Episode 25

#25 - Mathematical Explanation with Mark Colyvan


May 24th, 2021

2 hrs 7 mins 37 secs

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About this Episode

We often talk of explanation in the context of empirical sciences, but what about explanation in logic and mathematics? Is there such a thing? If so, what does it look like and what are the consequences? In this episode we sit down with professor of philosophy Mark Colyvan and explore

  • How mathematical explanation differs from explanation in the natural sciences
  • Counterfactual reasoning in mathematics
  • Intra versus extra mathematical explanation
  • Alternate logics
  • Mathematical thought experiments
  • The use of probability in the courtroom


Mark Colyvan is a professor of philosophy at the University of Sydney, and a visiting professor (and, previously, Humboldt fellow) at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. He has a wide array of research interests, including the philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of logic, decision theory, environmental philosophy, and ecology. He has authored three books: The Indispensability of Mathematics (Oxford University Press, 2001), Ecological Orbits: How Planets Move and Populations Grow (Oxford University Press, 2004, co-authored with Lev Ginzburg), and An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mathematics (Cambridge University Press, 2012).