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Jacqueline Feke (University of Waterloo)

“Ancient Greek Mathematics as Philosophy”

Abstract: Scholars tend to assume that, just as mathematics and philosophy are distinct disciplines today, so were they in antiquity.  From the fourth century B.C.E. onward, mathematicians and philosophers did differentiate themselves.  They criticized each other’s work and, in some areas of the Greek world, strong rivalries developed between mathematicians and philosophers.  I will argue, however, that the distinction between mathematicians and philosophers did not entail that their fields of inquiry were distinct.  This talk re-examines the distinction between the mathematical sciences and philosophy from the perspective of ancient Greek mathematicians.  I will argue that some mathematicians viewed the relationship between these fields of inquiry as more complex, where the mathematical sciences are not only in relationship to but, even stronger, forms of philosophy in the broadest sense.  The mathematical sciences are types of the love of wisdom that seek to answer some of the most fundamental questions of philosophy: e.g., how to obtain knowledge, how to form a just society, and how to attain the good life.