Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
45. Pythagoras as a Man of Science 47. The Figures

From Chapter II., Science and Religion

46. Arithmetic
In his treatise on Arithmetic, Aristoxenos said that Pythagoras was the first to carry that study beyond the needs of commerce,71 and his statement is confirmed by everything we otherwise know. By the end of the fifth century B.C. we find that there is a widespread interest in such subjects and that these are studied for their own sake. Now this new interest cannot have been wholly the work of a school; it must have originated with some great man, and there is no one but Pythagoras to whom we can refer it. As, however, he wrote nothing, we have no sure means of distinguishing his own teaching from that of his followers in the next generation or two. All we can safely say is that, the more primitive any Pythagorean doctrine appears, the more likely it is to be that of Pythagoras himself, and all the more so if it can be shown to have points of contact with views which we know to have been held in his own time or shortly before it. In particular, when we find the later Pythagoreans teaching things that were already something of an anachronism in their own day, we may be pretty sure we are dealing with survivals which only the authority of the master's name could have preserved. Some of these must be mentioned at once, though the developed system belongs to a later part of our story. It is only by separating its earliest form from its later that the place of Pythagoreanism in Greek thought can be made clear, though we must remember that no one can now pretend to draw the line between its successive stages with any certainty.

Burnet's Notes


71. Stob. i. p. 20, 1, ἐκ τῶν Ἀριστοξένου περὶ ἀριθμητικῆς, Τὴν δὲ περὶ τοὺς ἀριθμοὺς πραγματείαν μάλιστα πάντων τιμῆσαι δοκεῖ Πυθαγόρας καὶ προαγαγεῖν ἐπὶ τὸ πρόσθεν ἀπαγαγὼν ἀπὸ τῆς τῶν ἐμπόρων χρείας

Created for Peithô's Web from Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, 3rd edition (1920). London: A & C Black Ltd. Burnet's footnotes have been converted to chapter endnotes. Greek unicode text entered with Peithô's Younicoder.
Web design by Larry Clark and RSBoyes (Agathon). Peithô's Web gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Anthony Beavers in the creation of this web edition of Burnet. Please send comments to:
agathon at classicpersuasion