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Department of Mathematical Sciences

Seminar Archives

On this page you can find information about seminars in this and previous academic years, where available on the database.

Gandalf (Pure Maths Student Seminar): Thomism, Cats and the meaning of Science

Presented by Calum Robson, Durham

21 June 2016 16:00 in CM221

In this talk I will analyse what it means to have a mathematical theory of the real world, using the lens of Aristotelian/Thomist philosophy. I will begin by giving an overview of Thomist metaphysics with the help of cat pictures. I will then formulate a definition of a Mathematical theory of physics as a functor- like map, in one of two ways. First, as between a set of mathematical objects and the basic objects (or substances) in a conceptual model of the physical world. Second, as a map between certain numbers resulting from a mathematical model of a system, and certain observable properties (or accidents) of that system. This second map seems to be a kind of, 'probabilistic homomorphism' due to the error bars inherent in such a description. Finding the consistency of the first kind of map corresponds to a philosophical analysis of the physical theory in question, and I will argue that this motivates the conceptual analysis of a physical theory as a way of making progress in physics. Finally I will flesh out the abstract discussion of these issues by applying such an analysis to classical mechanics.

Contact j.w.lawson@durham.ac.uk or steven.charlton@durham.ac.uk for more information

Gandalf is the pure maths student seminar. Gandalf stands for the Geometry AND ALgebra Forum. It is run by and for pure postgraduates, but welcomes anyone who is interested in coming along.

Content from previous talks is available at the gandalf seminar home page.