Overcoming Newman’s Objection

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Bertrand Russell (The analysis of matter. Routledge, London, 1927) defended a form of structuralism according to which all we can know about the world is structure. In response, Max Newman (Mind 37:137–148, 1928) raised a formidable challenge that threatens to turn structuralism into something trivial: as long as there are enough objects in the relevant domain, one can always obtain a structure suitable for that domain. In this paper, I consider two responses to this objection. The first is provided by Rudolf Carnap (The logical structure of the world. Trans. Rolf A. George. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1928/1967) in terms of founded relations. I argue that it ultimately fails. Another alternative insists that the structures that have content about the world are ultimately finite, and it is a non-trivial matter to figure out what the appropriate structure for finite domains ultimately is. Russell (The autobiography of Bertrand Russell, vol 2. Allen & Unwin, London, 1968, 176) briefly considered this option in his response to Newman, but did not develop it further. I argue that, when coupled with a proper account of detectable relations, it is a far more promising route than it may initially seem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEuropean Studies in Philosophy of Science
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 2017

Publication series

NameEuropean Studies in Philosophy of Science
ISSN (Print)2365-4228
ISSN (Electronic)2365-4236


  • Carnap
  • Newman’s objection
  • Russell
  • Structuralism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Philosophy


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