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Cusanus : Incorruptible certainty of mathematical signs

From The Learned Ignorance

    DID not Pythagoras, the first philosopher both in name and in fact, consider all investigation of truth to be by means of numbers? The Platonists and also our leading [thinkers] followed him to such an extent that our Augustine, and after him Boethius, affirmed that, assuredly, in the mind of the Creator number was the principal exemplar of the things to be created. How was Aristotle (who by refuting his predecessors wanted to appear as someone without parallel) able in the Metaphysics to teach us about the difference of species otherwise than by comparing the species to numbers? And when, regarding natural forms, he wanted to teach how the one form is in the other, he resorted of necessity to mathematical forms, saying: "Just as a triangle is in a quadrangle, so the lower [form] is in the higher [form]." I will not mention innumerable other similar examples of his. Also, when the Platonist Aurelius Augustine made an investigation regarding the quantity of the soul and its immortality, and regarding other very deep matters, he had recourse to mathematics as an aid. This pathway seemed to please our Boethius to such an extent that he repeatedly asserted that every true doctrine is contained in [the notions of] multitude and magnitude. And to speak more concisely, if you wish: was not the opinion of the Epicureans about atoms and the void - an opinion which] denies God and is at variance with all truth - destroyed by the Pythagoreans and the Peripatetics only through mathematical demonstration? [I mean the demonstration] that the existence of indivisible and simple atoms - something which Epicurus took as his starting point - is not possible. Proceeding on this pathway of the ancients, I concur with them and say that since the pathway for approaching divine matters is opened to us only through symbols, we can make quite suitable use of mathematical signs because of their incorruptible certainty.

         Cf.  Valery, Perfection dans tous les ordres  Hugh of St. Victor, Learn gladly from everyone  Augustine, Socrates fought foolishness, Plato perfected philosophy  Heidegger, Through a foundational poetic and noetic experience of Being  W.K.C. Guthrie, Life of Plato and philosophical influences  Papacy

 

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