Wednesday, May 27, 2009

μαθηματικην (or "mathematics," i think.)

one of the workplaces i've found in amsterdam has been the 11th floor of a university building in VU.

my girlfriend showed it to me. it's part of a library, but that floor doesn't have any maths books, so i've mostly ignored what tomes and texts lie on those shelves ..

.. until today.

as it happens, my usual table is between two shelves of greek literature and criticism. right behind my usual chair, at eye level, there is a shelf which houses the following book:

selections illustrating the history of greek mathematics by Ivor Thomas (harvard university press).

this is an excerpt -- in fact, the first entry --

from the works of anatolius,
cited by heron. definitions, ed. Heibur9 160. 8-162.-2

"why is mathemati¢s so named?

"the peripateti¢s say that rhetoric and poetry and the whole of popular music can be understood without any course of instruction, but no on can acquire knowledge of the subjects called by the special name mathemati¢s unless he has first gone through a course of instruction in them; and for this reason the study of these subjects was called mathemati¢s [3]. the pythagoreans are said to have given the special name mathemati¢s only to ge0metry and arithmeti¢, and there was no name common to both."

[3] the world μαθημα, from μαθειν, means in the first place "that which is learnt." in plato it is used in the general sense for any subject of study or instruction, but wit the tendency to restrict it to the studies now called mathemati¢s. by the time of aristotle, this restriction had become established.

huh. gotta love those pythagoreans.

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