The University of Texas at Dallas

Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science


Distinguished Lecture Investigates Nature of Mathematics

Distinguished Lecture Investigates Nature of Mathematics

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<p class=Dr. Truemper delivered his distinguished lecture in the TI Auditorium.

Dr. Klaus Truemper, professor emeritus of computer science, recently delivered an Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science Distinguished Lecture.

Truemper’s talk, “Wittgenstein’s Philosophy and the Creation Versus Discovery Question of Mathematics” explored whether the field of mathematics was created by man, or something innate in the world which was discovered.

“There is a profound philosophical question: Where do all the results of mathematics theory come from?” Truemper asked. “Are they already present in some hidden, possibly metaphysical location and then discovered by inquisitive minds? Or, are they created in the same way that engineers design various machines for energy conversion, production of goods or transportation?”

The lecture explained how, over hundreds of years, these questions have been answered in various – and sometimes contrasting – ways.

Through the lens of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s theories, and with the help of modern brain science, Truemper explained how eminent researchers arrived at and vigorously defended diametrically opposed answers.

“The question about creation or discovery of mathematics is of enormous interest. In fact, there have been debates about this question from the time of Plato, 2400 years ago. And the debate is still going on today,” Truemper said. “Wittgenstein says that one first must look at many examples and facets of given philosophical questions. He then proposes a technique called language games to investigate those facets.”

A more detailed version of Truemper’s talk is found in his book, “The Construction of Mathematics: The Human Mind’s Greatest Achievement.” The book is demonstration, Truemper said, that it takes lengthy arguments and thorough discussion to truly understand the question of mathematics.

“Dr. Truemper’s lecture was both a contemplation on historical discovery and a bold statement on the very nature of our world,” said Dr. Poras Balsara, interim dean of the Jonsson School and holder of the Lars Magnus Ericsson Chair in Electrical Engineering. “It was a great honor for all in attendance to share in this fascinating study on the profound depth of mathematics”

Dr. Gopal Gupta, head of the Department of Computer Science, said that Truemper’s investigation was enlightening and important for computer scientists and engineers alike.

“Mathematics informs much of what we do in the Jonsson School,” said Gupta, who holds the Erik Jonsson Chair. “To understand the root of mathematics – where it originated and grew from – helps us to better understand our respective fields in return.”

Dr. Truemper has worked at UT Dallas since 1973, first in operations research, and since 1985 in computer science. He has published books on matroid theory, logic computation, intelligent systems and philosophy.

The next Distinguished Lecture will feature the Jonsson School’s own Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham, professor of computer science and executive director of the Cyber Security Research and Education Institute. As holder of the Louis A. Beecherl Jr. Distinguished Professorship, she will give a talk titled, “Secure Data Management: Foundations, Systems and Applications.”

Thuraisingham’s lecture is April 27 at 11 a.m. in the TI Auditorium.

Visit the Distinguished Lecture Series page for the full list of 2017-18 speakers.