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[HM] Giordano Bruno's "mathesis"
Posted:
Mar 19, 2001 1:20 PM


In working on Giordano Bruno's "geometric rhetoric" (that is, the geometric metaphors in his philosophical treatises and works of literature) I have come across the term "mathesis" many times. Although the etymology of this word refers simply to "knowledge" or "an act of learning," I am curious if in the sixteenth century it was used more commonly to mean arithmetic and geometry. Bruno seems to use it in this way. In the _Eroici furori_ he speaks of Archimedes's "mathesis," for example, and he calls his own revision of geometry a "mathesis" (see his _Articuli centum et sexaginta adversus huius tempestatis mathematicos atque philosophos_. Prague, 1588). Some Bruno scholars have considered Bruno's mathesis to be other than simply mathematics. Frances Yates interpreted it to be a natural force that lies in between mathematics and physical things. Hilary Gatti has called it a "metamathematics."
My questions is twofold: 1) how was the term "mathesis" used in the sixteenth century; 2) does anyone have any further thoughts as to what it might have meant for Giordano Bruno.
Many thanks, Arielle
*** Arielle Saiber Assistant Professor of Italian Bowdoin College Brunswick, ME 04011 asaiber@bowdoin.edu ***



