The Greco-Roman mathematician Claudius Ptolemy is one of the most significant figures in the history of science. He is remembered today for his astronomy, but his philosophy is almost entirely lost to history. This groundbreaking book is the first to reconstruct Ptolemy's general philosophical system-including his metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics-and to explore its relationship to astronomy, harmonics, element theory, astrology, cosmology, psychology, and theology. In this stimulating intellectual history, Jacqueline Feke uncovers references to a complex and sophisticated philosophical agenda scattered among Ptolemy's technical studies in the physical and mathematical sciences. She shows how he developed a philosophy that was radical and even subversive, appropriating ideas and turning them against the very philosophers from whom he drew influence. Feke reveals how Ptolemy's unique system is at once a critique of prevailing philosophical trends and a conception of the world in which mathematics reigns supreme. A compelling work of scholarship, Ptolemy's Philosophy demonstrates how Ptolemy situated mathematics at the very foundation of all philosophy-theoretical and practical-and advanced the mathematical way of life as the true path to human perfection.
The book can be accessed and appreciated with a little sustained effort. For those of us who practice the history of mathematics, Feke's work is a nice illustration that our historical actors' philosophical commitments often can be identified, and they can help us to focus our readings more precisely. It's a good lesson, and well worth the endeavour. ---Glen Van Brummelen, British Journal for the History of Mathematics Shortlisted for the Pickstone Prize, British Society for the History of Science This important study will significantly improve our historical understanding of the originality of Ptolemy's position. ---Alain Bernard, Journal of the History of Astronomy Feke's book deserves a place on the shelves of historians of science, philosophers, and classicists alike. ---Marco Romani Mistretta, Bryn Mawr Classical Review