The Social Life of Numbers: A Quechua Ontology of Numbers and Philosophy of Arithmetic

Overview

Unraveling all the mysteries of the khipu--the knotted string device used by the Inka to record both statistical data and narrative accounts of myths, histories, and genealogies--will require an understanding of how number values and relations may have been used to encode information on social, familial, and political relationships and structures. This is the problem Gary Urton tackles in his pathfinding study of the origin, meaning, and significance of numbers and the philosophical principles underlying the ...
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Overview

Unraveling all the mysteries of the khipu--the knotted string device used by the Inka to record both statistical data and narrative accounts of myths, histories, and genealogies--will require an understanding of how number values and relations may have been used to encode information on social, familial, and political relationships and structures. This is the problem Gary Urton tackles in his pathfinding study of the origin, meaning, and significance of numbers and the philosophical principles underlying the practice of arithmetic among Quechua-speaking peoples of the Andes.
Based on fieldwork in communities around Sucre, in south-central Bolivia, Urton argues that the origin and meaning of numbers were and are conceived of by Quechua-speaking peoples in ways similar to their ideas about, and formulations of, gender, age, and social relations. He also demonstrates that their practice of arithmetic is based on a well-articulated body of philosophical principles and values that reflects a continuous attempt to maintain balance, harmony, and equilibrium in the material, social, and moral spheres of community life.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Drawing on fieldwork in communities around Sucre, in south-central Bolivia, Urton (anthropology, Colgate U.) argues that the origin and meaning of numbers were and are conceived of by Quechua-speaking peoples in ways similar to their ideas about gender, age and social relations. He also demonstrates that their practice of arithmetic is based on a well-articulated body of philosophical principles and values that reflects a continuous attempt to maintain balance, harmony, and equilibrium in the material, social, and moral spheres of community life. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Hispanic American Historical Review
This is an extraordinary book. It is easily readable even for the non-mathematically inclined and non-Andeanists. It deals with issues of why one counts, what is counted, and how arithmetic operations are used in social life.
-- Enrique J. Mayer
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780292785335
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1997
  • Edition description: 1ST UNIVER
  • Pages: 285
  • Product dimensions: 5.96 (w) x 9.62 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables
Acknowledgments
1 Anthropology and the Philosophy of Arithmetic 1
2 The Cardinal Numbers and Their Social Relations 39
3 Ordinal Numerals: The Reproduction and Succession of Numbers 66
4 Yupay: Counting, Recounting, and the Fabric of Numbers 96
5 Quechua Arithmetic as an Art of Rectification 138
6 Numbers and Arithmetic in Pre-Hispanic and Colonial Andean Societies 173
7 Conclusions 213
Appendix Quechua Number Symbols and Metaphors 221
Notes 235
Bibliography 243
Index 255
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