Seminar: “Mathematics and Psychology: The Anonymous Eleventh-Century Commentary on Boethius’ De Arithmetica”
Clelia Crialesi (Mellon Fellow, PIMS)
Those planning to attend the seminar are asked to register before Tuesday 20 October with the Institute Registrar: email@example.com
This paper discusses the reception of Boethius’ De arithmetica in the early Middle Ages, by focusing on one anonymous commentary from the late eleventh century. In order to frame this text into its own cultural context, three issues addressed by the Anonymous are considered. They concern psychology, namely, the theory of the soul – both individual and cosmic: (1) the pre-existence and descent of the individual soul; (2) its powers; (3) the mathematical structure of the World Soul. The Anonymous shares this interest in psychology with the commentaries on Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy written by Remigius of Auxerre, Bovo of Corvey, Adalbold of Uthrecht, and the so-called Pseudo-Eriugena. This suggests an interrelatedness between the anonymous commentary on the De arithmetica and the abovementioned commentaries on the Consolation. The comparative study of these texts shows that in the late eleventh century the De arithmetica was a vehicle for theories other than mathematics through which it shaped both the reading of specific works, such as the Consolation of Philosophy, and the understanding of one particular philosophical topic, namely, the one that deals with the generation of the World Soul.