Pythagoras: The Philosophy of Number

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This course explores the intense and extensive intellectual activity of the Pythagorean school, which extends from mathematics to philosophy, from cosmology to music, and whose legacy had a decisive influence from the Greek world to the Renaissance. For the Pythagoreans, in effect, those we now consider as separate disciplines were inseparable aspects of a unique inquiry, inspired by a mystical enthusiasm and carried out through a profound philosophical and mathematical search. In Pythagoreanism, then, sifted through Platonic philosophy, we may find the first historical antecedent of many of the components which contributed to the birth of the modern world. The course starts from such premises and explores the meaning and the implications of the mysticism of number in Pythagoreanism, with particular emphasis on its influence on mathematics, art, and philosophy. Advanced knowledge of mathematics is not expected of students taking the course.

3 credits

Course Code: HUM 335

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

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  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.