[OPE-L:1417] Re: Pythagorean number-worship

Paul Cockshott (wpc@clyder.gn.apc.org)
Mon, 11 Mar 1996 00:56:38 -0800

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Ridiculing Pythagoras has a long pedigree, but
his belief in the significance of number came from
experimental science. According to tradition, he
was passing a blacksmiths and noticed that the sound
made by the hammer blows varied according to the
length of the piece being struck. Impressed by
this he conducted a series of experiments on the
tones given out by bars of different lengths when
struck, or tubes of different lengths when blown,
arriving thereby at the mathematical foundation of
the musical scales. Dont ascribe all of Platos
idealism to him. This is not to say that he did
not have some foibles:

Customer: Where do you come from?
Pythagoras: Samos.
Customer: And where were you educated?
Pythagoras: In Egypt was I taught the wisdom of the
Customer: Well now, if I buy you, what will you teach me.
Pythagoras: Nothing. I can only bring back things from
your unconscious.
Customer: How will you do that?
Pythagoras: First by purifying your psyche and washing
out your dirty mind.
Customer: Ok, lets assume that its not dirty, what next.
Pythagoras: First a long silence. You must not speak a
word for 5 years.
Customer: What comes after the 5 year silence.
Pythagoras: You will be instructed in music and geometry.
Customer: Its a fine thing if I cant acquire philosophy
without taking music lessons!
Pythagoras: After that you must learn to count.
Customer: But I know how to count already.
Pythagoras: Let me hear you count.
Customer: 1, 2, 3, 4
Pythagoras: What did I say? What you think is 4 is
actually 10, an equilateral triangle and
the oath by which we swear.
Customer: By 4 then, I swear I have never heard anything
so mysterious and holy in my life!

PHILOSOPHERS GOING CHEAP, Lucian of Samosata, 2nd Century AD