A new role for mathematics in empirical sciences

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Abstract

Mathematics is often taken to play one of two roles in the empirical sciences: either it represents empirical phenomena or it explains these phenomena by imposing constraints on them. This article identifies a third and distinct role that has not been fully appreciated in the literature on applicability of mathematics and may be pervasive in scientific practice. I call this the “bridging” role of mathematics, according to which mathematics acts as a connecting scheme in our explanatory reasoning about why and how two different descriptions of an empirical phenomenon relate to each other. I discuss two bridging roles appearing in biological and physical explanations. © 2021 by the Philosophy of Science Association. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-706
Number of pages21
JournalPhilosophy of Science
Volume88
Issue number4
Early online date1 Jan 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

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