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Mathematical Philosophy

A Summer School specifically for women

München, 07/23/2014

LMU‘s Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP) is hosting a Summer School solely for female students. The organizers hope to thereby encourage more female students to take up mathematical philosophy, a field in which women are drastically underrepresented.

Foto: Kzenon /

“Women are poorly represented in philosophy in general, and in Mathematical Philosophy in particular,” says Stephan Hartmann, Professor of Philosophy of Science at LMU and Co-Director of the MCMP (together with Hannes Leitgeb, Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Language). “There are various reasons for this, many of which philosophers in academia can do little to change them.” One of the reasons is the fact that at an early age so many girls are given the impression that mathematics is not for them. “But we can encourage young women in our field to use mathematical methods to tackle philosophical issues,” Hartmann says. Transforming philosophical questions into mathematical problems (and then solving them) is the common approach employed by the more than 50 researchers who are currently working at the MCMP.

The Summer School, which begins on July 27 and runs until August 2, is addressed exclusively to female students of Philosophy, Logic, or Mathematics on an advanced Bachelor level, Master students and those who are in the first year of their doctoral research. During the one-week course, the participants will receive a systematic introduction to fundamental methods in mathematical logic, set theory, and the theory of probability that are taught in form of lectures that are supplemented by tutorials. In addition, three experts in the field offer instruction in three core areas that are central in mathematical philosophy – decision theory, epistemic logic, and modelling and simulations – that participants can chose to specialize in during the course of the week.

The broad range of topics that is offered serves to demonstrate “that it is possible, even with relatively simple methods, to explore knotty problems in philosophy”, says Hartmann. The organizers also hope that the Summer School will give students an opportunity to make useful contacts, and thus contribute to community building.

The signs are favorable, for the Summer School has attracted an enormous amount of interest, Hartmann reports. Approximately 100 applications have been received, many of them from highly qualified candidates; students from almost all continents will participate. However, for practical reasons, the organizers decided to limit the number of participants to 55, in order to ensure that the event doesn’t become unmanageable.

The impact and results of the Summer School at MCMP will subsequently be assessed. “We need to know whether courses like this actually have a measurable effect. Empirical data can certainly help us to understand what sorts of hurdles women in Mathematical Philosophy actually face, in order to be able to eliminate them“, says Hartmann. Hartmann and colleagues will evaluate these effects by way of questionnaires, focus group discussions, and interviews.

As part of the Summer School, Prof. Dr. Helen Beebee, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Manchester, will provide further insights into the topic of women in philosophy in the course of a public evening lecture (which, of course, is open to men). The lecture is held on the Wednesday evening (30 July) at 7 PM (HS 2, U 01; Leopoldstrasse 13, 80802 Munich). In her talk, which is based on her own investigations of the situation of female philosophers in the UK in particular, Prof. Beebee will present her results and make additional suggestions about what needs to be changed in order to attract more women to take up the subject. The organizers believe that Beebee’s ideas will also be of interest to representatives of other disciplines that are faced with similar problems.