The International Research Area on Foundations of the Sciences


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An Historical Document: The Constitution Act of IRAFS in 1997

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Constitution Document of an

October 1997

Area Promoter:
Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa (Italy)

General Scientific Advisor:
Dept. of Mathematics, Princeton University, Princeton NJ (USA)

Area Director:
Fac. of Philosophy, Pontifical Lateran University, Vatican City

Area Secretary:
PUL Research Laboratory, Vatican City

Area Coordinators
1. Logic and Mathematics
Dept. of Mathematics, Princeton University, Princeton NJ (USA)
2. Logic and Computer Science
CNRS et Dept. de Mathematiques et Informatique,
Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris (France)
3. Physics
Specola Vaticana, Vatican City
4. Biology
Faculty of Agricultural Science, University of Pisa, Italy
5. Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Neuroscience
Dept. of Mathematics, Hokkaido University, Sapporo (Japan)

Aims of the Area

The more advanced results of research in different fields of science in our century emphasize the necessity of exploring more deeply the question of foundations inside the various disciplines. Even though this question assumes a different character in each field of research, nevertheless it has some common features essentially related to the constitution of the different scientific disciplines as formal languages, and more generall related to the possibilities and the limitations of the use of logical and mathematical tools in scientific research. But despite this common background, it is difficult to construct effective occasions to promote dialogue on these themes among scientists. Often indeed the necessary high levels of specialization of the inquiry and of the languages used in each science hide the awareness of the common background.

This problem is also an opportunity. Exploring how problems can assum different forms according to their autonomous developments in each research area would produce fresh insights among scientists engaged in these areas. Moreover, the systematic effort to make this dialogue possible could foster the development of new scientific ideas. Finally, it could help indirectly to produce better understanding of scientific efforts in advanced research by people not acquainted with this research, these methods and these languages.

In summary, the main aim of this proposal is to create an international forum for the development of systematic links between foundational and technical research in different realms of modern science. Of course, this effort will have an educational aspect for young scientists to whom we would offer the occasion of exploring these themes, at least during the last part of their scientific training. This could be realized by offering specialized
seminars and schools for post-graduate students, organized according to the different exigencies of each research field, but finally aimed to encourage scientific dialogue among young scientists on the international scene.


To pursue these aims, we intend to promote the constitution of an effective area of international debate on these themes, to help research within each scientific discipline and the dialogue among them. The different disciplines involved belong to the main fields of contemporary scientific research, namely:

  • Logic and mathematics
  • Logic and computer science
  • Physics
  • Biology
  • Artificial intelligence and cognitive neuroscience

All scientists belonging to these research areas are potentially invited to participate in the debate. In practice, we will start by inviting some scientists in the different areas according to the possibilities of the organizers to contact them, but without prejudice to any others. The only criterion that we want to follow in contacting them is the capability of the invited scientist to become the promoter of this debate among his or her colleagues, to enlarge the number of participants. To make this proposal effective, the Pontifical Lateran University offers its organizing and financial support for the realization of the first steps of such a project:

  • Constitution of a page on the World Wide Web in which the participants in the discussion are invited to put contributions, open freely to commentary by the other participants.
  • Organization of international seminars, symposia and schools on the different topics chosen each time by the participants in the research area, according to the modalities we shall decide to follow.
  • International publication, both on paper and on-line, of collected works about the main topics of research as well as of the proceedings of seminars, schools and symposia.


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