## My Expertise

Philosophy of mathematics; Catholic history & philosophy; Australian philosophy; foundations of ethics; ethics in mathematics; careers in mathematics.

## Fields of Research (FoR)

History and Philosophy of Specific Fields, Statistics, Pure Mathematics## SEO tags

## Biography

## ABOUT ME

### Biography

My research covers the philosophy of mathematics, extreme risk theory, ethics and the history of ideas. In all cases it combines the insights of mathematics (with its proofs, certainty and objectivity) with the culture of humanistic scholarship (with its understanding of how humans approach knowledge).

### Education

- BA (Hons) in pure mathematics, Sydney University, 1974
- MA (Hons), Sydney University, 1976
- PhD in Mathematics,...view more

## ABOUT ME

### Biography

My research covers the philosophy of mathematics, extreme risk theory, ethics and the history of ideas. In all cases it combines the insights of mathematics (with its proofs, certainty and objectivity) with the culture of humanistic scholarship (with its understanding of how humans approach knowledge).

### Education

- BA (Hons) in pure mathematics, Sydney University, 1974
- MA (Hons), Sydney University, 1976
- PhD in Mathematics, Warwick University, 1982

## RESEARCH

### Research Goals

- To complete a realist philosophy of mathematics, with a concentration on applied mathematics
- To develop a philosophy of probability and statistics based on objective Bayesianism
- To understand the foundations of ethics from the perspective of a natural and inherent “worth of persons”
- To explain the interaction of data and expert opinion in the evaluation of extreme risks
- To understand the main lines of Australian Catholic history.

### Research in Detail

In the philosophy of mathematics, my 2014 book, *An Aristotelian Realist Philosophy of Mathematics,* developed a realist alternative to Platonism and nominalism, arguing that mathematics is the science of certain aspects of the real world, especially the quantitative and structural ones.

My 2022 book *The Worth of Persons: The Foundation of Ethics* explains how ethics in the sense of what to do follows from something more basic, the worth of persons arising from their rationality, consciousness and emotional structure.

My research on extreme risks looks at the problems of combining very small amounts of data with expert opinion to reach reasonable estimates of the chance of very rare events with large negative consequences.

My work in the history of ideas includes two books, *The Science of Conjecture: Evidence and Probability Before Pascal* (2001/2015) and *Corrupting the Youth: A History of Philosophy in Australia.* My 2023 book, *Catholic Thought and Catholic Action: Scenes from Australian Catholic Life* showed how ideas translated into practice.

### Research Grants

- J. Franklin and C. Legg, ARC Discovery Grant 2006 - 2008, Recovering the virtue of self-control or temperance to strengthen the Australian social fabric
- J. Franklin and D.M. Armstrong, ARC Discovery Grant 2007 - 2009, Mathematics, the science of real structure: an Australian realist philosophy of mathematics

### Current Student Projects (Masters and Honours)

The role of logic in an Aristotelian realist philosophy of mathematics

Objective Bayesianism as a foundation of the theory of probability and evidence

### Advice for prospective students

Young would-be researchers should aim at technical perfection in some subfield as a springboard for wide-ranging inquiry into the important questions.

## TEACHING & OUTREACH

### Courses I teach

Now retired

### Professional affiliations and service positions

I am the founder of the Sydney School in the Philosophy of Mathematics

I am the editor of the *Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society*

Since 2012 I have been a member of the Council of St John’s College, Sydney University

I set up the Australian Database of Indigenous Violence

## AWARDS & ACHIEVEMENTS

Eureka Prize for Research in Ethics, 2005

## My Awards

Eureka Prize for Research in Ethics, 2005

Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales, 2019

## My Engagement

I am the editor of the Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society.

## Location

University of New South Wales

Kensington NSW 2052