The Philosopher Who Loved Numbers

Standard

Pythagorean Theorem — or Pythagoras’ theorem: in any right-angled triangle, the area of the square whose side is the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the areas of the squares whose sides are the two legs (the two sides that meet at a right angle).

Wikipedia

Ideas

Pythagoras of Samos, the creator of one of the most famous equations of all time, has a rather obscure history. He wrote very little about himself, delegating the task of documenting his life and views to his followers.  What we do know is that in his world of the mid-sixth century BCE, he was considered to be a thinker and a mystic.

In today’s world, Pythagoras’ school would be considered more like a religious cult than a philosophical establishment.  His teachings included many eccentric doctrines including, the veneration for, and abstinence from, the eating of beans. He advocated reincarnation and the transmigration of souls.   Most see him as the founder of the modern belief in numerology, later popularised by Nostradamus.

Pythagoras argued that the ultimate nature of reality is number, which he developed out of his theory of music. He claimed that music had a special power over the soul.  The proof was found in the intervals between musical tones, which could be expressed as ratios between the first four integers, number 1 – 4.  His discovery of irrational numbers did play havoc with his beliefs on the origin of the universe; however, they have proven to be a major and lasting development in mathematical thinking.

After his death, his followers split into two camps; one embraced his religious and mystical teachings, while the other pursued his scientific and mathematical philosophy.   Ideas and beliefs, whether or not they prove to be valid, must be considered, lest we overlook the very insight that will bring us to the next stage of development.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” 
 Aristotle, Metaphysics

35 thoughts on “The Philosopher Who Loved Numbers

  1. I always like to think of the awe they must have felt, computing and discovering the relationship the world and math. They must truly have felt as if they were priests entrusted with the universe’s secrets.

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    • I agree – that is exactly what I have been thinking these past few weeks. The beginning of knowledge! What was the catalyst? Most likely curiosity and the ability to ask why and how. Then there is the question about our timeline. Are we at the beginning? And can we be entrusted with the universe’s secrets.

      “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
      ― Aristotle

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    • I always like Aristotle’s quote about education –

      “The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.”
      Thanks for stopping by!!!

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  2. Congratulation, Rebecca. Your last posts has reached so high level. I like them so much! Pythagoras … Enjoy these moments, World!

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    • I am learning so much by going back to researching the ancients. I have a feeling they would be very pleased to see that we still remember them fondly…

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  3. Now if someone had told me all that at school I may have enjoyed Pythagorus and his equation a little more!

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    • I must confess, the equation still makes me quake a little. I love how some people seem to make them up from thin area.

      As Isaac Newton once said, “It is the weight, not numbers of experiments that is to be regarded.

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    • I still can’t figure it all out, Valerie!! Numbers form a language that resides within us, but it seems that I still have to figure out where!! But as Rene Descartes once said, “Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare.” Gives me hope….

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  4. I’m trying to imagine the world before the discovery of numbers. it’s a little unsettling to realize how much knowledge we take for granted.

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    • Oh, LaVagabonde – you are so right. Everything we have today, is because someone cared enough to pass along the knowledge. May it be so for us…

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  5. Numbers, I respect and admire anyone who works with numbers. What a genius this man was! Great photo!

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  6. Hi Rebecca: would you mind let me know where you took this pix ? It should be the famous Porch of the Maidens in Athens. But there should only be five( although these are fake and the real ones are inside the Acropolis museum). The missing one is in British Museum. Perhaps it has been returned? I am just curious.

    About the philosophers, I like all your quotes, especially this one from Aristotle:

    “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
    ― Aristotle

    I am thinking of “Wu wei” of Daoism. I should reflect more on this and learn from this …

    Thanks for another inspiring post!

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    • You are right – I took this photo when I visited the Parthenon in Athens. At that time, there was a considerable amount of scaffolding because of the structural upgrades. I could feel the spirit of Athena in the midst of the ancient pillars – she was very pleased that renovations were well underway.

      I very much appreciate your thoughts on Wu wei, which is the concept non-action or non-doing, to behave in a completely natural, uncontrived way.

      “If there is to be peace in the world,
      There must be peace in the nations.
      If there is to be peace in the nations,
      There must be peace in the cities.
      If there is to be peace in the cities,
      There must be peace between neighbors.
      If there is to be peace between neighbors,
      There must be peace in the home.
      If there is to be peace in the home,
      There must be peace in the heart.”
      ― Lao Tzu

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      • Thanks for the Lao Tze quote. I am still puzzled by the number of maidens. I went there in April, 2011. When did you take this pix?

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      • We just missed each other – I was there in May 2011 – this photo was taken on May 18th. Now I am curious, too!!!

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      • This is very, very interesting! I was in Athens only one month after you were and now we have a sixth maiden on my photo that was not on yours. Something is afoot, as Sherlock Holmes would say. I am going to do some more research! Thank you so much for sharing this information! The story continues ….

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      • Thanks so much, Rebecca. The mystery is resolved! so the one on the left looks like there is nothing behind it.

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      • I was determined to solve the mystery so I went back to my husband’s photos to see if there was something that I had missed. He took a photo from the same angle as you did. Then it all made sense. Had fun figuring it out!

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  7. Reblogged this on My Notebook and commented:
    This is from my friend Clanmother ‘s recent post. I like this picture and all the philosopher’s quotes. But one thing that puzzled both of us is the number of maidens. This is too interesting. I am reblogging this post to my other blog where my other readers may help us find an answer. I will write a post following the reblog.

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