# Positing Mathematical Objects

# Positing Mathematical Objects

If, as I grant, mathematical objects are abstract entities existing outside of space and time, and if the idea of supernaturally grasping abstract entities is scientifically unacceptable, then we need to explain how we can attain mathematical knowledge using our ordinary faculties. I try to meet this challenge through a postulational account of the genesis of our mathematical knowledge, according to which our ancestors introduced mathematical objects by first positing geometric ideals and then postulating abstract mathematical entities. Since positing involves simply introducing a discourse about objects and affirming their existence, positing mathematical objects involves nothing more serious than writing fiction. For this reason, postulational approaches seem better suited for conventionalists; so in the second part of this chapter, I explain how positing in mathematics is different from positing in fiction, and how we can gain knowledge from the former. Finally, I try to make sense of the idea that mathematical postulates are about an independent mathematical reality and that we can refer to that reality through them, by giving an immanent and disquotational account of reference and contrasting it with a transcendent/causal account.

*Keywords:*
conventionalists, disquotation, fiction, genesis, immanent, mathematical knowledge, mathematical object, mathematical postulate, mathematical realism, positing, postulational, reference, transcendent

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .