Can we have mathematical understanding of physical phenomena?

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Theoria (Spain), ISSN: 2171-679X, Vol: 33, Issue: 1, Page: 91-109

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Tȃrziu, Gabriel
UPV/EHU Press; Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea / Universidad del País Vasco
Arts and Humanities
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Can mathematics contribute to our understanding of physical phenomena? One way to try to answer this question is by getting involved in the recent philosophical dispute about the existence of mathematical explanations of physical phenomena. If there is such a thing, given the relation between explanation and understanding, we can say that there is an affirmative answer to our question. But what if we do not agree that mathematics can play an explanatory role in science? Can we still consider that the above question can have an affirmative answer? My main aim here is to give an account that takes mathematics, in some of the cases discussed in the literature, as contributing to our understanding of physical phenomena despite not being explanatory.