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When do “the facts” limit our view?

When do “the facts” limit our view?
A foundation of the Pythagorean philosophy was that all is number. Western thinking at the time explained that ratios ruled the universe. For ratios to rule the world, there was no room for zero as a numerical value. Ratios were all about rational relationships. There was no “void” (zero).  There was no room for “the irrational” either.

The book “Zero: The Biography Of A Dangerous Idea” is a fascinating read and I am doing it an injustice with this morsel plucked out of a much juicier narrative. But one of the anecdotes the author relates is that Pythagoras and his followers, when confronted with evidence of how the math and their world view had some pesky holes in it, sentenced another man to die rather than face the inconsistency of the facts and the truth as they knew them.

The “holes” by the way were irrational numbers. The man who dared to call attention to the irrational, Hippasus (the troublemaker) suffered a nasty fate. The details of his death are kinda fuzzy according to what I read in Zero, but the guy died because he pointed out inconsistencies that others ignored rather than try to fit them into a revised mathematical and philosophical framework.

It took nearly two millenia for the West to accept zero which Seife points out stunted the growth of mathematics, stifled innovation in science and made a mess of the calendar.


What “facts” might be limiting your view of the world?

How hard is it to admit you might be missing something if you are Pythagoras?

Are YOU Pythagoras?


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