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The Idea of Στοιχεῖον in Grammar and Cosmology: From Antique Roots to Medieval Systems

Citation: Acevedo, Angel (2018) The Idea of Στοιχεῖον in Grammar and Cosmology: From Antique Roots to Medieval Systems. Doctoral thesis, University of London.

Juan Acevedo-Warburg-PhD Thesis.pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

This thesis defines and follows the development of the concept expressed by the Greek στοιχεῖον and the Latin elementum. From approximately the sixth century bc to the twelfth century ad, these words had three simultaneous meanings: letter, number and element, corresponding respectively to the disciplines of grammar, arithmetic and cosmology. The first part of the thesis, in two chapters, draws primarily on Greek philosophical, grammatical and arithmetical sources to delineate this polysemy, with particular attention to Pythagorean number cosmology and the foundational and lasting role of Plato’s Timaeus. Once the triple concept is established, the second part, in four chapters, tracks it through late Antiquity in Hellenistic religious texts and in Abrahamic scriptural sources and exegetical literature, identifying semantic analogues in Hebrew and Arabic. The third part of the thesis studies particular cases of alphanumeric cosmology in doctrinal systems of major Jewish, Christian and Islamic authors of the High Middle Ages, namely in the Sefer Yetsirah, in Aquinas and Ibn ʿArabī. In the conclusion I gather the comparative evidence to situate the concept of the alphanumeric element in its relations to the broader metaphysical, theological and cosmological heritage of the International Mediterranean Middle Ages.

Creators: Acevedo, Angel (0000-0002-5330-9672) and
Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
Divisions: Warburg Institute
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 2018 (submitted)


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