History of Philosophy podcast has episode on Nicholas of Cusa


I continue to share things I’ve heard, rather than created. Peter Adamson’s podcast The History Of Philosophy Without Any Gaps this week had an episode about Nicholas of Cusa. There’s another episode on him scheduled for two weeks from now.

Nicholas is one of those many polymaths of the not-quite-modern era. Someone who worked in philosophy, theology, astronomy, mathematics, with a side in calendar reform. He’s noteworthy in mathematics and theology and philosophy for trying to understand the infinite and the infinitesimal. Adamson’s podcast — about a half-hour — focuses on the philosophical and theological sides of things. But the mathematics can’t help creeping in, with questions like, how can you tell the difference between a straight line and the edge of a circle with infinitely large diameter? Or between a circle and a regular polygon with infinitely many sides?

The St Andrews Maths History site has an article on Nicholas that focuses more on the kinds of work he did.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

6 thoughts on “History of Philosophy podcast has episode on Nicholas of Cusa”

    1. There is indeed the Lobachevsky song and, in one of the handful of good developments of 2020, Tom Lehrer donated it (and his other lyrics and tunes) to the public domain.

      Nicholas of Cusa might be an easier fit into a version of Danny Kaye’s song about Russian Composers. (Or maybe not, since you’d need so many names with pretty tight internal rhymes to make that work.)

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        1. There are many ways to connect topics together! One of the wonders I keep rediscovering is how many seemingly disparate fields have some sensible link.

          I’m figuring someday I’ll do my Pi Day piece entirely from the perspective of differential equations and try to avoid circles altogether.

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