Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




John L. Bell


The aim of this dissertation is to outline and defend the view here dubbed “anti-foundational categorical structuralism” (henceforth AFCS). The program put forth is intended to provide an answer the question “what is mathematics?”. The answer here on offer adopts the structuralist view of mathematics, in that mathematics is taken to be “the science of structure” expressed in the language of category theory, which is argued to accurately capture the notion of a “structural property”. In characterizing mathematical theorems as both conditional and schematic in form, the program is forced to give up claims to securing the truth of its theorems, as well as give up a semantics which involves reference to special, distinguished “mathematical objects”, or which involves quantification over a fixed domain of such objects. One who wishes—contrary to the AFCS view—to inject mathematics with a “standard” semantics, and to provide a secure epistemic foundation for the theorems of mathematics, in short, one who wishes for a foundation for mathematics, will surely find this view lacking. However, I argue that a satisfactory development of the structuralist view, couched in the language of category theory, accurately represents our best understanding of the content of mathematical theorems and thereby obviates the need for any foundational program.