On ‘The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics’ and the Indispensability Response

There are, on the other hand, aspects of the world concerning which we do not believe in the existence of any accurate regularities. We call these initial conditions.


This essay seeks to contribute to the literature by revisiting the long-standing debate concerning the ‘unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics’, as first presented by Eugene Wigner. It draws upon the indispensability argument as a possibly reliable and well suited response, while noting that there are many dimensions to Wigner’s open-ended puzzle, and that not all of these lend themselves to a clear appraisal by the analytic-minded philosophy of the indispensability argument. The unconventional thesis put forward is that the indispensability argument falls short of expectations given its difficulty in accounting for the initial conditions. The paper begins by outlining Wigner’s ‘unreasonable effectiveness’ problem and the indispensability argument(s). The responses of the latter are then examined, before a model of the issues is introduced, and its attendant implications are conveyed.

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