Mathematics, Zeitgeist and Worldview
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleNWI-FFIL300C
Credits (ECTS)3
CategoryMA (Master)
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Science; Institute for Science, Innovation and Society;
dr. L. Consoli
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. H.A.E. Zwart
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. H.A.E. Zwart
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
prof. dr. H.A.E. Zwart
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2017
KW4  (16/04/2018 to 02/09/2018)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesYes
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
  • Enable students to discern how mathematics connects with broader developments in science, culture and society
  • Enable students to discern how mathematicians interaction with Zeitgeist and worldview
  • Enable students to assess how mathematicians address moral dilemmas and societal responsibilities
Mathematics is often framed as an introvert, abstract, unworldly research area. Yet, in our course we want to point out (a) the impact of mathematics on society and culture in recent history and (b) the extent to which key mathematicians of the 20th century where actually very open to what was happening in the outside world and in culture more generally.
This may explain the extent to which modern mathematics (via computational methods, big computers, algorithms, etc.) has had an impact on revolutionary developments in other fields, notably the life sciences (computational biology) and ICT. By opting for an (auto-)biographical approach, challenges, visions and dilemmas of modern mathematics are made more tangible and concrete.

(Auto-) biographies provide a window into the normative dilemmas and paradigm shifts in which prominent mathematicians were intensely involved. They present mathematics as a dynamic, committed and 'human' research field. Every participant will be invited to analyze the biography of on particular key player in the recent history of mathematics.
These biographies will be analyzed from a philosophical perspective, focusing on normative dilemmas, paradigm shifts and world views of the key protagonists involved. How did they address questions such as: what is science, what is truth, what is knowledge, and what is the role of science and scientists in contemporary knowledge societies?  
Will be made available through Blackboard

Teaching formats
• 16 hours lecture
• 20 hours group project work without guidance
• 20 hours student presentation
• 24 hours individual study period
Extra information teaching methods: Lectures; Preparatory readings; Student presentations (group presentations) and discussions; Final assignment: individual paper

Test information
Presentatie (20%) + participatie (10%) + schrijfopdracht (70%)

Required materials
Will be made available through Blackboard

Instructional modes
Attendance MandatoryYes

Attendance MandatoryYes

Attendance MandatoryYes

Attendance MandatoryYes


Test weight1
Test typeExam
OpportunitiesBlock KW4, Block KW4