Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Monads and Saint Augustine

I know the term "monad" has meanings other than the Haskell meaning, but I was nonetheless excited to come across "monad" in St. Augustine's Confessions:

"I distinguished between the unity there is in virtue and the discord there is in vice. I conceived that the unity consisted of the rational soul and the nature of truth and the highest good. But I imagined that in the disunity there was some kind of substance of irrational life and some kind of entity in the supreme evil. This evil I thought was not only a substance but real life as well, and yet I believe that it did not come from you, my god, from whom are all things. And the first I called a monad, as if it were a soul without sex. The other I called a dyad, which showed itself in deeds of violence, in deeds of passion and lust--but I did not know what I was talking about. For I had not understood nor had I been taught that evil is not a substance at all and that our soul is not that supreme and unchangeable good." [4.25.24]

Some definitions:
monad - from "Whatis.com"

2) A kind of constructor used in functional programming to structure programs that include sequenced operations. The primary use of monads in this context is to express input/output (I/O) operations without using language features. In general, however, monads are useful whenever a programmer wants to perform a purely functional computation separate from a related computation performed apart from it.

4) A symbol used by ancient Greek philosophers, including Plato, Pythagoras and Aristotle, to describe God or the totality of all beings. Metaphysical and theological theory describes "monism" as the concept of "one essence."

dyad - Greek philosopher's principle of "twoness" or "otherness"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What translation are you using? Mine does not have the former latter construction ,which is clearer, if that is what he is saying.

Mine translation is the Henry Chadwick, Oxford World's Classics.