The living burden of modern science

The living burden of modern science

From the fall of Constantinople to the mathematics of nature

The disappearance of the Eastern Roman Empire in the fifteenth century had dire consequences for the future of the world. Judge instead. Greek-speaking scholars, leaving the Ottoman lands, settled in Italy. They brought with them many texts which Westerners knew only in bits and pieces, and opened schools where they taught Greek. Discovering the Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophies was, for some spirits of the time, a joy. In Florence, Cosimo de’ Medici hired Marsilio Ficino to translate the entirety of Plato’s works into Latin. This, which was hitherto unknown, suddenly became available to all educated people in Europe. The fresco commissioned by Pope Julius II at the beginning of the sixteenth century from Raphael, entitled Athena Schoolbears witness to the remarkable promotion of Plato during the preceding half-century: while throughout the medieval period, Aristotle was the main figure of ancient thought (so much so that in Divine Comedy From Dante, it appears not by his name, but by “the lord who knows”), in Athena SchoolAnd the
Plato absorbed the work with Aristotle and occupied his position.

In this matter, mathematics is gaining a new position. Why do we say that at the beginning of the Academy, where Plato’s disciples met near Athens, the sentence was written: “No one is allowed in here if he is not a surveyor”? This is because in Platonic thought, mathematics occupies a crucial place, as mediators between the reasonable world and ideas. For Plato, the virtue of mathematics was fundamentally ascending: through it, the soul learned to separate from the sensible to turn towards the intelligible, to leave appearances for the gathering of ideas. Certainly, he was on the track…

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