BASS Sociology and Criminology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Philosophy of Mathematics

Course unit fact file
Unit code PHIL30721
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Philosophy
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course will introduce students to the lively contemporary debate over the metaphysics of mathematics. Are there such things as numbers (or other mathematical objects)? If so, what they are like, and how do we manage to acquire knowledge of them? If these objects do not exist, then what is it that we know when we know that 2+2=4?

Discussion of technicalities will be kept to a minimum, and no special expertise in mathematics will be assumed. The arguments discussed raise important questions about the relation of philosophy to mathematics, science, and ordinary talk and belief; the course will place particular stress on these issues.


The course aims to:

- give a detailed understanding of some important debates within contemporary philosophy of mathematics;
- enable students to engage critically with some recent contributions to these debates; and
- enhance students' powers of critical analysis, reasoning and independent thought.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to demonstrate:

- a detailed critical understanding of some important debates within contemporary philosophy of mathematics;
- a thorough knowledge of some recent contributions to these debates; and
- an ability to present carefully-argued and independent lines of thought in this area.

Teaching and learning methods

There will be a mixture of lectures and tutorials.

Please note the information in scheduled activity hours are only a guidance and may change.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Project management
Oral communication
Problem solving
Written communication

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 100%

Feedback methods

There will be a compulsory take-home mock exam on which you will receive written feedback.

We also draw your attention to the variety of generic forms of feedback available to you on this as on all SoSS courses. These include: meeting the lecturer/tutor during their office hours; e-mailing questions to the lecturer/tutor; asking questions from the lecturer (before and after lectures); and obtaining feedback from your peers during tutorials.

The School of Social Sciences (SoSS) is committed to providing timely and appropriate feedback to students on their academic progress and achievement, thereby enabling students to reflect on their progress and plan their academic and skills development effectively. Students are reminded that feedback is necessarily responsive: only when a student has done a certain amount of work and approaches us with it at the appropriate fora is it possible for us to feed back on the student's work.

Recommended reading

Shapiro, Stewart 2000. Thinking About Mathematics, chapters 1 and 2.
Colyvan, Mark 2001. The Indispensability of Mathematics, chapters 1, 2, 4, 5.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Liggins Unit coordinator

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