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Question about mathematics/philosophy

  1. Jun 17, 2010 #1
    Hey guys, I just finished my freshman year at a university and I've become really interested in mathematics, logic and philosophy, that sort of thing. The problem is at my school there is no dual mathematics/philosophy degree so I'm kind of unsure which path to go. I feel like I'd be missing an integral part of both if I went either route, and with my schools honors program, there is no room for electives.

    I've been looking at possible programs for after undergrad, UC Berkeley actually has a program in Logic and the Methodology of Science which is like, exactly what I want to do, but how rare are programs like these? Are there any careers in this sort of thing beyond academia?

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 18, 2010 #2
    Math and philosophy degrees are two very different things. If you see yourself more as a writer, choose philosophy. If you see yourself as a scientist and problem solver, choose math.
  4. Jun 18, 2010 #3
    Math and philosophy are two very different things. I dual majored in the subjects for my bachelors, but I stayed an extra year to do it.

    As far as careers go, neither are terribly useful. I'm currently in IT, and the math didn't necessarily help. If I followed the best career path for a philosophy major, I would currently be in law school.
  5. Jun 18, 2010 #4
    Surely you can't ignore the connections though- grad schools certainly don't

    as i said i'm most interested in logic
  6. Jun 19, 2010 #5
    Drop the honors program and do a double major in math and philosophy. Like one other poster said, it may take an extra year, but so what?
  7. Jun 19, 2010 #6
    jfreezz, for possible graduate work, maybe check out Case Western university. I read a category theory book, and was surprised to find out the author was actually the head of their philosophy department (as well as being a mathematician).

    Also - you'll need to learn a lot to understand his actual math work - but check out Alexandre Grothendieck's philosophy of mathematics writing (helps if you can read french, but translations are available). He's was a mathematical phenomenon (on the level of Galois, Gauss, Newton, Poincare, etc.), and a Bohemian who at the peak of his abilities vanished to go live in the mountains, growing vegetables and spending all his time writing about religion, philosophy, and mysticism (where he remains to this day as far as I know).
  8. Jun 19, 2010 #7
    Go with the mathematics degree. You don't need to be told what to read in order to be well-read in philosophy. You can do that independently as a hobby. The degree, however, is a pure, 100% McDonalds degree.
  9. Jun 19, 2010 #8
    I actually just realized this is impossible for me to do. the math department only lets you take 'approved electives' and the list is all from like economics and physics and stuff. There is no way from what i've found to get a double major in two different departments (arts and science in this case)

    I really enjoy learning about the philosophy behind logic and math though, and feel like just learning the math leaves me out on a lot of the importance behind things like Godel's work. Does a lot of it not have a certain application to cognitive science and AI?

    I think a lot of what Douglas Hofstadter's group is doing is extremely interesting but don't really know how to get into that sort of thing
  10. Jun 19, 2010 #9
    Well, again, the degree is worthless. A degree in philosophy is for someone who wants to teach philosophy. Everything in the degree can be discovered through mundane means outside of class. If you're passionate about a subject, the knowledge will go into your brain one way or another. You don't need a professor to learn. You do need a professor for a degree, which is once again rather useless.
  11. Jun 20, 2010 #10
    There's nothing weird about that. You take their approved electives to fill in the electives you need for your math degree. Then you tell them you're taking philosophy courses also so that you can fulfill your major requirements for your second degree.

    Like I said, it would take an extra year or so and probably an additional 30-40 semester hours.

    If you don't want to do it, that's fine. But don't say it's impossible because it's not.
  12. Jun 20, 2010 #11


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    You want to study philosophy to learn about Gödel's work? You can just study mathematics, and (if your interests won't have shifted) specialize in logic.
    I would be surprised.
  13. Jun 22, 2010 #12
    It's pretty common for people to not see the value of philosophy courses, but it's about as easy to teach yourself philosophy as it is to teach yourself math. Sure - you can do it. But it sure as hell helps to have a professor who knows what's going on and classmates to study with. This is especially true of technical analytic philosophy like logic, philosophy of math, philosophy of physics, etc.

    As far as career prospects... it really depends on your school. Check the placement from your departments, in math and philosophy.

    And for the record I majored in philosophy and engineering. Philosophy added a lot of value as a double major, but think carefully about what your options will be if you do it (or math) alone.
  14. Jun 22, 2010 #13
    Mathematics is formal logic. Logic is philosophy. Inherently, they are not two very different things. However, practically and academically, they are. Your education will be entirely different.
  15. Jul 14, 2010 #14
    Sorry I cannot help with the US Education system, but your question calls for a great quote:

    “If I were again beginning my studies, I would follow the advice of Plato and start with mathematics.”

    Galilelo Galilei (1564-1642)

    Hope it helps...

  16. Aug 2, 2010 #15
    I recommend you try and do both since you are interested in both. If you choose the right philosophy modules, you'll find they complement each other in interesting ways.

    It's far harder to learn philosophy properly on your own than it is to learn maths on your own. In maths, you know when you've got the right answer. In philosophy, you won't know on your own, whether you've written a good essay or constructed a good argument - it's too easy to be soft on oneself. Only with a good adversary, someone trained to spot holes, to press you, to quiz you, someone who forces you to explain things clearly, will you ever get good at the subject.
  17. Aug 2, 2010 #16
    I've been quite interested in the intersection of mathematics and philosophy for some time now. I gave thought to a double major, but decided against it in the end because I realized that reading philosophical works could be a hobby for me, and there's always electives. I'm currently in a school that requires me to take 3 philosophy courses and 2 theology courses and the 4 out of the 5 classes that I've done already have been great. I was even able to take a course called "Logic, Reason and Religion" as the theology credit instead of a conventional theology class.

    What interests me more than anything is why I happen to be intrigued by philosophy and more importantly why a lot of mathematicians (and aspiring ones) are drawn to philosophy. The two just seem to be a common pairing and fit well together.

    Whatever you do, enjoy it.
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