A historic overview of the interplay of theology and philosophy in the arts, mathematics and sciences

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The etymology of the word "mathematics" can be traced to Greek roots with meanings such "a thing learned" (mathein is the verb "to have learned") and, from that, ta mathematika, "learnable things" and, to think or have one's mind aroused. The natural philosophers of the Renaissance did not draw an explicit distinction between mathematics, the sciences and to an extent the arts. In this paper I explore connections forged by the thinkers of the Renaissance between mathematics, the arts and the sciences, with attention to the nature of the underlying theological and philosophical questions that call for a particular mode of inquiry. Recently Robert Root-Bernstein (2003) introduced the construct of polymathy to suggest that innovative individuals are equally likely to contribute both to the arts and the sciences and either consciously or unconsciously forge links between the two. Several contemporary examples are presented of individuals who pursued multiple fields of research and were able to combine the aesthetic with the scientific. Finally, some possibilities for re-introducing university courses on natural philosophy as a means to integrate mathematics, the arts and the sciences are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-86
Number of pages12
JournalZDM - International Journal on Mathematics Education
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2009


  • History of science
  • Interdisciplinarity in mathematics
  • Philosophy of science
  • Polymathy
  • Renaissance
  • Theory of knowledge


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