Mathematical Constructivism in Spacetime

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Abstract

To what extent can constructive mathematics based on intuitionistic logic recover the mathematics needed for spacetime physics? Certain aspects of this important question are examined, both technical and philosophical. On the technical side, order, connectivity, and extremization properties of the continuum are reviewed, and attention is called to certain striking results concerning causal structure in General Relativity Theory, in particular the singularity theorems of Hawking and Penrose. As they stand, these results appear to elude constructivization. On the philosophical side, it is argued that any mentalist-based radical constructivism suffers from a kind of neo-Kantian apriorism. It would be at best a lucky accident if objective spacetime structure mirrored mentalist mathematics. The latter would seem implicitly committed to a Leibnizian relationist view of spacetime, but it is doubtful if implementation of such a view would overcome the objection. As a result, an anti-realist view of physics seems forced on the radical constructivist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-450
Number of pages26
JournalBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Volume49
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1998

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