The University of Montana
Department of Mathematical Sciences

Technical report #9/2008

A historic overview of the interplay of theology and philosophy in the arts, mathematics and sciences

Bharath Sriraman
Dept. of Mathematical Sciences
The University of Montana


The etymology of the word "mathematics" can be traced to Greek and Latin roots with meanings such as "to think or have one's mind aroused" or "the art of knowing". The natural philosophers of the Renaissance did not draw an explicit distinction between mathematics, the sciences and to an extent the arts. In this paper we first explore connections forged by the thinkers of the Renaissance between mathematics, the arts and the sciences, with attention to the nature of the underlying questions that call for a particular mode of inquiry. Second, we will examine both the relationship and individual differences between innovative behaviors across domains. Recently Robert Root-Bernstein (2003) introduced the construct of polymathy to suggest that innovative individuals are equally likely to contribute both to the arts and the sciences and either consciously or unconsciously forge links between the two. Several contemporary examples are presented of individuals who pursued multiple fields of research and were able to combine the aesthetic with the scientific. Finally, we will also discuss the possibilities for re-introducing university courses on natural philosophy as a means to integrate mathematics, the arts and the sciences.

Keywords: history of mathematics; philosophy of mathematics; polymathy; theology

AMS Subject Classification: 97

Download Technical Report: fdf (799 KB) 

Pre-print of paper accepted in ZDM- The International Journal on Mathematics Education, vol.41, no.1, xx-xx