Pythagoras, the ancient Greek mathematician and philosopher, is often credited with the phrase, “All things are numbers.” This cryptic statement reflects his belief in a deep, intrinsic relationship between the physical world and the abstract world of mathematics.
Pythagoreanism, as it came to be known, posited that the entire universe and all of its aspects could be understood through numerical relationships. Pythagoras and his followers studied numbers not only as quantities but also as entities with distinct qualitative characteristics. They believed numbers had personalities, symbolic meanings, and cosmic significance.
They saw numbers as the fundamental “stuff” of reality, with the universe’s structure and function essentially numerical in nature. For example, the Pythagoreans discovered numerical ratios in musical harmonies, noticing that the lengths of strings required to produce certain notes had simple numerical relationships.
Additionally, the Pythagorean Theorem demonstrates a numerical relationship (a^2 + b^2 = c^2) that holds true for all right-angled triangles, further reinforcing Pythagoras’s conviction that numbers underlie the structure of the universe.
In summary, “All things are numbers” reflects Pythagoras’s belief that numbers are the essence of all things, and understanding their properties could help us comprehend the universe’s workings.