Lifetime achievement award for work examining the intersection of philosophy and mathematics
9 February 2017
Professor Colyvan receives the international award in recognition of his outstanding achievements in the fields of philosophy of mathematics and logic.
“One of my current research projects explores why it is that various mathematical models — loaded, as they are, with idealisations and false assumptions — can work at all,” he said.
“These models clearly do work but if we had a clearer understanding of what makes them (philosophically) tick, we'd be in a better position to know how far to trust them.”
In other work, Professor Colyvan considers mathematical methods in individual and group decision-making.
“For example, we have a pretty good theory of how individuals should make decisions (roughly, standard cost-benefit analysis) but how do we generalise this to group decisions, such as juries, job-search committees, and deciding who should govern us?
“There are several competing, partial accounts of how group decisions should be made (think, for example, of all the different voting methods there are) but, as yet, there is no general agreement.”
Housed in the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Department of Philosophy at the University of Sydney boasts one of the world’s leading concentrations of philosophical expertise.
“Philosophy students at the University of Sydney are treated to lectures by some of the best teachers and researchers in the world — some of whom have written the standard textbooks on various core areas of philosophy,” Professor Colyvan noted.
“They witness philosophy in action via research-led teaching and often with applications to science, economics, computing, the environment, and other areas.”
Professor Colyvan’s approach to philosophy has a distinctively interdisciplinary focus.
“Many see philosophy as an abstract, esoteric enterprise devoid of real-world applications; it can be but it needn't be,” he said.
“I am as much interested in the applications of philosophy as I am in the theoretical work for its own sake.”
The Carl Friedrich Von Siemens Research Award supports collaborative research at the Ludwig-Maximilians University (LMU) in Munich as well as other German institutions.
Professor Colyvan will collaborate with members of the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy and investigate various issues at the intersection of mathematics and philosophy.