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Mathematical TheologiesNicholas of Cusa and the Legacy of Thierry of Chartres$
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David Albertson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199989737

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199989737.001.0001

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The Late Antique Preservation of Neopythagoreanism

The Late Antique Preservation of Neopythagoreanism

(p.60) 3 The Late Antique Preservation of Neopythagoreanism
Mathematical Theologies

David Albertson

Oxford University Press

This chapter traces the three major Neoplatonist discourses that were inherited by medieval Latin Christianity, those of Augustine, Proclus, and Boethius. Each interacted in complex ways with the Nicomachean heritage but introduced alterations or adulterations that prevented medieval Platonism from accessing mathematical theology entirely. Augustine was initially attracted to Neopythagoreanism and even sought to identify divine Wisdom (Sapientia) with number (numerus). But in his later years Augustine viewed mathematical theology as jeopardizing the sovereignty of Logos mediation. Iamblichus intensified Nicomachus’s Neopythagoreanism to such an extreme that Proclus found it necessary to demote the mediating role of number in his philosophy in favor of space and motion. Boethius translated Nicomachus’s works and christened the quadrivium, the four mathematical ways toward the One. But his Christian theological writings remained sharply quarantined from such mathematical pursuits. In these ways the theological potential of Neopythagoreanism was muted but preserved in late antique Platonist traditions.

Keywords:   Proclus, Augustine, Boethius, Iamblichus, Neopythagoreanism, quadrivium, Nicomachus, medieval Platonism

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