Context-Dependence of Mathematical Activity: A Case Study Concerning Edo Period Japan
Thesis DisciplineHistory and Philosophy of Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
At the beginning of the Edo period (1600-1868 CE) the Japanese Tokugawa shōgunate enforced the famous closed country policy. During the period of isolation that would ensue until the Meiji Restoration, mathematics flourished like never before. The new tradition that arose was rich and diverse, with mathematics manifesting itself through different practitioners in many different ways. And, for the first time in Japanese history, mathematics began to diverge from Chinese practice, developing a uniquely Japanese identity.
Because of this, we therefore can look to Edo mathematics with the expectation that it can especially clearly illustrate cultural variability in the practice of mathematics if it is the case that there exists such.
The present thesis examines whether cultural-contextual factors from within the isolated Edo environment impacted individual practitioners of mathematics to result in the variation and uniqueness that appeared. Also, it highlights and addresses what the consequences might be for historians, philosophers, and mathematicians if such an influence did occur.