Comparison with predecessors

Comparison with predecessors - destitute of periodicity in...

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Comparison with predecessors Plato’s theory combines elements of the views of many of his predecessors. 1. Pythagoras Like Pythagoras, he made the physical universe fundamentally mathematical. But whereas Pythagoras thought that everything was made of numbers, Plato made geometrical figures - ultimately, triangles - the atoms of his system. 2. Democritus Plato, like Democritus, was an atomist. But whereas Democritean atoms were of all different shapes and sizes, Plato’s came in just two varieties: isosceles and scalene. In this respect, Plato’s theory was far more elegant than that of Democritus. As Vlastos comments ( Plato s Universe , pp. 93-4): Compare [Plato’s theory] with the best of its rivals, the Democritean. There atoms come in infinitely many sizes and in every conceivable shape, the vast majority of them being irregular, a motley multitude, totally
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Unformatted text preview: destitute of periodicity in their design, incapable of fitting any simple combinatorial formula. If we were satisfied that the choice between the unordered polymorphic infinity of Democritean atoms and the elegantly patterned order of Plato’s polyhedra was incapable of empirical adjudication and could only be settled by asking how a divine, geometrically minded artificer would have made the choice, would we have hesitated about the answer? 3. Empedocles Like Empedocles, Plato recognized that four elements -earth, air, fire, and water - underlay all physical changes. But unlike Empedocles, he found a common atomic ingredient underlying the elements. Hence, unlike Empedocles, he could explain the transformation of one element into another....
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