Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Security and the Incalculable

Amoore, L.

Security and the Incalculable Thumbnail



In this article, I explore a specific relation between mathematics and security calculations. Recalling the confrontations between the mathematician Alan Turing and the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein in the 1930s, I am interested in the relationship between intuition and ingenuity. During Wittgenstein’s 1930 lectures on the foundations of mathematics, Turing interjects in order to insist upon the capacity of number: ‘one can make predictions’. Wittgenstein replies that mathematics ‘makes no predictions’, but instead is a form of grammar: ‘taken by itself we shouldn’t know what to do with it; it’s useless. But there is all kind of use for it as part of a calculus’. It is just such a formulation of a calculus or grammar – ‘decision trees’, ‘event trees’, ‘attribute-based algorithms’ – that characterizes contemporary security. As for Turing, the logic comprises ‘two faculties, which we may call intuition and ingenuity’. The intuitive realm of imagination and speculation reaches toward a possible solution, while the ingenuity seeks arrangements of propositions. The advent of ‘rules-based’ and ‘risk-based’ security decisions, then, are always already political because they precisely involve combinatorial possibilities whose arrangement has effects in the world.


Amoore, L. (2014). Security and the Incalculable. Security Dialogue, 45(5), 423-439.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Jul 7, 2014
Publication Date Oct 1, 2014
Deposit Date Feb 3, 2015
Publicly Available Date Mar 23, 2015
Journal Security Dialogue
Print ISSN 0967-0106
Electronic ISSN 1460-3640
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 45
Issue 5
Pages 423-439
Keywords Algorithm, Calculation, Data, Insecurity, Science, Security.


Accepted Journal Article (494 Kb)

Copyright Statement
Amoore, L. (2014) 'Security and the incalculable.', Security dialogue., 45 (5). pp. 423-439. © The Author(s) 2014. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations