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Author Topic: Plato  (Read 247 times)
Stacy Dohm
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« on: March 21, 2011, 01:26:19 pm »

The spheres were another Pythagorean notion, and the Pythagorean preoccupation with sound also shows itself in Philolaus belief that the spheres of the various planets made celestial music as they turned -- a belief that persisted even in the time of Kepler two thou sand years later.

We still use the phrase "the music of the spheres" to epitomize heavenly sounds or the stark beauty of outer space.

This insistence that the heavens must reflect the perfection of abstract mathematics in its simplest form held absolute sway over astronomical thought until Kepler's time, even though compromises with reality had to be made constantly, beginning shortly after Plato's death with Eudoxus and Callippus.


Plato's principal work touching on scientific questions, the Timaeus, bluntly states that this world "in very truth [is] a living creature with soul and reason."

To this viewpoint Plato accords an unconditional primacy even in matters of detail.

Thus when he discusses the working of the human eye, he deplores the fact that "the great mass of mankind regard [the geometrical and mechanical aspects of the question] as the sole causes of all things."

Against this he opposes the classification of causes into two groups: the accessory or mechanical causes that are "incapable of any plan or intelligence for any purpose," and those that "work with intelligence to produce what is good and desirable." The reaffirmation of the Socratic or organismic approach in science could hardly be more unequivocal.

Such an emphasis on the concept of organism as the basic framework in which the cosmos is to be explained derived only in part from factors like the emergence in the fifth century of the Hippocratic medical theory and practice.

The principal factor was a deeper and more universal one. It was rooted in the Greek nature as such and was given unchallenged prominence when cultural developments forced the Greek mind to reflect on the consequences of a mechanistic explanation of the inanimate and animate world including man both as an individual and as a member of society.

The "Greekness" of the organismic approach can be seen in the fact that they first applied the term cosmos to a patently living thing - a well-ordered society - and only afterward to the orderliness of the physical world.

Rooted deeply in their personal, cultural inclinations, this organismic approach to reality, once it became the conscious possession of the Greeks, had never been seriously questioned or abandoned by them. Single views of the Ionians and atomists continued, of course, to play seminal roles in Greek science.

What is more, once the cultural crisis evidenced by the activity of the Sophists was over, even the poets began to take more kindly to the physikoi, who for a while were the principal targets of plays concerned with the source of various cultural evils.

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