An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Mathematics and the Divine - a brief review

Mathematics and the Divine
A Historical Study
Edited by Teun Koetsier, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands and 
Luc Bergmans, University of Paris IV Sorbonne, Paris, France

Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2004
hbk, 716 Pages
ISBN  978-0-444-50328-2

In 35 chapters, with 34 authors and 716 pages this is book explores history, philosophy, theology and the metaphysics of mathematics. I know of no other book that does just that.

Most of the usual suspects are here: Descartes, Pascal, Kepler, Galileo, Euler and Cantor. Others less 'usual' are  Nicomachus of Gerasa, Nicholas of Cusa, Johannes Faulhaber, Athanasius Kircher, John Wallis, Gerrit Mannoury and René Guénon. The emphasis is on people and movements rather than topics in maths  - except where individuals are involved, e.g. infinity in the context of Cantor. The one exception is on 'divined proportion' which takes a look at the Golden ratio. The chapters are in topic chronological order.

It is good to see that it is not only Western mathematicians that are included; so we have chapters on Chinese number mysticism, mathematical models in Indian cosmology and geography in Islam. 

1. Ho Peng-Yoke, Chinese Number Mysticism 
2. Kim Plofker, Derivation and Revelation: the Legitimacy of Mathematical Models in Indian Cosmology 
3. Reviel Netz, The Pythagoreans 
4. Ian Mueller, Mathematics and the Divine in Plato 
5. Jean-François Mattei, Nicomachus of Gerasa and the Divine Arithmetical Ladder 
6. Dominic J. O'Meara, Geometry and the Divine in Proclus 
7. Marie-Pierre Terrien, Religious Architecture and Mathematics during Late Antiquity 
8. David A. King, The Sacred Geography of Islam 
9. Faith Wallis, 'Number Mystique' in early medieval computus texts
10. Maurice-Ruben Hayoun, Is the Divine Universe Divisible 
11. Charles Lohr, Mathematics and the Divine: Ramon Lull 
12. Hugue Garcia, Christian Gnosis 
13. Edith Dudley Sylla, Swester Katrei and Gregory of Rimini: Angels, God and Mathematics in the Fourteenth Century 
14. Jean-Michel Counet, Mathematics and the Divine in Nicholas of Cusa 
15. Teun Koetsier and Karin Reich, Michael Stifel and his Numerology 
16. Ivo Schneider, Between Rosicrucians and Kabbala - the Mathematics of the Biblical Numbers of Johannes Faulhaber 
17. Eberhard Knobloch, Mathematics and the Divine: Athanasius Kircher 
18. Volker R. Remmert, Galileo, God and Mathematics 
19. André Charrak, The Mathematical Model of Creation According to Kepler 
20. Jean-Marie Nicolle, The Mathematical Analogy in the Proof of God's Existence by Descartes
21. Donald Adamson, Pascal's Views on Mathematics and the Divine 
22. Ger Harmsen, Spinoza and the Geometrical Method of Proof 
23. Philip Beeley and Siegmund Probst, John Wallis (1616-1703): Mathematician and Divine 
24. Kees de Pater, Newton and the Ocean of Truth 
25. Herbert Breger, Leibniz: Mathematics and the Divine 
26. Wolfgang Breidert, Berkeley's Defence of the Infinite God in Contrast to the Infinite in Mathematics 
27. Ruediger Thiele, Leonhard Euler and the Divine 
28. Ruediger Thiele, Georg Cantor and the Divine 
29. Luc Bergmans, Gerrit Mannoury and his Fellow Significians on Mathematics and Mysticism 
30. Teun Koetsier, Arthur Schopenhauer and L. E. J. Brouwer: A Comparison 
31. Sergei S. Demidov and Charles E. Ford, On the Road to a Unified View: Priest Pavel Florensky - Theologian, Philosopher and Scientist 
32. François De Gandt, Husserl and Impossible Numbers: a Sceptical Experience 
33. Bruno Pinchard, Symbol and Space According to René Guénon 
34. Teun Koetsier, Eddington: Science and the Unseen World 
35. Albert van der Schoot, The Divined Proportion


Calvin Jongsma said...

I reviewed this (very expensive) book for MAA Online back in 2005. It can be read at

Steve Bishop said...

Thanks for the link Calvin - the link to your review is broken on the ASA site.