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Mathematical TheologiesNicholas of Cusa and the Legacy of Thierry of Chartres$
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David Albertson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199989737

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199989737.001.0001

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Platonic Transformations of Early Pythagorean Philosophy

Platonic Transformations of Early Pythagorean Philosophy

(p.23) 1 Platonic Transformations of Early Pythagorean Philosophy
Mathematical Theologies

David Albertson

Oxford University Press

This chapter clarifies the fraught relation between Plato’s original philosophy and the Pythagoreanism that influenced him. Plato’s discussions of mathematics in the Republic, Timaeus, and Philebus should be read as modification of the views of two prominent Presocratic Pythagorean philosophers, Philolaus of Croton and Archytas of Tarentum. Where they viewed mathematics as coextensive with first philosophy, Plato proposed that mathematical ideas represented an essential but intermediate tier between the sensible and intelligible realms. This ambivalent Platonic gesture of tying number to mediation generated controversy already within the Old Academy. Its first two leaders, Speusippus and Xenocrates, disagreed over the relation between the mathematicals and the forms. Even as Aristotle questioned the coherence of Plato’s mathematical mediation, in some ways he remained trapped by the three-tier model.

Keywords:   Pythagoreanism, Presocratic philosophers, Philolaus, Archytas, Plato, Speusippus, Xenocrates, Aristotle, Old Academy

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