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Are Mathematics and Morality Similar?

We are delighted that Ilea in Year 13 has received a commendation award from Oriel College, Oxford for their Lloyd Davies Philosophy Essay Prize competition in Philosophy. Ilea's essay on "Are mathematics and morality similar?" arguing that they are fundamentally distinct sciences with distinct remits within ontological enquiry.  

Here are some of the highlights, from her paper.

"Similar to the natural sciences, our role as human beings during mathematical inquiry is to act as disengaged thinkers, to let our reason predominate and not involve ourselves, as persons which come from rich cultural backgrounds with natural languages. Frege is the mathematician par excellence in this case, substituting natural language for a formal language and producing a formal system, so that informalities of natural language and our intuition are relied upon less, and that we justify our belief in the axioms and theorems from purely analytical concepts. To be a good mathematician, one must become a Disengaged thinker....

Here lies the fundamental premise of my argument: whilst mathematics requires the human subject to disassociate itself from its studies, so that the light of reason may shine, moral enquiry requires us to act within a given tradition, and that our moral intuitions will be articulated within a moral ontology that itself contains its own anthropology of what it means to be human. And it is not that this is how I think moral enquiry should be, but rather that it cannot, necessarily, be otherwise....

What is crucial to understand is that we cannot do away with our moral ontologies. To do is to assert that our moral intuitions are nothing more than brute facts, or that they can at least be given the same kind of explanations as our other intuitions. Moral ontology can never completely dissociate itself from human identity and language, and thus morality necessarily becomes an “engaged” activity, as opposed to mathematics, which is a disengaged activity."

Well done Ilea!