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Mathematics and Spiritual Interpretation: A Bridge to Genuine Interdisciplinarity

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Abstract:

Abstract

This article is a spiritual interpretation of Leonhard Euler's famous equation linking the most important entities in mathematics: e (the base of natural logarithms), π (the ratio of the diameter to the circumference of a circle), i (√-1),1 , and 0 . The equation itself ( eπi+1 = 0> ) can be understood in terms of a traditional mathematical proof, but that does not give one a sense of what it might mean. While one might intuit, given the significance of the elements of the equation, that there is a deeper meaning, one is not in a position to get at that meaning within the discipline of mathematics itself. It is only by going outside of mathematics and adopting the perspective of theology that any kind of understanding of the equation might be gained, the significant implication here being that the whole mathematical field might be a vast treasure house of insights into the mind of God.

In this regard, the article is a response to the monograph by George Lakoff and Rafael Núñez, Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being (2000), which attempts to approach mathematics in general and the Euler equation in particular in terms of some basic principles of cognitive psychology. It is my position that while there may be an external basis for understanding mathematics, the results are somewhat disappointing and fail to reveal the full measure of meaning buried within that equation.

Keywords: Leonhard Euler; hermeneutics; mathematics; spirituality; transcendental numbers

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9744.00500

Affiliations: 1Associate Professor in the Faculty of Communication and Culture at the University of Calgary.   rglasber@ucalgary.ca.

Publication date: 2003-06-01

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