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The Alexandrian Tradition

Interactions between Science, Religion, and Literature


Edited By Luis Arturo Guichard, Juan Luis García Alonso and María Paz de Hoz

This book is the outcome of the conference «Imperial Alexandria: Interactions between Science, Religion and Literature», held at Salamanca University in October 2011. The conference convened a group of experts from different fields to address the interrelationship between Science, Religion and Literature in the Graeco-Roman world during the Imperial Period, and especially in Alexandria, situating it within the context of the long tradition of knowledge that had been consolidating itself in this city, above all during the Hellenistic era. The encounter’s main aim was to create a forum for interdisciplinary reflection on «the Alexandrian model» of knowledge in the Imperial Period and its background, being attended by philologists and historians specialising in different types of texts (literary, scientific and religious), whose study requires an interdisciplinary approach, with priority being given to the notion of contact and the relationship between these subjects in order to gain a better understanding of the spirit, way of thinking and moral values of a particularly important era in the development of ancient culture.
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Mathematics & Religion in Ancient Greece and Medieval Islam: John Lennart Berggren



Mathematics & Religion in Ancient Greece and Medieval Islam

In his classic study of religion and human psychology, The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James makes the point that in speaking of religion one has to begin with the realization that one is speaking of a collective, and the word does not stand for ‘any single principle or essence.’1 James goes on to distinguish between two manifestations of religion: the institutional and the personal. And he says at the outset that he will largely be silent relative to the first of these two forms, the institutional, and will focus almost entirely on the second, the personal. This latter aspect he describes as “the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.” In this lecture both the institutional and personal manifestations of religion will enter, but I stress James’s mention of the personal form because it reminds us that under the rubric of ‘religion’ there are phenomena that do not have any direct connection with institutions.

It may happen, however, that the institutional and the personal aspects are very closely linked. Indeed, although it seems that the earliest known connection between religion and mathematics in ancient Greece arose from ‘the feelings, acts, and experiences’ of Pythagoras (ca. 572–497 BC) his teachings are known only through later writings stemming from the Pythagorean school....

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