Paolo Zellini. 2020. The Mathematics of the Gods and the Algorithms of Men. A Cultural History Allen Lane. 241 pp.

A mixture of mathematics and philosophy, with heavy emphasis on the latter. Tried several times to get into this but could make no headway, despite the enticing chapter titles:

Chapter 1 - Abstraction, Existence and Reality -

Where does mathematics come from and what are it’s objectives? …

Chapter 2 - Mathematics of the Gods

It is hard to say why and where mathematics first arose…

However after these promising starts the obscurity kicks in. An end unto itself for philosophers? On better days I may have been able to understand what aspects of these topics are, in the end, addressed. About the only thing I have taken away is that the progress of geometry in ancient India was driven by the need to expand small squares etc to agricultural size while preserving shape. And that the same imperative drove at least some early mathematics/geometry in Sumer. Whether or not Euclid built upon these advances or developed The Elements independently did not seem to be addressed. Indeed, in Chapter 2 Paolo Zellini writes:

… Nietsche denounces the wieighing down, the deep weariness that can result from a gaze cast systematically towards the past.

However it is hard to take this seriously given that the author then spends a large part of this book with his own gaze cast systematically towards mathematics and philosophy in the past.

This is Paolo Zellini’s second book translated into English. The first, A Brief History of Infinity, gets a rave review from Italo Calvino so perhaps I will try that one day.