Steps to a Minimalist Account 0f Numbers


This paper outlines an account of numbers based on the numerical equivalence schema (NES), which consists of all sentences of the form ‘#x.Fx=n if and only if $xists^{n}x Fx$’, where # is the number-of operator and ∃n is defined in standard Russellian fashion. In the first part of the paper, I point out some analogies between the NES and the T-schema for truth. In light of these analogies, I formulate a minimalist account of numbers, based on the NES, which strongly parallels the minimalist (deflationary) account of truth. One may be tempted to develop the minimalist account in a fictionalist direction, according to which arithmetic is useful but untrue, if taken at face value. In the second part, I argue that this suggestion is not as attractive as it may first appear. The NES suffers from a similar problem to the T-schema: it is deductively weak and does not enable the derivation of any non-trivial generalizations. In the third part of the paper, I explore some strategies to deal with the generalization problem, again drawing inspiration from the literature on truth. In closing this paper, I briefly compare the minimalist to some other accounts of numbers.