap’s sense, of non-clear, originally empirical, concepts. I identify a deductive and an empirical component in mathematical concepts. In a test situation the use of the empirical component, but not of the deductive one, is corroborated or falsified together with the scientific theory.

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