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Humboldt Professorship awarded to Hannes Leitgeb

Munich, 05/12/2011

Eight Alexander von Humboldt Professorships will be formally conferred on their recipients at a ceremony to be held in Berlin today. One of those honored is LMU’s Hannes Leitgeb. Leitgeb, a mathematician and philosopher has been working at the University‘s Faculty of Philosophy, Philosophy of Science and the Study of Religion since last autumn.  “With Professor Leitgeb we have been able to enlist a much sought-after scholar and provide him with a very attractive research environment,” says LMU President Professor Bernd Huber. “His appointment will further enhance LMU‘s traditional strengths in Philosophy, and enables us to establish the first university-based Center for Mathematical Philosophy in Europe.” This will allow Munich to play a leading role in the future development of this booming area of research. Leitgeb joins systems biologist Ulrike Gaul and astrophysicist Georgi Dvali to become the third Humboldt Professor at LMU.

Hannes Leitgeb is regarded as one of the leading scholars in his field, which is positioned at the interface between Logic, Mathematics and Cognitive Sciences. He is a member of a growing group of specialists who bring the formal rigor of mathematical logic to bear on philosophical analysis.  Their goal is to translate philosophical questions into precisely defined mathematical problems. This approach should make it possible not only to solve philosophical conundrums but also to give a lucid account of their significance. Leitgeb’s work on neural nets has had an especially significant impact. Neural nets are, albeit idealized and much simplified, abstract models of computational systems in the brain. Leitgeb has been able to show that the dynamics of these nets can be described in the language of formal logic. This breakthrough forges an interdisciplinary link with the Cognitive Sciences. The next step will be to study how neural nets might be used to codify learning processes in terms of known rules governing logical systems.

In Munich Leitgeb has already begun the task of building up the new Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy – Language and Cognition. The Center is designed to give doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers in Philosophy and other disciplines the opportunity to collaborate in probing philosophical questions using the methods of mathematical logic. The aim of the Center is not only to foster close cooperation between the various branches of Philosophy, but also to encourage interactions with experts in Computer Sciences and Neurosciences, in particular those based at the Munich Center for Neuroscience – Brain and Mind. At these two facilities, LMU is putting together a group of internationally recognized figures, who will focus on the study of thought processes from both theoretical and empirical perspectives.


Hannes Leitgeb

Hannes Leitgeb was born in 1972, and studied at the University of Salzburg, where he obtained doctorates in Mathematics and Philosophy. He subsequently served as an Assistant Professor in Salzburg before spending a year as a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University (USA). He then moved to the University of Bristol (UK) and became Professor of Mathematical Logic and Philosophy of Mathematics there in 2007. In the same year he won a Philip Leverhulme Prize, one of the most prestigious honors available to young researchers in the UK. In 2010 Leitgeb was awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship, and has held the Chair of Logic and Philosophy of Language at LMU since last autumn.


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