Berkeley Lecture 2014
The Berkeley Lecture is an annual event at Maynooth University in which a talk in the general area of mathematics and philosophy is given by a high-profile visiting speaker. It is sponsored by the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and the Department of Philosophy at Maynooth University.
This event is named after the famous Irish philosopher George Berkeley (1685-1753), who made major contributions to several areas of philosophy and had a keen interest in the philosophy of mathematics. Bishop Berkeley's 1734 treatise, The Analyst, made a detailed criticism of the Calculus of Newton and Leibnitz. This caused a major headache for mathematics and, over the next century, many great mathematicians tried and failed to overcome the problems highlighted by Berkeley. But, by highlighting problems that were eventually overcome, Berkeley's criticisms ultimately benefited mathematics by putting calculus on a firmer footing and making it safer for use by non-experts by eliminating the possibility of error through plausible but incorrect arguments. It also made the subject easier to teach, although it is still challenging material for students!