A History of Pythagoreanism by Professor Carl A. Huffman

By Professor Carl A. Huffman

It is a accomplished, authoritative and cutting edge account of Pythagoras and Pythagoreanism, the most enigmatic and influential philosophies within the West. In twenty-one chapters overlaying a timespan from the 6th century BC to the 17th century advert, prime students build a few various photographs of Pythagoras and his neighborhood, assessing present scholarship and providing new solutions to significant difficulties. Chapters are dedicated to the early Pythagoreans, and the whole breadth of Pythagorean proposal is explored together with politics, faith, track concept, technology, arithmetic and magic. Separate chapters think about Pythagoreanism in Plato, Aristotle, the Peripatetics and the later educational culture, whereas others describe Pythagoreanism within the historic culture, in Rome and within the pseudo-Pythagorean writings. the 3 nice lives of Pythagoras by means of Diogenes Laertius, Porphyry and Iamblichus also are mentioned intimately, as is the importance of Pythagoras for the center a while and Renaissance.

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Even in a volume this large not every topic can be covered and not every topic can be dealt with in the detail it deserves. All of the authors felt the constraints of space. The discipline of word count can, however, help us to produce a more focused and less diffuse picture of Pythagoreanism. Every topic intrinsically deserved much more detailed treatment, but the short chapters on Pythagoreanism in the Middle Ages and Renaissance were particularly constraining. Hicks and Allen provide striking snapshots of Pythagoreanism in these periods, but it is to be hoped that their accounts will be supplemented with new book-length studies in each case.

The scholarly literature is full of attempts to shoehorn him into one or other, or more often into a combination of such  The mere fact that they are late, separated from Pythagoras by several centuries, has been assumed to discredit them. But if “later” means “worse,” how can we avoid that applying also to ourselves in the twenty-first century? The problem is rather with the suspected motives of the interpreters; but of course moderns have not always been innocent of parti pris either.  Pythagoras  categories.

He was certainly a historical figure and no mere legend, unlike Orpheus, Musaeus, Abaris and others. The questions then are: what did that reputation consist in, and on what was it based? The problems, as we have seen, are compounded not just by the fact that his approval rating varied, from enormous admiration to accusations of charlatanry, but also because of the discrepancies recorded already in our earliest sources in what there was to approve or criticize. Certainly there is some convergence on the point that his teaching on the soul was exceptional, with most, but not all, our early sources suggesting that he taught a doctrine of metempsychosis.

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