✪✪✪ Personal Narrative: My Grandmothers Croton

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Personal Narrative: My Grandmothers Croton



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They do great work and we recommend them highly. In the Raphael, Pythagoras is a scholar, a teacher, a sober mathematician; in the Rubens, he is a rather dissolute and louche figure, every inch the raving cult-leader. And two thousand years later, people were still confused about Pythagoras. Who was the real Pythagoras — scholar or crank? If the historical evidence for Pythagoras is sketchy, what about Hippasus? What really happened to him? Was his drowning at the hands of angry Pythagoreans a Whiggish reading of the past? Did modern historians imagine a crisis, and then invent a figure and a story to embody it? One of the oddities of history is that legends often supersede facts. Historical evidence accumulates, monographs are written; but the number of popular accounts retelling the apocryphal story of that non-crisis proliferate.

Because we love to read about crisis and conflict. It makes a better story. But Tom Doniphon John Wayne — literally hidden in the shadows — is really the man who shoots him. Doniphon is the unsung hero. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. A legend that is not true can never become fact, but it can get printed as fact , anyway. They believed that the Pythagoreans should have been upset about the discovery of incommensurable magnitudes. But it was a retrospective belief, that is, a belief formed hundreds, if not thousands of years, after the crisis was supposed to have occurred.

The need to find conflict. Call it Hegelian. But taken at face value, the legend is not about the meaning of words or concepts — nor is it about the inability of one group to understand another. At least in the Kuhnian sense. It was because they could understand it. And his murder was an act of intolerance. No one was ever boiled in oil, stretched on a rack, burned at the stake because of incommensurability.

There is nothing incommensurable about being tossed into the sea by angry Pythagoreans. The story of Hippasus is most likely apocryphal. And it is a story about intolerance, not about our inability to understand new ideas. Or to translate new ideas into old ones. But where did it come from? Yes, it is mentioned in Iamblichus, but what happened after that? And here is where Knorr channels Butterfield. His suggestion that the idea of a crisis, a grundlagenkrisis , came from 19th century mathematics, not ancient Greek mathematics. They rejected any such extension on scientific and philosophical grounds: the arithmos must be whole-number; even the rational numbers, a necessary preliminary to irrational numbers, were excluded from the classical number theory; the problem of irrationals was thus resolved in a geometric manner instead… But what we should at once notice is that such a debate could not have arisen before the successful resolution of the problem of irrational numbers by Weierstrass and Dedekind in the 19th century.

Knorr reminds us that there was a crisis in 19th century mathematics concerning the meaning of the irrational numbers, and that that crisis was projected back into antiquity. Very late. Over years after Iamblichus. The entire substance of the legend is crumbling before us. Knorr is telling us three things. I had imagined that Hippasus — if he was punished — was punished because he betrayed a trust, but Knorr says — No.

There was no oath, no betrayal, no threat to the foundations of Pythagorean mathematics. To be sure, the discovery was held to be significant… late writers [such as Iamblichus] suggest it was maintained as a secret of the school — but was it a challenge? Consider that the Pythagoreans based their natural philosophy on the conception of the world in terms of number and other mathematical categories, that is, in terms of certain abstract, rather than material, principles. The discovery of incommensurability might well support this view…. And so, what does this tell us about paradigms, paradigm shifts, and revolutions? Is there a lesson to be learned here? Shifting historical paradigms. But do these questions about Greek mathematics mean that there is no way to understand the past?

Are we back in a Kuhnian nightmare, where our paradigms force us to see history through one subjective prism or another? Not really. These accounts of incommensurability highlight the difficulties — not the impossibility — of understanding the past. They provide a reminder that history in its particulars, like the weather, defeats grand schemes. But does the practicing mathematician ever curtail his researches in accordance with such a challenge?

David Fowler also surveys the evidence for a crisis. Chapter 8. But Fowler, like Burkert, wondered: who was Pythagoras? Could the fascination with Pythagoras, as well as the fascination with Hippasus, really be a fascination with the nature of historical evidence? And with names and descriptions? He imagined a Jeopardy question with a blank to be filled in. Who is Pythagoras? He even conducted a survey on Pythagoras. What do contemporary academics believe about Pythagoras? And how compatible are their beliefs with scholarly research? Here is a pie-graph based on his results. I wish there were some figures on what percentage of the 48 percent believed that Pythagoras was primarily a bean-hater. Whatever his natural parts may be, I cannot recognize in his few and idle years the competence to judge of my long and laborious life… His Grace thinks I have obtained too much.

I answer, that my exertions, whatever they have been, were such as no hopes of pecuniary reward could possibly excite, and no pecuniary compensation can possibly reward them. Between money and such services, if done by abler men than I am, there is no common principle of comparison: they are quantities incommensurable. Kuhn died before the publication of the autobiographical material. I am delighted that the interviewers, and the editorial board of the journal Neusis , in which it first appeared, have agreed to its republication here… Tom was exceptionally at ease with these three friends and talked freely on the assumption that he would review the transcript, but time ran out.

There are many simple proofs in many histories of mathematics — E. You can expand it forever, and the digits never repeat themselves. Here it is to 50 places —— 1. If such a segment is marked off on a number axis by means of a compass, the point so constructed cannot coincide with any of the rational points… To the naive mind it must certainly appear very strange that the dense set of rational points does not cover the whole line. The hypotenuse of an isosceles right triangle is incommensurable with its side, but the two can be compared to any required degree of precision. If they can be compared , then they can be translated. At times, I wonder whether he chose the term specifically because its meaning is unclear — outside of mathematics.

It was not used by the Greeks , however, until around B. These rolls were rather fragile and easily torn, so they tended to become damaged if much used. Even if left untouched they rotted fairly quickly except under particularly dry climatic conditions such as exist in Egypt. The only way that such works could be preserved was by having new copies made fairly frequently and, since this was clearly a major undertaking, it would only be done for texts which were considered of major importance. Why do we need to know who is responsible? Without the knowledge that it was Hippasus, would we be worse off?

Would we be left with the Tomb of the Unknown Mathematician? Or the unmarked grave of the mathematician, who died seeking the truth about incommensurability but will never be properly memorialized? Why bother? The ultimate reason may go back to Kripke and the power of names. It gives us the confidence that we are talking about something rather than nothing — or somebody rather than nobody. Originally published: London, J.

Passage One. As to Hippasus, however, they acknowledge that he was one of the Pythagoreans, but that he met the doom of the impious in the sea in consequence of having divulged and explained the method of squaring the circle, by twelve pentagons; but nevertheless he obtained the renown of having made the discovery. Passage Two. It is accordingly reported that he who first divulged the theory of commensurable and incommensurable quantities to those unworthy to receive it, was by the Pythagoreans so hated that they not only expelled him from their common association, and from living with him, but also for him constructed a symbolic tomb, as for one who had migrated from the human into another life.

Passage Three. It is also reported that the Divine Power was so indignant with him who divulged the teachings of Pythagoras that he perished at sea, as an impious person who divulged the method of inscribing in a sphere the dodecahedron, one of the so-called solid figures, the composition of the icostagonus. But according to others, this is what happened to him who revealed the doctrine of irrational and incommensurable quantities. David Fideler, trans. Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, p. And they get confused. On one hand, there is the mathematical concept. And is quoted in D. Another account is provided by Sir T. Heath, who writes,. From Thales to Euclid. How could two stories be more different.

In B. Minar, Jr. He is always on trial and always in danger of doing something wrong. No more carefree irresponsibility! Everything he does is done consciously, almost anxiously. Eat only the flesh of animals that may be sacrificed. Do not step over the beam of a balance. On rising, straighten the bedclothes and smooth out the place where you lay. Spit on your hair clippings and nail parings. Destroy the marks of a pot in the ashes. Do not piss towards the sun. Do not use a pine-torch to wipe a chair clean. Do not look in a mir-ror by lamplight. On a journey do not turn around at the border, for the Furies are following you.

Do not make a detour on your way to the temple, for the god should not come second. Do not help a person to unload, only to load up. Do not dip your hand into holy water. Do not kill a louse in the temple. Do not stir the fire with a knife. One should not have children by a woman who wears gold jewelry. One should put on the right shoe first, but when washing do the left foot first. One should not pass by where an ass is lying. Just that we may not be able to know the fact of the matter. Non, At the end we see the miraculous animal captured, gracefully resigned to his fate, standing in an enclosure surrounded by a neat little fence.

This picture may serve as a simile for what we have attempted here. Reality, however, may be vastly different from the product of our imagination; perhaps it is vain to hope for anything more than a pi cture which is pleasing to the constructive mind when we try to restore the past. Mercifully they do not share a postmodern rejection of truth. But what if many people for example, the members of the audience watching the movie believe that man is Ransom Stoddard James Stewart?

After Stoddard Stewart seemingly kills L. I believe the description would still refer to Stoddard Stewart. Stoddard is baptized and the reference is fixed. Russell wrote about proper names as disguised definite descriptions. Stoddard is returning by train to Washington. The legend is generally made by the majority of people in the village, who are sane. The book is generally written by the one man in the village who is mad. But there is nothing in Plato to suggest that the discovery of incommensurability caused a crisis of any kind. Fowler is particularly good on this issue. Call it an unfortunate combination of intolerance and power. Rowland, University of Chicago Press.

Volume 33, Issue , Pages 4—34, Solomon Feferman. This is not to suggest that, in a given age, the problem troubles every mathematician. The methods of differential and integral calculus that were invented by Newton and Leibniz were calmly applied with the knowledge that they were not well-founded and despite the paradoxes they implied. The paradoxes of infinity, long known, were never considered as serious menaces, but rather as pleasantries at the periph-ery of mathematics…I do not know who first spoke of a crisis in the foundations of mathematics, but I am sure that the term was invented later, in the days when we began seriously to deal with foundations.

And I further do not know who discovered such a crisis of foundations in ancient mathematics. The famous little book of Hasse and Scholz from is a terminus ante quem for the use of this term, but the idea itself is older, and can be traced back to Tannery. Second Edition. Pythagoras was born in Samos and later went to Croton. It is believed that he moved to Metapontum just before he died. A trip across the boot of Italy. To give Hippasus the boot? Perhaps we could find him, clutching a clay tablet with the proof, at the bottom of the sea.

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