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3 - Anachronism and anachorism in the study of mathematics in India

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 July 2021

Niccolò Guicciardini
Affiliation:
Università degli Studi di Milano
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Summary

The foremost historiographic challenge in interpreting pre-modern Indian mathematics is arguably not anachronism so much as anachorism, the blurring of geographical or cultural rather than chronological distinctions. For example, historians struggle constantly with ways to avoid or explain calling Indian analyses of right-triangle relations “Pythagorean”, or using the term “Diophantine equations” for the type of problems designated in Sanskrit as \kuttaka\ or \varga-\prakrti. Nonetheless, the combination of anachronism and anachorism provides the study of Indian mathematics with a powerful lens, which clarifies even as it distorts. This paper will address such trade-offs between popular misconceptions and deeper insights, especially in the application of concepts from the historiography of early modern European calculus to infinitesimal methods used in Sanskrit mathematics of the early to mid-second millennium.

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Anachronisms in the History of Mathematics
Essays on the Historical Interpretation of Mathematical Texts
, pp. 83 - 104
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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