Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Philosophy, Science and the Sciences

Benjamin Wilck

Benjamin Wilck

 

Personal website: https://benjamin-wilck.org/

Testing Definitions: A Dialectical Examination of Euclid’s Elements

In my doctoral dissertation, I put Euclid’s definitions to the test. Just as Socrates dialectically examines his interlocutors’ proffered definitions of ethical and philosophical terms in Plato’s dialogues, so I examine Euclid’s mathematical definitions, following Aristotle’s codification of Platonic-Academic dialectic in the Topics. Specifically, I check whether Euclid’s definitions are inconsistent with his own background assumptions pertaining to scientific definition. Since Euclid at no point talks about his philosophical or methodological commitments, these are to be reconstructed from Euclid’s mathematical practice alone. As I show, Euclid’s method of defining mathematical terms is consistent with most of the particular definitions put forward by Euclid. However, there are certain tensions among particular definitions, as well as between some of Euclid’s definitions and his overall method. By exposing and explaining these apparent inconsistencies, I provide the first self-contained study of Euclid’s definitions in the Elements.

 

CV

Benjamin Wilck is a doctoral candidate in the Research Training Group Philosophy, Science and the Sciences and the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies (BerGSAS) at Humboldt University Berlin. His dissertation is supervised by Jonathan Beere (Humboldt University Berlin) and Benjamin Morison (Princeton University). Before joining the doctoral program, and after a career in high-performance swimming, Benjamin studied Philosophy, Cultural Studies and Aesthetics in Berlin and Paris. In 2014, he received a double Magister Artium degree in Philosophy (with honours) and in Cultural Studies from Humboldt University. Besides his doctoral research on ancient philosophy and mathematics, Benjamin is doing collaborative medical research on language and cognition in schizophrenia and related disorders at the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of Charité – Medical University Berlin.

 

Research interests

AoS

Ancient Philosophy, Ancient Mathematics, Philosophy and History of Science

AoC

Philosophy of Mathematics, Philosophy of Medicine, Educational Theory, Ethics

 

Awards and fellowships

2019

Trends in Classics Poster Prize by De Gruyter for a poster on the doctoral dissertation Testing Definitions (presented at the 15th Congress of the Fédération internationale des associations d’études classiques / Classical Association of England and Wales Joint Conference, London 2019)

2017

Doctoral scholarship by the German Research Foundation (DFG) for a visiting fellowship at the Faculty of Philosophy of Princeton University

2014­–17

Doctoral scholarship by the German Research Foundation (DFG)

2014

Award by the Carl & Max Schneider Foundation for the M.A. thesis "Is Aristotelian Metaphysics a Science?"

 

Academic teaching

Summer 2021

Schizophrenia and Figurative Language (research-based seminar, co-taught with Ivan Nenchev, in English, 14 double sessions, online), Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité – Medical University Berlin.
Summer 2021 Academic Freedom in Theory and Practice (undergraduate seminar, in English, 14 double sessions, online), Humboldt International Campus, Humboldt University Berlin.

Winter 2020/21

Virtue Ethics (undergraduate seminar, in English, 16 double sessions, online), Department of Philosophy, Humboldt University Berlin.

Winter 2020/21

Theories of Revolution (undergraduate seminar, in English, 16 double sessions, online), bologna.lab, Humboldt University Berlin.

Summer 2020

From Kant to the Bologna Process (undergraduate seminar, in English, 16 double sessions, online), bologna.lab, Humboldt University Berlin.

Winter 2019/20

Definitions of the University (undergraduate seminar, in English, 16 double sessions), bologna.lab, Humboldt University Berlin.

Winter 2018/19

Classical German Philosophy (undergraduate seminar, in English, 16 double sessions), bologna.lab, Humboldt University Berlin.

Winter 2018/19

Justice and Happiness in Plato and Aristotle (undergraduate seminar, in English, 16 double sessions), Department of Philosophy, Humboldt University Berlin.

Winter 2018/19

Socratic Dialectic Applied: How to Justify Principles in Ethics and the Sciences (graduate seminar, co-taught with Christopher Roser, in German, 16 double sessions), bologna.lab / Department of Philosophy, Humboldt University Berlin.

Winter 2011/12

Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics (research-based seminar, co-taught with Colin G. King, in German, 16 double sessions), Department of Philosophy, Humboldt University Berlin.

Winter 2011/12

Academic Writing Course (undergraduate course, co-taught with Jan Matthijs Menting, in German, 16 double sessions), Department of Philosophy, University of Potsdam.

Summer 2011

Introduction to Formal Logic (undergraduate course, in German, 14 double sessions), Department of Philosophy, Humboldt University Berlin.

 

Research publications

Journal articles (double-blind peer reviewed):

 

Research talks 

Conference papers (selection):

"Euclid's Definitions: A Typology."

  • Lyceum Classics Community Seminar, April 2021 (online), Department of Greek and Latin, University of London, UK.
  • Postgraduate Work-in-Progress Seminar, March 2021 (online), Institute of Classical Studies, University of London, UK.

"Euclid's Definitions of Regular Polyhedra."

  • British Society for History of Science Post Graduate Conference, April 2021 (online), School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science, University of Leeds, UK.
  • British Society for the History of Mathematics annual Research in Progress Meeting, February 2021 (online), The Queen's College, University of Oxford, UK.

"Was Euclid a Platonic Philosopher?"

  • Workshop: Intuition and Rigour in Geometrical Thinking from Antiquity to the 19th Century, December 2020 (online), Czech Academy of Sciences & Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic.

"Style and Philosophy in Euclid"

  • 9th European Society for the History of Science Conference: Visual, Material and Sensory Cultures of Science, September 2020 (online), University of Bologna, Italy.

"Hidden Messages in Greek Mathematics: Results of a Statistical Analysis"

  • New Classicists Conference: Collaboration and/or New Techniques in the Classics, December 2019, King’s College London, UK.

"Euclid’s Kinds and (Their) Attributes"

  • Lake Geneva Graduate Conference 2019: Kinds in Philosophy and Its History, October 2019, University of Geneva, Switzerland.

"What the Order of Euclid’s Definitions Tells Us About Euclid’s Philosophical Commitments"

  • 5th International Meeting of the Association for the Philosophy of Mathematical Practice, January 2020, ETH Zurich, Switzerland.
  • 30th Novembertagung on the History and Philosophy of Mathematics: Mathematical Cultures, Values and Norms, November 2019, Institut de Recherche Mathématique Avancée, University of Strasbourg, France.
  • 14th Annual Philosophy Conference for Postgraduate Students in Philosophy (Open Minds XIV), August 2019 (online), University of Manchester, UK.
  • 9th Princeton-Humboldt Graduate Conference in Philosophy, June 2019, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany.
  • 48th Annual Meeting of the Israel Society for the Promotion of Classical Studies, May 2019 (online), Tel Aviv University, Israel.

"Euclid’s Definitions: A History"

  • 14th London Ancient Science Conference, February 2019, University College London, UK.
  • 29th Novembertagung on the History and Philosophy of Mathematics: History of Mathematical Concepts and Conceptual History of Mathematics, November 2018, University of Sevilla, Spain.

"Aristotle on Why Women Make a Difference"

  • The Women’s Classical Committee Annual Meeting 2020: Green Shoots in Classics, April 2020 (online), University of Manchester, UK.

"The Definitions of the Human Being in Ancient Philosophy"

  • Culture and International History VI: Visions of Humanity, May 2019, Free University Berlin, Germany.

"The Value of Philosophy of Language for Diagnosing Schizophrenia" (with Ivan Nenchev)

  • Philosophy in Medical Education: Colloquium on Psychiatry, November 2020 (online), King’s College London, UK.

   "The Proverb Test in Clinical Practice" (with Ivan Nenchev)

  • CharitéCenter Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry CC 15, March 2021 (online), Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité – Medical University Berlin, Germany.
  • CharitéCenter Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry CC 15, February 2020, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité – Medical University Berlin, Germany.

"Metaphor Comprehension in Schizophrenia" (with Ivan Nenchev)

  • British Society of Aesthetics Conference: Art, Aesthetics, and the Medical and Health Humanities, February 2020, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK.
  • 21th Annual Conference of the International Network for Philosophy and Psychiatry: Experts in Mental Health, October 2019, University of Warsaw, Poland.
  • Exeter Medical Humanities Postgraduate Conference 2019: Embodiment, Health, and Medicine, June 2019, University of Exeter, UK.
  • Graduate Conference Socratic Dialectic Applied: How Can Principles Be Justified?, February 2019, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany.

"Scientific Definitions: A Difficulty for Pyrrhonian Scepticism"

  • 93rd Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association, July 2019, Durham University, UK.
  • British Society for the History of Philosophy Annual Conference 2019, April 2019, King’s College London, UK.
  • 3rd International Conference of the German Society for Philosophy of Science (GWP.2019), February 2019, University of Cologne, Germany.
  • 10ème Rencontre Française de Philosophie des Mathématiques (FPMW10), November 2018, École normale supérieure de Paris & Université Paris Diderot, France.
  • 10th Triennial Congress of the German Society for Analytic Philosophy (GAP.10), September 2018, University of Cologne, Germany.
  • International Conference Argumentation and Language in Hellenistic Philosophy, August 2018, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany.
  • 18th Israel Society for History and Philosophy of Science Conference, June 2018, Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, Jerusalem, Israel.
  • 11th Annual Cambridge Graduate Conference on the Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic, January 2018, St John's College, University of Cambridge, UK.
  • 28th Novembertagung on the History and Philosophy of Mathematics: Tools for research in mathematics, history and philosophy, November 2017, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.

"Sextus Empiricus and the Art of Geometry"

  • 13th London Ancient Science Conference, February 2018, University College London, UK.
  • International Conference Scepticism from Antiquity to Modern Times, May 2017, Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies – Jewish Scepticism, Hamburg, Germany.

"Mathematical Examples in Topics VI"

  • Conference Aristotle’s Topics – The Central Books, July 2017, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany.

"What’s Odd About Euclid’s Definitions of Even and Odd? Aristotelian Dialectic and Ancient Arithmetic"

  • Annual Conference of the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science, May 2017, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.
  • 2nd Berlin-Munich Ancient Philosophy Joint Workshop, February 2016, LMU Munich, Germany.

"How Many Noses Did Socrates Have? Aristotle on the Definition of Snub Nose"

  • 9th Congress of the European Society for Analytic Philosophy (ECAP9), August 2017, LMU Munich, Germany.
  • 91st Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association, July 2017, University of Edinburgh, UK.
  • 7th HU-KCL Graduate Philosophy Conference, June 2017, King’s College London, UK.
  • 61st Annual Congress of the Canadian Philosophical Association, May 2017, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.
  • 5th Stockholm Philosophy Graduate Conference, April 2017, Stockholm University, Sweden.
  • Philsoc meetings, April 2017, Princeton University (New Jersey, USA).
  • Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy Workshop: Argument in Ancient Thought, April 2017, University of Chicago, Illinois, USA.
  • 49th Meeting of the North Texas Philosophical Association, March/April 2017, University of Texas at Dallas, Texas, USA.
  • 11th Southeast Graduate Philosophy Conference, March 2017, University of Florida at Gainesville, Florida, USA.
  • North Carolina Philosophical Society Conference 2017, February 2017, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, North Carolina, USA.
  • 20th Oxford Philosophy Graduate Conference, November 2016, University of Oxford, UK.

"Mathematical Babbling. Aristotle on Definitions with Repetitions"

  • Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient Literature (AMPAL): Repetition in Ancient Literature, September 2016, University of Oxford, UK.

Poster presentations:

  • "What’s Odd about Euclid’s Definitions of Even and Odd?", New Classicists Conference, December 2019, King’s College London, UK.
  • "What’s Odd about Euclid’s Definitions of Even and Odd?", 15th Congress of the Fédération internationale des associations d’études classiques / Classical Association of England and Wales Joint Conference (FIEC/CA 2019), July 2019, Institute of Education & Senate House, London, UK. Winner of the Trends in Classics Poster Prize 2019 by De Gruyter: https://cloud.newsletter.degruyter.com/ticposterprize
  • "Testing Definitions: Aristotelian Dialectic and Euclidean Mathematics", On-site review of the German Research Foundation (DFG), July 2018, Research Training Group Philosophy, Science and the Sciences, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany.

Responses:

  • Comments on Daniel Kranzelbinder’s "The Argument of Physics IV.10–14", 9th Princeton-Humboldt Graduate Conference in Philosophy, June 2019, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany.
  • Comments on Melpomeni Vogiatzi’s "Late antique theories of metaphor", 6th Berlin-Munich Ancient Philosophy Joint Workshop, April 2018, LMU Munich, Germany.
  • Comments on Marilù Papandreou’s "Artefacts and Substances", 1st Berlin-Munich Ancient Philosophy Joint Workshop, November 2015, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany.

 

Conference organization

 

Public outreach & science communication

  • Advanced training courses in Philosophy of Medicine, February 2020 / May 2021, Charité – Medical University Berlin, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Berlin, Germany.
  • Guided city tours "Philosophy in Berlin" for international students, twice a year since 2018, Berlin Perspectives – bologna.lab, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany.
  • Guided city tour "Berlin Tour on the History of Mathematics and Philosophy" (with Deborah Kant), 31st Novembertagung on the History and Philosophy of Mathematics, November 2020 (online), Humboldt University Berlin, Germany.
  • Outreach publication "Philosophy and Science Meet at Humboldt University Berlin", Scientia 70, December 2017, DOI: https://doi.org/10.26320/SCIENTIA70
  • Outreach talk "What’s Odd about Euclid’s Definitions of Even and Odd?", Talk at Avtonomi Akadimia, October 2015, Athens, Greece.
  • Event management & public relations for the 200th anniversary of Humboldt University Berlin (HU200), 2009–10, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany.

 

Contact: benjamin.wilck@hu-berlin.de