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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: August ::
Re: Why isn't one a number
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1372  Wednesday 4 August 1999.

[1]     From:   Charlotte Pressler <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Aug 1999 11:02:10 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1355 Why isn't one a number?

[2]     From:   Tony Burton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Aug 1999 12:25:19 -0700
        Subj:   one no number

[3]     From:   Patricia Stewart <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Aug 1999 14:32:43 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1361 Re: Why isn't one a number


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charlotte Pressler <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Aug 1999 11:02:10 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 10.1355 Why isn't one a number?
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1355 Why isn't one a number?

Allan Blackman wrote:

> In Rom 1.2.29, Capulet says:
>         Hear all, all see,
>         And like her most whose merit most shall be;
>         Which on more view of many, mine, being one,
>         May stand in number, though in reckoning none.
<snip>
> The various editors I have consulted all say this is a reference to the
> saying, "one isn't a number"-but what does that mean?  Perhaps someone
> can enlighten me.

The proverb may derive from Aristotle's observation (in the Metaphysics,
N.5.1092b) that the One is not regarded as a number, but as the
beginning or principle of number. Euclid seems to have held a similar
view: he writes that a number is a "multitude made up of units" but does
not define the unit itself as a number. The One, or the unit, seems to
have been thought of as that which measures other numbers. But a measure
cannot itself be that which it measures. Therefore the One is not what
it measures, i.e. the One is not a number. This view has been traced by
some to the Pythagoreans.

This derivation may well seem too arcane, but Aristotle's works were an
important part of university curricula, and a remark like "one is not a
number" might well be picked up and turned into a proverb-especially
since it resonates so well with exhortations to marriage, sayings like
"Einmal ist keinmal," and the like.

Bests --

Charlotte Pressler
Graduate Student/English
SUNY at Buffalo

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Aug 1999 12:25:19 -0700
Subject:        one no number

One is a numeral, but not always a number, at least not a "number" in
the sense of multiplicity or numerousness.  In other words, she is a
"oner" (only crossword fans use this word), or unique.

Tony Burton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Patricia Stewart <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Aug 1999 14:32:43 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 10.1361 Re: Why isn't one a number
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1361 Re: Why isn't one a number

In Marlowe's "Hero and Leander" one argument Leander uses in trying to
seduce Hero is "One is no number; maids are nothing then / Without the
sweet society of men" (ll. 255-256).  Norton simply glosses the "One is
no number" as "A traditional concept going back to Aristotle."
 

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