Understanding Society

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PhD Defense Ms. J. Bai, MA

Title: The Beauty of God in the Numerical Order
Supervisors: Prof. G.A.M. Rouwhorst & Revd. Prof. D. Jasper


Junxiao Bai's thesis interprets the beauty of God in Augustine’s historical situation and aims to argue that approached from a Pythagorean musical-cosmology, Augustine explains the beauty of God as an unchangeable numerical/harmonic order immanently pervading the realms of nature, logic and ethics. Augustine systematically addressed the relationship between numbers, music and beauty in his early writings De Musica and De Ordine, and these topics frequently reappear in many of his later theological works. The issue of numbers and music is more central than most theological publications have assumed.

This research mainly uses interdisciplinary and historical methods to interpret the affinity of theology, music and natural laws in historical context. It addresses the relevant topics of measurement, numbers, form, time, movement, justice, and love.

Augustine adopts Pythagorean mathematical concepts to argue for his Christian belief because he holds that all unchangeable, mathematical principles are laws ordained by God and common to all people. Among the quadrivium, which was regarded as the four ways to the beauty of God by the Pythagoreans, music is the only mathematical subject which relates to both natural science and morality. As the counterpart of celestial order and the movement of well-ordered numbers, music best illustrates the unchangeable, harmonic order in both changeable temporality and the spiritual realm. The marriage of the physical, logical, and ethical principles in musical motion presents a universal harmonic paradigm that not only proves the goodness of all creations in the divine order, but also convinces humans to reason that the universe cannot be in a constant, harmonious motion unless God, the Ratio, has measured it according to the harmonic order. The ethical order, namely virtues as the best goodness granted to humans by God, not only enlightens human reason to justly discern the goodness of the divine order, but also guides the soul to arrive at the beauty of God, the Modus, by which all creations have been numbered and formed as beauty, goodness, and harmony.

Location: Cobbenhagen building, Auditorium (access via Koopmans building)

Order the PhD thesis

When: 20 December 2017 14:00

Where: Route description Tilburg University campus