Recent researches on Ptolemy and Ptolemaic traditions – 24 mai 2018

Séminaire lecture de textes
Text reading seminar

organised by SPHERE and Observatoire de Paris

Around some recent researches on Ptolemy and Ptolemaic traditions

Venue: Université Paris Diderot, Condorcet Building
10 rue Alice Domon et Léonie Duquet 75013 Paris – map
24 May, 2018 – 10:00 am to 16:30  – room 371A


Glen van Brummelen (Quest University, Canada)
Jacqueline Feke (University of Waterloo, Canada)

Programme – pdf version with abstracts

10:00 – 13:00
Glen van Brummelen
Bianchini and the Flores Almagesti: Ptolemaic Astronomy from Beginning to End

Abstract: Fifteenth-century Italian astronomer Giovanni Bianchini was the author of several related texts dealing with to Ptolemaic astronomy, including the Flores Almagesti. This work, used frequently as a textbook in European universities, opens literally at the beginning of the subject, with basic arithmetic. Bianchini then moves to algebra before turning to basic trigonometry, eventually covering topics from the first six books of the Almagest. Its role as a textbook obscures some of its major innovations, including a complete decimal system of numeration, and novel approaches to trigonometry and spherical astronomy that extend well beyond the scope of the Almagest itself.

14:00 – 16:00
Jacqueline Feke
Ptolemy’s Harmonic Ethics

Abstract: Why did Ptolemy devote his time to the mathematical sciences, especially astronomy? The answer lies in his brief ethical statement in the first chapter of the Almagest. Coopting virtue ethics for the mathematician, Ptolemy argues that the best life is the one devoted to mathematics, where the mathematician configures his soul in accordance with the good order in the heavens. In this paper, I analyze this ethical statement and argue that to understand why and how astronomical objects serve as ethical exemplars in Ptolemy’s philosophy we must look to his Harmonics. It is because musical pitches, heavenly bodies, and human souls are all characterized by harmonic ratios that the study of either harmonics or astronomy can lead to the good life.