University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Physics and Astronomy Calendar

Friday, February 9th 2018
Speaker: Jacqueline Feke, Department of Philosophy, University of Waterloo
Subject: "Ptolemy's Ethics"
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

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.

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