James Franklin (philosopher)

James Franklin (born 1953 in Sydney) is an Australian philosopher, mathematician and historian of ideas.

Life and career

Franklin was educated at St. Joseph's College, Hunters Hill, New South Wales. His undergraduate work was at the University of Sydney (197174), 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[2] (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.[3]

His polemical history of Australian philosophy, Corrupting the Youth (2003), praised the Australian realist tradition in philosophy and attacked postmodernist and relativist trends.[4]

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).[5] 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,[6] and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales.[7]


Franklin has written several books and articles:

  • 1996 and 2011, Proof in Mathematics: An Introduction ISBN 978-1-876192-00-6, originally published as Introduction to Proofs in Mathematics, in 1988.
  • 2001, repr. 2015, The Science of Conjecture: Evidence and Probability Before Pascal, ISBN 978-0-8018-7109-2;
  • 2003, Corrupting the Youth: A History of Philosophy in Australia, ISBN 978-1-876492-08-3;
  • 2006, Catholic Values and Australian Realities, ISBN 978-0-9758015-4-3;
  • 2007, Life to the Full: Rights and Social Justice in Australia, (edited) ISBN 978-1-921421-00-6
  • 2009, What Science Knows: And How It Knows It ISBN 978-1-59403-207-3
  • 2014, An Aristotelian Realist Philosophy of Mathematics, ISBN 978-1-137-40072-7
  • 2015, The Real Archbishop Mannix: From the Sources, ISBN 9781925138344

Articles (a selection):

See also


  1. "James William Franklin". Mathematics Genealogy Project. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  2. James Franklin (2004). "On the Parallel Between Mathematics and Morals" (PDF). Philosophy. The Royal Institute of Philosophy. 79: 97–119. doi:10.1017/S0031819104000075.
  3. Hawkins, J (19 October 2001). "Casting light on the shadow of doubt" (PDF). Science. 294. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  4. D. Oderberg, Hegel hits the beach, review of Corrupting the Youth, Times Literary Supplement, 11 June 2004.
  5. 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.
  6. "Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society". Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  7. "Fellows of the Royal Society of NSW". Retrieved 15 August 2019.
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