Science Without Numbers caused a stir in philosophy on its original publication in 1980, with its bold nominalist approach to the ontology of mathematics and science. Hartry Field argues that we can explain the utility of mathematics without assuming it true. Part of the argument is that good mathematics has a special feature ("conservativeness") that allows it to be applied to "nominalistic" claims (roughly, those neutral to the existence of mathematical entities) in a way that generates nominalistic consequences more easily without generating any new ones. Field goes on to argue that we can axiomatize physical theories using nominalistic claims only, and that in fact this has advantages over the usual axiomatizations that are independent of nominalism. There has been much debate about the book since it first appeared. It is now reissued in a revised contains a substantial new preface giving the author's current views on the original book and the issues that were raised in the subsequent discussion of it.
Hartry Field is the University Professor and Silver Professor of Philosophy at New York University, having previously taught at Princeton, University of Southern California, and the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author of Science Without Numbers (original edition 1980, Blackwell and Princeton), Realism, Mathematics and Modality (1989; revised edition 1991, Blackwell), Truth and the Absence of Fact (Oxford University Press) and Saving Truth from Paradox (Oxford University Press).