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Which kind of mathematics was known and referred to by those who wanted to integrate mathematics in «Wisdom» –Neopythagoreans and others?

Jens Høyrup

*Corresponding author: Jens Høyrup jensh@ruc.dk


Plato, so the story goes, held mathematics in high esteem, and those philosopher-kings that ought to rule his republic should have a thorough foundation in mathematics. This may well be true – but an observation made by Aristotle suggests that the mathematics which Plato intends is not the one based on theorems and proofs which we normally identify with “Greek mathematics”. Most other ancient writers who speak of mathematics as a road toward Wisdom also appear to be blissfully ignorant of the mathematics of Euclid, Archimedes, Apollonios, etc. – though not necessarily of their names. The aim of the paper is to identify the kinds of mathematics which were available as external sources for this current (on the whole leaving out of consideration Liberal-Arts mathematics as not properly external). A number of borrowings can be traced to various practitioners' traditions – but always as bits borrowed out of context.

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