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Pythagoreanism is the philosophy of the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras (ca. 570 – ca. 490 BCE), which prescribed a highly structured way of life and espoused the doctrine of metempsychosis (transmigration of the soul after death into a new body, human or animal. (Adding Standford content into further reading is done)



Is dust “most” 

Soul is the dust most on air. It moves by itself even when there is no wind around. (Aristotle - On the soul p5)

It is Immortal

“that the soul is immortal and that it transmigrates into other kinds of animals” (Porphyry, VP 19)

Dicaearchus explicitly says that Pythagoras regarded the soul as immortal

Pleasure, Pain & Ability to feel emotions

Thus, it would appear that what is shared with animals and which led Pythagoras to suppose that they had a special kinship with human beings (Dicaearchus in Porphyry, VP 19) is not intellect, as some have supposed (Sorabji 1993, 78 and 208) but rather the ability to feel emotions such as pleasure and pain.

Xenophanes, Pythagoras’ contemporary, provides some more specific information on what happens to the soul after death. He reports that “once when he [Pythagoras] was present at the beating of a puppy, he pitied it and said ‘stop, don’t keep hitting him, since it is the soul of a man who is dear to me, which I recognized, when I heard it yelping’” (Fr. 7).

Time is Cyclical

Dicaearchus, in addition to the immortality of the soul and reincarnation, Pythagoras believed that “after certain periods of time the things that have happened once happen again and nothing is absolutely new” (Porphyry, VP 19).

The mystery of the universe contained in numbers

The mystery of the universe to be contained in numbers (10 Timaeus Plato)

Musical notes are numerical

The correspondence between the central musical concords of the octave, fifth, and fourth and the whole number ratios 2 : 1, 3 : 2 and 4 : 3 is reflected in the accustom (Iamblichus, VP 82)


At Metaphysics 986a22, after presenting his account of the philosophy of “the so-called” Pythagorean (985b23), which has strong connections to the philosophy of Philolaus, Aristotle turns to “others of this same group” and assigns to them what is commonly known as the table of opposites (the opposites arranged according to column [kata sustoichia-n]). These Pythagorean presented the principles of reality as consisting of ten pairs of opposites:

Limit unlimited

Odd even

Unity plurality

Right left

Male female

Rest motion

Straight crooked

Light darkness

Good bad

Square oblong


For, like the Pythagorean say, the world and all that is in it is determined by the number three, since the beginning and middle and end give the number at an “all” and the number they give is triad (Aristotle On the heavens p. 6)


Dicaearchus says that Pythagoras was the first to introduce metempsychosis into Greece (Porphyry VP 19)




Others (?) ¹¹

¹¹ Some animals are nourished by smell (Aristotle - On the soul p.85)



Pythagoras had his expertise in religious rituals. Isocrates emphasizes that “he more conspicuously than others paid attention to sacrifices and rituals in temples” (Busiris 28)

Eudoxus says that “he not only abstained from animal food but would also not come near butchers and hunters” (Porphyry, VP 7)

Color is the limit of the body

the limit of the body is its color (Aristotle - On the soul p.75)

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