The Mystery of Numbers

Oxford University Press USA (1996)

Abstract
Why is the number seven lucky--even holy--in almost every culture? Why do we speak of the four corners of the earth? Why do cats have nine lives? From literature to folklore to private superstitions, numbers play a conspicuous role in our daily lives. But in this fascinating book, Annemarie Schimmel shows that numbers have been filled with mystery and meaning since the earliest times, and across every society. In The Mystery of Numbers Annemarie Schimmel conducts an illuminating tour of the mysteries attributed to numbers over the centuries. She begins with an informative and often surprising introduction to the origins of number systems: pre-Roman Europeans, for example, may have had one based on twenty, not ten, while the Mayans had a system more sophisticated than our own. Schimmel also reveals how our fascination with numbers has led to a rich cross-fertilization of mathematical knowledge: "Arabic" numerals, for instance, were picked up by Europe from the Arabs, who had earlier adopted them from Indian sources. But the heart of the book is an engrossing guide to the symbolism of numbers. Number symbolism, she shows, has deep roots in Western culture, from the philosophy of the Pythagoreans and Platonists, to the religious mysticism of the Cabala and the Islamic Brethren of Purity, to Kepler's belief that the laws of planetary motion should be mathematically elegant, to the unlucky thirteen. After exploring the sources of number symbolism, Schimmel examines individual numbers ranging from one to ten thousand, discussing the meanings they have had for Judaic, Christian, and Islamic traditions, with examples from Indian, Chinese, and Native American cultures as well. Two, for instance, has widely been seen as a number of contradiction and polarity, a number of discord and antithesis. And six, according to ancient and neo-platonic thinking, is the most perfect number because it is both the sum and the product of its parts. Using examples ranging from the Bible to the Mayans to Shakespeare, she shows how numbers have been considered feminine and masculine, holy and evil, lucky and unlucky. A highly respected scholar of Islamic culture, Annemarie Schimmel draws on her vast knowledge to paint a rich, cross-cultural portrait of the many meanings of numbers. Engaging and accessible, her account uncovers the roots of a phenomenon we all feel every Friday the thirteenth.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy this book Find it on Amazon.com
ISBN(s) 9780195089196   0195089197   0195063031
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 56,999
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

What Are Numbers?Zvonimir Šikić - 1996 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 10 (2):159-171.
On Infinite Number and Distance.Jeremy Gwiazda - 2012 - Constructivist Foundations 7 (2):126-130.
The Arithmetical Hierarchy of Real Numbers.Xizhong Zheng & Klaus Weihrauch - 2001 - Mathematical Logic Quarterly 47 (1):51-66.
Reference to Numbers in Natural Language.Friederike Moltmann - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 162 (3):499 - 536.
The New Problem of Numbers in Morality.Fiona Woollard - 2014 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (4):631-641.
Platonic Number in the Parmenides and Metaphysics XIII.Dougal Blyth - 2000 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 8 (1):23 – 45.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2015-10-14

Total views
0

Recent downloads (6 months)
0

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

My notes