A philomath (/ˈfɪləmæθ/;[1] from Greek φίλος philos ("beloved", "loving", as in philosophy or philanthropy) and μανθάνειν, μαθ- manthanein, math- ("to learn", as in polymath) is a lover of learning and studying. Philomathes, a "lover of learning", has been contrasted to philalethes, a "lover of truth".[2] Philomathy is similar to, but distinguished from, philosophy in that -soph, the latter suffix, specifies "wisdom" or "knowledge", rather than the process of acquisition thereof. Philomath is not synonymous with polymath, as a polymath is someone who possesses great and detailed knowledge and facts from a variety of disciplines, while a philomath is someone who greatly enjoys learning and studying.


The shift in meaning for mathema is likely a result of the rapid categorization during the time of Plato and Aristotle of their "mathemata" in terms of education: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music (the quadrivium), which the Greeks found to create a "natural grouping" of mathematical (in the modern usage; "doctrina mathematica" in the ancient usage) precepts.

In a philosophical dialogue, King James first penned the character Philomathes to debate on arguments of whether the ancient religious concepts of witchcraft should be punished in a politically fueled Christian society. The arguments King James poses through the character Epistemon are based on concepts of theological reasoning regarding society's belief as his opponent, Philomathes, takes a philosophical stance on society's legal aspects but sought to obtain the knowledge of Epistemon. This philosophical approach signified a philomath seeking to obtain greater knowledge through epistemology. The dialogue was used by King James to educate society on various concepts including the history and etymology of the subjects debated.[3]

See also

  • Benjamin Franklin, who used this pen name
  • King James, who used a character named Philomathes to debate on the topics of witchcraft in his dissertation of Daemonologie
  • Philomaths, Polish secret student organization that existed, 1817–1823, at the Imperial University of Vilnius.
  • Philomathean Literary Society (Erskine College)
  • Philomathean Society, a literary society at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Philomathean Society (New York University)


  1. "Philomath". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  2. Thomson, George, MD. (1675). Ortho-methodoz itro-chymikē: or the direct method of curing chymically.
  3. King James. Daemonologie. A Critical Edition. In Modern English. 2016. ISBN 1-5329-6891-4.
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