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Virtues and Vice in Mathematics

Project description

Study explores ethical aspects of the practice and applications of mathematics

Mathematical work can sometimes seem abstract, but the way it is eventually used – or misused – has so far attracted little attention among philosophers and mathematicians. As mathematics is a collective epistemic endeavour, human prejudice, misunderstanding and bias can compromise its epistemic output. The EU-funded VaViM project plans to study the virtues and vices that manifest in injustices and develop an interventionist approach to support concrete recommendations (such as policy advice). VaViM will shed more light on how virtues (e.g. charity) and vices (e.g. egotism) manifest in mathematical knowledge-making. This should reveal common points between the ethics and epistemology of mathematical practices and will open up a discursive field for philosophers and mathematicians to engage with the ethics of mathematics.

Objective

Mathematics is a human activity, and as for all human activities ethical considerations arise. However, so far the ethics of mathematics has remained an under-explored topic both among philosophers and mathematicians. Because mathematics is a collective epistemic endeavour injustices in its social structure, such as biased refereeing practices, impact its epistemic output. These injustices have not yet received sustained critical reflection, even though they are both socially relevant, since they impact the careers and hence lives of mathematicians, and epistemologically relevant, because they shape publicly available mathematical knowledge. VaViM will study the virtues and vices that manifest in such injustices and develop an interventionist philosophy which supports concrete recommendations, such as policy advice.

VaViM expands the theoretical frameworks provided by the virtue-theoretic literature to a study of cases of injustices in mathematical practices. This empirically informed philosophy will provide detailed investigations of how virtues (e.g. charity) and vices (e.g. egotism) manifest in mathematical knowledge-making. This will reveal points of connection between the ethics and epistemology of mathematical practices and open up a discursive field for philosophers and mathematicians to engage with the ethics of mathematics.

As a European centre of excellence in socially relevant philosophy the VU Amsterdam is the perfect host for VaViM. The shared philosophical interest in the sciences ensures the two-way transfer of knowledge between VaViM and its host and provides ample opportunity for collaboration. The VU’s expertise with public philosophy and its research networks provide excellent means for dissemination for VaViM’s findings on the societal challenges mathematicians are facing in Europe in a changing world. Through VaViM I will enrich the European Research Area as a pioneer of a socially and epistemologically relevant philosophy of mathematics.

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Coordinator

STICHTING VU
Net EU contribution
€ 175 572,48
Address
De boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam
Netherlands

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Region
West-Nederland Noord-Holland Groot-Amsterdam
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Other funding
€ 0,00