The webpage of the Cambridge University Ethics in Mathematics Project is still under construction, but the first three Discussion Papers are already available at this page, with more on the way. The title page of the first of these papers, by Maurice Chiodo and Piers Bursill-Hall, is reproduced above. The authors propose a four-level sequence of increasing ethical engagement on the part of mathematicians:

Level 1: Realising there are ethical issues inherent in mathematics.

Level 2: Doing something: speaking out to other mathematicians.

Level 3: Taking a seat at the tables of power.

Level 4: Calling out the bad mathematics of others

Although the authors hint at a preference for engagement at the highest level by as many mathematicians as possible, they are realistic about the obstacles in the near term. Some readers of this blog may nevertheless be ready to get involved. Reading the Discussion Papers is an obvious first step.

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volochI took an Ethics class as an elective in College. The main assessment was an essay we had to submit on an ethical issue related to our respective major. I wrote about Spinoza’s “Ethics” and how its pseudo-mathematical definition-theorem-proof style was an attempt to gain some undeserved legitimacy. I poked holes in a couple of “proofs” for good measure. I got a C.

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