The Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker Center is one of the three pillars of the Forum Scientiarum, besides the Leibniz-Kolleg and the Center for Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Studies (CIIS).
Under the direction of the Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker Professorship for Philosophy and History of Science, the Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker Center is dedicated to foundational research, aiming to provide a platform to postdoctoral researchers for reflection on foundations.
The orientation of this foundational reflection is closely connected to Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker's heritage. When Weizsäcker worked on the foundations of physics and philosophy in the 20th century, the world was under the shadow of nuclear weapons and atomic energy. The responsibility of the scientist in a globalized world became a central issue for the first time in history. Weizsäcker, however, realized that engaging merely in daily politics would be too short-sighted. In fact, at the time, the changes we were seeing in the broader world were related to fundamental upheavals in physics, whose scientific and philosophical foundations had to be worked out.
In commitment to Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker's scientific and societal heritage, the Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker Center will deal in alternating cycles with topics that have at their focus the responsibility of science and scientists. The first cycle, started in 2019/2020, is under the heading
Responsibility in the digital society
In the 21st century, digitalization is a global challenge for humanity. Most recently due to Data Mining and Big Data, there is a new public awareness of how strongly our personal lives are dominated by data and algorithms. A leading question of the new center is therefore: How calculable is the world? Some believe that these days, finding solutions to problems in technology and economy comes down to nothing more than ever faster and more efficient algorithms. However, the financial crisis of 2008 was closely linked to misunderstood notions concerning, for example, the assumptions and structures of mathematical models and algorithms. This is an on-going source of potential danger, whenever we blindly rely on algorithms without knowing their theoretical foundations and applicability conditions. An example of this is the current hype surrounding Artifical Intelligence. Only those who know the fundamental theories can prove theorems about the capability and limits of these algorithms. Again, questions of responsibility are therefore closely connected to foundational questions, the principal object of interest to the Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker Center.
The Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker Center is supported by the Udo Keller Stiftung Forum Humanum.
Humanity looks up to the scientific community to provide answers and solve both practical and conceptual challenges of contemporary society. Scientific decisions directly and deeply influence human lives. Thus, securing responsible scientific decisions becomes an imperative. The Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker Center is interested in the investigation of the three theoretical foundations of responsible science: ethics of science, epistemology of scientific research, and the humanization of scientific work.
Ethics of science is concerned with scientific misconduct, e.g., plagiarism and fraud, with questions about boundaries of science, i.e., which research is morally permissible, and with the abuse of science for commercial purposes. Epistemology of scientific research investigates optimal ways of scientific knowledge production and is concerned with challenges such as the replication crisis, biases in science, communication patterns, etc. In particular, the Center is exploring the social dimensions of scientific knowledge acquisition. One of the topics addressed is the question of responsible allocation of epistemic resources in science.
Finally, scientific results are influenced by the treatment that researchers receive from society. During politically turbulent times, but also at the time of increasing pressure and focus on productivity, there is a danger that scientists become regarded as commodities. In order to secure stimulating work conditions for research, one has to explore the treatment of scientists and comprehend what their fundamental rights and needs are.
Contact: Vlasta Sikimić
Contact: Reinhard Kahle; Klaus Mainzer
Contact: Reinhard Kahle; Thomas Piecha
Contact: Reinhard Kahle
Contact: Reinhard Kahle; Natalie Clarius
Office hours: by appointment
Paulo G. Santos works mainly on Formal Arithmetic, with a special emphasis on Provability Predicates and Bounded Notions of Provability (such as k-provability).
Office hours: by appointment