2011 Hagey Lecture: How Did Mathematics Become Possible?Export this event to calendar

Monday, October 3, 2011 — 8:00 PM EDT

How come human beings can do mathematics? The question involves, among so many other things, capacities that have, presumably, arisen through natural selection, and discoveries of how to use those capacities, discoveries made at particular times and places in human history. We should see both as part of a broader series of questions about how this organism, on a planet like Earth, was able to become a mathematical animal, probably the only one in the universe.

At present we have only fragments of an understanding, drawn from recent cognitive science, the history of early mathematics, social studies of science, and what has been called the archaeology of mind—of how fashioning artifacts has changed the human mind itself. It is a matter of hands, minds, brain, communities, and much else about ourselves. The lecture aims less at “building bridges” between these different kinds of inquiry, than at highlighting how much we are learning right now, and how little we know. 

About Professor Hacking

Ian Hacking is regarded as a leading scholar in the history and philosophy of science, although his work has touched fields as diverse as statistical inference and the emergence of multiple personality disorder. His contributions have earned many awards, including the Killam Prize for Humanities and an appointment to the Order of Canada.

Student Colloquia on Tuesday, October 4 

Numbers and race: “Don’t ask for the reference (bedeutung), ask for the use.”

» 1-2:30 p.m. » HH 334

The 20th century Pythagoras: why did P.A.M. Dirac conjecture that the universe is a single very large integer?

» 3:30-5 p.m. » MC 5158