Squaring the Circle: The War between Hobbes and Wallis

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Overview


In 1655, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes claimed he had solved the centuries-old problem of "squaring of the circle" (constructing a square equal in area to a given circle). With a scathing rebuttal to Hobbes's claims, the mathematician John Wallis began one of the longest and most intense intellectual disputes of all time. Squaring the Circle is a detailed account of this controversy, from the core mathematics to the broader philosophical, political, and religious issues at stake.

Hobbes believed that by recasting geometry in a materialist mold, he could solve any geometric problem and thereby demonstrate the power of his materialist metaphysics. Wallis, a prominent Presbyterian divine as well as an eminent mathematician, refuted Hobbes's geometry as a means of discrediting his philosophy, which Wallis saw as a dangerous mix of atheism and pernicious political theory.

Hobbes and Wallis's "battle of the books" illuminates the intimate relationship between science and crucial seventeenth-century debates over the limits of sovereign power and the existence of God.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
The dispute between British philosophers Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Wallis (1616-1703) began with technical issues in mathematics, explains Jeseph (philosophy, North Carolina State U.) but grew to encompass questions of theology, philology, politics, and the very nature of reason. He examines such aspects as the mathematical career of the monster of Malmesbury, the reform of mathematics and of the universities, disputed foundations, the demise of Hobbesian geometry, and persistence in error. He appends selections from Hobbes mathematical writings. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Table of Contents


Preface
List of Abbreviations
Chapter One: The Mathematical Career of the Monster of Malmesbury
Chapter Two: The Reform of Mathematics and of the Universities
Ideological Origins of the Dispute
Chapter Three: De Corpore and the Mathematics of Materialism
Chapter Four: Disputed Foundations
Hobbes vs. Wallis on the Philosophy of Mathematics
Chapter Five: The "Modern Analytics" and the Nature of Demonstration
Chapter Six: The Demise of Hobbesian Geometry
Chapter Seven: The Religion, Rhetoric, and Politics of Mr. Hobbes and Dr. Wallis
Chapter Eight: Persistence in Error
Why Was Hobbes So Resolutely Wrong?
Appendix: Selections from Hobbes's Mathematical Writings
References
Index
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