Mathematical Immortality: Pythagoras' Philosophy of Mathematics and its Persistence through Ancient and Modern Times
Immortality may be a silly word, but probably a mathematician has the best chance of whatever it may mean (Hardy 81). G.H. Hardy is one of the great mathematical minds of the 20th century, and he delivered this line in his A Mathematician's Apology. What does Hardy mean by this statement? Does he mean that just because someone does mathematics, it gives that person a better chance to be remembered? Not quite. He is talking about mathematical ideas being immortal. Unlike other subjects, once a mathematical statement is proven, as long as it is based on propositions and theorems previously shown to be true, there is really no way to disprove it unless the one who proved it made a mathematical error. Mathematics has even corrected some errors in other scientific areas such as astronomy. One clue that our solar system is heliocentric is that the mathematical data obtained through observation did not fit with a geocentric model of the solar system. Hence, Hardy is talking about the theorems of mathematicians that persist throughout all time. Since the ideas and theorems usually bear the names of their discoverers, those names persist as well. The main focus of this paper will be to discuss one of the oldest mathematicians, Pythagoras, and to explain why his philosophy of mathematics has persisted for over 2000 years.