HISTORY OF IDEAS: Pythagoras, Pythagoreans and the Measure of Beauty


HISTORY OF IDEAS: Pythagoras, Pythagoreans and the Measure of Beauty
by Darius Kadivar

We remember him best for proving that the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides, but Pythagoras of Samos was also an Ionian Greek philosopher and founder of the religious movement called Pythagoreanism the ideals of which had far reaching influences on such idealogies as communism or socialism in the centuries to come.

No texts by Pythagoras are known to have survived, although forgeries under his name — a few of which remain extant — did circulate in antiquity. Critical ancient sources like Aristotle and Aristoxenus cast doubt on these writings. Ancient Pythagoreans usually quoted their master's doctrines with the phrase autos ephe ("he himself said") — emphasizing the essentially oral nature of his teaching.

According to Aristotle Metaphysics 1-5 , cc. 350 BC:

"The so-called Pythagoreans, who were the first to take up mathematics, not only advanced this subject, but saturated with it, they fancied that the principles of mathematics were the principles of all things."


More on Pythagoras Here

Cromwell Productions Presents Genius - Pythagoras:

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Part IV:

Part V:

Pythagoras: How to measure beauty - The Human Face:

Comedian John Cleese and model and actress Liz Hurley investigate how mathematics can reflect our perception of beauty. Includes some great tests that you can try out yourself! Do parts of your body divide into the ratio 1 to 1.618? Fascinating short video from BBC science show 'The Human Face'.

Related Blogs:

HISTORY OF IDEAS: Schopenhauer on Love (BBC)

HISTORY OF IDEAS: Epicurus on Happiness (BBC)

HISTORY OF IDEAS:Sigmund Freud: Analysis of a Mind

HISTORY OF IDEAS: Friedrich Nietzsche-Hardship-Zarathustra-Triumph of the Will (BBC)

THE STORY OF GOD: Robert Winston explains Zoroastrianism

HISTORY OF IDEAS: Jean Paul Sartre on Freedom and Existentialism (BBC)

HISTORY OF IDEAS: Seneca on Anger - A Guide To Happiness with Alain de Botton (BBC)

HISTORY OF IDEAS: Montaigne's Guide To Happiness,Wisdom and Self-Esteem (BBC Documentary)

HISTORY OF IDEAS:Socrates on Self-Confidence and Non Conformist Thought (BBC Documentary)

HISTORY FORUM: The Age of Enlightment in France and Europe.

EMPIRE OF THE MIND: The Greeks - Crucible of Civilization narrated by Liam Neeson (PBS-1999)

HISTORY FORUM: Machiavelli's "The Prince" and the "Art" of Governing

GOOD READ: All You Need to Know About The Enlightment Philosophers

HISTORY FORUM: Nader Naderpour on Iran's Constitutional Revolution and European Rennaissance (1996)




more from Darius Kadivar

one of my favourites

by humanbeing on

pythagoras, as a character in the lore of philosophy and as a man of spirit and mind. he directly or indirectly sired much that was beautiful in plato, in music, in mathemtics, in dante, in bach, in newton, you name it.

the icon of greek genius, while rumoured not to have been greek, but hailing from the east. 

the enigmatic and elusive nature of this persona is enhanced by the fact that he is not normally included among the canon of seven sages, although he competes with thales for the contest of 'first inventor' of wisdom.

he is known for his pythagorean theorem, which is recorded in euclid, elements, book one, proposition 47. in the wording of the proposition and proofs in that passage the verbs for describing the squares and triangles are derived from the stem for 'drawing' (graphein), -- representing the greek tendency for proving and arguing through graphic means (sound familiar?)

pythagoras and his theorem inspired many myths and anecdotes, as well as some poetry. here is an exceprt of the hellenistic librarian and poet callimachus, iambus one, lines 52ff, about the handing over of a victory chalice from one sage to another and finally to the winner, thales (so see, even if pythagoras was out of the canon, his he actually did sneak in the back door into the canon by allusion to his genius and ascetic ways):

…The victory fell to Thales / who was of able mind in other things, / and who was said to have measured out the little stars / of the Wagon, by which the Phoenicians sail. / And the Arcadian by happy chance found the old man / in the shrine of Apollo at Didyma / scratching the ground with a staff, and drawing the figure [graphonta to skhema] / that the Phrygian Euphorbus discovered [exheure] / who first of men drew [protos egrapse] unequal triangles and the circle, / and who taught men to abstain from living creatures.

in the test of time,  people remember pythagoras more than thales.