Theano’s Day

We at CatSynth are participating in Theano’s Day, an event to celebrate women in Philosophy. It is named in honor of Theano, the wife of the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras but also a scholar in her own right. In addition to promoting the work of Pythagoras, she put together her own work on mathematics, art, and beauty, all topics that are a regular part of this site. She is often credited with developing the Golden Mean, one of the most well-known ideas in aesthetic theory in which art, whether spacial (painting, sculpture, architecture) or temporal (music, drama) include structural elements based on the golden ratio φ, which is the ratio a / b such that a / b = (a + b) / a.

The number appears in the Fibonacci series as well, and in the well-known spiral that is used to describe proportions in nature and in architecture:

Theano is also credited with writings about child rearing and gender (although I am having difficulty finding a reference to this). Gender identity seems to permeate the work of many female philosophers over the centuries, indeed it seems to be an inescapable topic. The seventeenth century scholar and artist Anna Maria van Schurman published Whether the Study of Letters Is Fitting for a Christian Woman? in which she argued in favor of women’s education. In the modern era, there is of course Simone de Beauvoir whose writing is considered foundational for contemporary feminism. But I am personally more interested in the treatment of gender as it relates to other philosophical and intellectual topics rather than social, political or biological. How does the concept of “the feminine” relate to existentialism in de Beauvoir’s novels, or to Schurman’s art or Theano’s mathematics? This is not a topic that can easily be covered in a single post, or on a single day, but relates deeply to some of the directions I am exploring in visual art (i.e., photography) and perhaps later on in music as well. So perhaps the best way to see this day is as a beginning…