Francis Su was the former president of the Mathematical Association of America. He just gave a beautiful address at the AMS-MAA Joint Meeting, entitled “Mathematics for Human Flourishing”.
Basically, when asked about the goal of mathematics, the answer is often related to its contribution to the progress of mankind through the advancement of science. Francis Su explicits what the deepest goal of mathematics may be: contribute to the flourishing not only of mankind as a whole, but of each of us as human beings. Starting from Aristotle's view that a well-lived life goes through the exercise of “virtue” — excellence of character leading to the excellence of conduct. He then quotes five basic desires which mathematics help fulfill while cultivating such virtues: play, beauty, truth, justice and love.
Francis Su's address is full of personal stories, encounters, and quotes, and I invite all of you either to watch the video on the Facebook page of the MAA, or to read its transcript on Francis Su's blog.
On the beginning of this New Year, I would just like to conclude this short message by repeating his
final wish: ”May you and all your students flourish!”