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Reckonings: Numerals, Cognition, and History

Reckonings: Numerals, Cognition, and History Downloaded from http://read.dukeupress.edu/common-knowledge/article-pdf/27/3/486/1301570/486demeyer.pdf by DEEPDYVE INC user on 30 March 2022 Stephen Chrisomalis, Reckonings: Numerals, Cognition, and History (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2020), 288 pp. “The Romans were not dupes.” This sentence, found on page 46 of Chrisomalis’s Reckonings, has the form of a constative statement but is actually a kind of perfor- mative utterance. It appears in a chapter dedicated to the Roman number system. In general, when we learn Roman numerals at school, we are also taught about the awkwardness of the system. Instead of the two characters needed to write 28 in the Indian- Arabic- Western ciphers (Chrisomalis notes the difc fi ulty of speak - ing simply of the Arabic or the Indian system, since there is more than one of each), the Romans needed no fewer than six characters to write the same number, XXVIII. The Roman system, moreover, is not practical for the performance of even simple mathematical operations such as addition or multiplication. Why, then, did it last for almost two millennia? Why did it resist a dozen alternative systems known in Europe during that period? Yes, there were that many, as we learn from reading Chrisomalis, a specialist in the anthropology http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Common Knowledge Duke University Press

Reckonings: Numerals, Cognition, and History

Common Knowledge , Volume 27 (3) – Aug 1, 2021

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Copyright
Copyright © 2021 by Duke University Press
ISSN
0961-754X
eISSN
1538-4578
DOI
10.1215/0961754x-9522447
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Downloaded from http://read.dukeupress.edu/common-knowledge/article-pdf/27/3/486/1301570/486demeyer.pdf by DEEPDYVE INC user on 30 March 2022 Stephen Chrisomalis, Reckonings: Numerals, Cognition, and History (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2020), 288 pp. “The Romans were not dupes.” This sentence, found on page 46 of Chrisomalis’s Reckonings, has the form of a constative statement but is actually a kind of perfor- mative utterance. It appears in a chapter dedicated to the Roman number system. In general, when we learn Roman numerals at school, we are also taught about the awkwardness of the system. Instead of the two characters needed to write 28 in the Indian- Arabic- Western ciphers (Chrisomalis notes the difc fi ulty of speak - ing simply of the Arabic or the Indian system, since there is more than one of each), the Romans needed no fewer than six characters to write the same number, XXVIII. The Roman system, moreover, is not practical for the performance of even simple mathematical operations such as addition or multiplication. Why, then, did it last for almost two millennia? Why did it resist a dozen alternative systems known in Europe during that period? Yes, there were that many, as we learn from reading Chrisomalis, a specialist in the anthropology

Journal

Common KnowledgeDuke University Press

Published: Aug 1, 2021

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