Position Versus Class An Unnoticed Distinction in Sanskrit Numeral Notation

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Alberto Anrò



Positional notation and related numerical manipulation techniques of Indian origin were introduced to Europe during the twelfth century through Arabic mediation and vividly described by Fibonacci as modus Indorum, the method of the Indians. This article aims to juxtapose Sanskrit and Latin texts to highlight the connections and differences between matrix and reflection in a complex cultural process of diffusion and assimilation. With reference to positional notation, this contribution examines a conceptual distinction between the graphical notion of position and a logical-classificatory principle hitherto perhaps not fully recognized, although present in the texts of both traditions. The thesis of a consequent diagrammatic conception of positional notation in its origins, as a system of rules relating graphical position and order of magnitude, is also advanced.

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