From pious to polite: Pythagoras in the Res publica litterarum of French Renaissance mathematics

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Abstract

Between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, Pythagoras became a purveyor of polite secrets. To the Florentine Neoplatonist philosopher Marsilio Ficino, Pythagoras was a prophet or priest whose cryptic sayings might allow a glimpse into cosmic mysteries. By the 1650s one was as likely to find Pythagoras adorning a treatise on the theory of disciplines like swordsmanship and dancing. Numbers had come down to earth. This paper charts the first, crucial part of this inversion in meanings and importance attributed to Pythagoras—and so to mathematics—among French mathematicians in the first part of the sixteenth century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-552
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of the History of Ideas
Volume74
Issue number4
Early online date13 Feb 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2013

Keywords

  • Pythagoras
  • mathematics
  • Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples
  • Charles de Bovelles
  • Oronce Fine
  • Jacques Peletier du Mans
  • French republic of letters
  • Renaissance
  • humanism
  • philosophy

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