Thursday, November 02, 2006


I just started a book called "A history of Philosophy" by Fr. Frederick Copleston. Its the first of a nine-volume set written to chronicle the history of philosophy from the early Ionians to the present day. One thing in particular caught my eye while reading yesterday and I thought my sister might enjoy it. It's about the Pythagoreans.

The Pythagoreans were a group of people in southern Italy (Kroton) in the sixth centruy BC. Pythagoreas, is actually rarely mentioned and may have only been the founder of the group and therefore only its namesake and not its great leader. Everyone seems to know about the Pythagorean Theorum, but did you know, that the Pythagoreans did not study math for the science of it, but rather they studied math as a religion? It probably started after they discovered that different lengths of string on a lyre had different mathematical qualities. That is to say that "pitch may be said to depend on number, in so far as it depends on the lengths..." Anyway, using this as a basis, they proclaimed that the world consisted of numbers and nothing but them. They regarded numbers spacially such as one is a point, two is the line, three is the surface and four is the solid. Thinking this way they said that "all bodies consist of points or units in space, which when taken together constitute a number. They also held that all the elements were numbers and that the evens were finite while the odds were infinite. To "prove" this they drew diagrams like the following:

So, to ash, I think this proves that mathmaticians are wierd, and for the rest of us I think this is an interesting develpoment in early philosophy. For more check out the book.


Ash said...

I have a really cool math history book from a class I took (on... you guessed it... math history) that I think you might enjoy. Actually, it's a two volume set. It has more on the Pythagoreans and lots of other weird mathematicians. I think Dad has them... I need to ask.

Ash said...

Yeah, mathematician=weird pretty much in at least one way or another.

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