Where empirical sciences like physics and sociology rely on observation and experiment, abstract sciences like mathematics and ethics don’t. The basic truths in them are accessible by pure thought which reveals necessary truths about reality (though some wisdom is needed when it comes to applications). Plato was right: immersion in mathematics induces an understanding of the necessities underpinning reality, an understanding that is essential for distinguishing objective ethics from tribal custom. Equality, for example, is an abstract concept which is foundational for both mathematics and ethics.
James Franklin is Honorary Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at UNSW Sydney, where he has taught mathematics since 1981 and served many years as Professor of Mathematics. He is Adjunct Professor in the Institute for Ethics and Society at Notre Dame University, Sydney and Editor of the Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society. A prolific author, his books include Corrupting the Youth: A History of Philosophy in Australia; An Aristotelian Realist Philosophy of Mathematics, What Science Knows: And How It Knows It and Catholic Values and Australian Realities. He was awarded the 2005 ACU Eureka Prize for Research in Ethics, partly for research on the parallels between mathematics and ethics. His current work is on the worth of persons as the foundational concept in ethics.