James Franklin (philosopher)

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James Franklin (born 1953 in Sydney) is an Australian philosopher, mathematician and historian of ideas. He was educated at St. Joseph's College, Hunters Hill, New South Wales. His undergraduate work was at the University of Sydney (1971–74), where he attended St John's College and he was influenced by philosophers David Stove and David Armstrong. He completed his PhD in 1981 at the University of Warwick, on algebraic groups.[1] Since 1981 he has taught in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of New South Wales.

His research areas include the philosophy of mathematics and the 'formal sciences', the history of probability, Australian Catholic history, the parallel between ethics and mathematics (work for which he received the 2005 Eureka Prize for Research in Ethics), restraint, the quantification of rights in applied ethics, and the analysis of extreme risk. Franklin is the literary executor of David Stove.

His 2001 book, The Science of Conjecture: Evidence and Probability Before Pascal, covered the development of thinking about uncertain evidence over many centuries up to 1650. Its central theme was ancient and medieval work on the law of evidence, which developed concepts like half proof, similar to modern proof beyond reasonable doubt, as well as analyses of aleatory contracts like insurance and gambling.[2]

His polemical history of Australian philosophy, Corrupting the Youth (2003), praised the Australian realist tradition in philosophy and attacked postmodernist and relativist trends.[3]

In the philosophy of mathematics, he defends an Aristotelian realist theory, according to which mathematics is about certain real features of the world, namely the quantitative and structural features (such as ratios and symmetry).[4] The theory stands in opposition to both Platonism and nominalism, and emphasises applied mathematics and mathematical modelling as the most philosophically central parts of mathematics. He is the founder of the Sydney School in the philosophy of mathematics.

In 2008 he set up the Australian Database of Indigenous Violence.

He is the editor of the Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society.[5]

See also[edit]


Franklin wrote several books and articles:

Articles (a selection):

External links[edit]


  1. ^ J.W. Franklin in Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ J. Hawkins, Casting light on the shadow of doubt, review of Science of Conjecture, Science 294, Oct 19, 2001.
  3. ^ D. Oderberg, Hegel hits the beach, review of Corrupting the Youth, Times Literary Supplement, June 11, 2004.
  4. ^ J. Franklin, The mathematical world, Aeon 7 Apr 2014; M. Jones, Review of An Aristotelian Realist Philosophy of Mathematics, Philosophia Mathematica 23 (2) (2015), 281-8.
  5. ^ Australian Catholic Historical Society website