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Topic: [HM] Giordano Bruno's "mathesis"
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Arielle Saiber

Posts: 2
Registered: 12/3/04
[HM] Giordano Bruno's "mathesis"
Posted: Mar 19, 2001 1:20 PM
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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 "meta-mathematics."

My questions is two-fold: 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 Saiber
Assistant Professor of Italian
Bowdoin College
Brunswick, ME 04011

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