Key thinkers on mathematics

Key thinkers on mathematics


Adding authority to your TOK essay and presentation

The knowledge questions in your and TOK presentation should be supported not only by your own ideas and evidence, but also by those of other people. We have therefore put together a list of key thinkers for each way of knowing and area of knowledge who will add extra authority to your TOK essay and presentation, and help you to explore the KQs connected to your title. You can see the complete list of key thinkers here.

Beautiful minds

But we’re thinking of more than just the TOK assessment: these minds are the source of some of the most incredible ideas ever put forward, and have shaped the way we view the world and our place in it. So we think they are worth getting to know in their own right, because they will genuinely help you to figure out this mysterious thing called existence.

Making use of these thinkers

We have indicated which elements of the course they are particularly useful for (remember you should be trying to link the different parts of TOK, so don’t just focus on one WOK or AOK in isolation), and we have provided a Wikipedia link for each person. However, you should see this as the point where you begin, rather than end, your exploration of these paradigm-defining figures. We’ve also identified one person for each way of knowing and area of knowledge whom we consider an ESSENTIAL THINKER, due to way they challenge assumptions or provide a particularly important idea. Each of these thinkers are accompanied by a video in which they outline their theories, and which you can quote as a source for your essay or presentation.
TNK = the nature of knowledge
SP = sense perception
HS = the human sciences
IKS = indigenous knowledge systems
NS = the natural sciences
RKS = religious knowledge systems

ESSENTIAL THINKER Du Sautoy, Marcus (1965 – )

Du Sautoy is the Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. He is known for popularizing science and mathematics, and applying the principles found within both fields to understand our everyday lives.

Also helps us to explore HS, mathematics

Newton, Isaac (1643 – 1727)

Newton was so many things – a physicist, a mathematician, an astronomer, a theologian, and even a alchemist. He is considered to be one of the most influential people in history, alongside figures such as Plato, Kant, Descartes, and Darwin. In the early part of his career, at least, , saying ‘if I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.
Also helps us to explore Imagination, NS

Piaget, Jean (1896 – 1980)

Piaget was a Swiss philosopher, sociologist, educational thinker, and psychologist. His belief that education was the key to building a successfull society can be summed up in his words: “Only education is capable of saving our societies from possible collapse, whether violent, or gradual.”
Also helps us to explore TNK, language, HS

Russell, Bertrand (1872 – 1970)

Russell is one of the towering figures of 20th century thought, and wrote on subjects as diverse as mathematics and the morality of nuclear weapons. His thoughts scatter the TOK course, beginning with the nature of knowledge, and the definition of truth.
Also helps us to explore TNK, reason, ethics, NS, RKS

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1889 – 1951)

Wittgenstein was an Austrian philosopher of mathematics, language, and the mind. He believed that philosophical problems were generally associated with language, stating that: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”
Also helps us to explore TNK, language, reason, HS, NS

Cite this page as: Dunn, Michael. Key thinkers on mathematics (3rd December 2013). Last accessed: 24th August 2017


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