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Book Chapter

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Explanation In Ethics And Mathematics: Debunking And Dispensability


This chapter examines how the general framework for indispensability arguments developed by Enoch in the metaethical context plays out in its ancestral home, the philosophy of mathematics. Enoch’s framework is inspired by the Quine–Putnam type of indispensability argument in mathematics and is liable to inherit the latter’s holism. But once this holism is expunged from Enoch’s framework it turns out that Enoch’s indispensability argument is stronger in the moral than in the mathematical case, since it is more plausible that normative entities are indispensible to all projects of practical deliberation than it is that mathematical entities are indispensible to all projects of scientific theorizing. The upshot is that, given Enoch’s framework, the move away from holism undermines indispensability arguments in mathematics but not in ethics


deliberation, Enoch, indispensability, holism, mathematical objects, normative properties

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Oxford University Press


U. D. Leibowitz and N. Sinclair


This material was originally published in Explanation in Ethics and Mathematics: Debunking and Dispensability edited by Uri D. Leibowitz and Neil Sinclair, and has been reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. For permission to reuse this material, please visit

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