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Problems and Responses - Problems and Responses Platos...

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Problems and Responses Plato’s theory of matter faces some prima facie problems. We will consider two of them and suggest how Plato might have responded to them. 1. Problem: Plato’s theory does not allow for transformation of earth into other elements. Since earth is made of different atoms (isosceles triangles) from the other elements (scalene triangles), this transformation is impossible, as Plato knew. So what happens when, e.g., wood burns? Isn’t earth (which is what, presumably, wood is mostly made of) converted into fire? Response: The transformation of one element into another is not an observed phenomenon, but a theoretical explanation of observations. Plato can account for this phenomenon by theorizing that it is the water and air components of wood that are converted into fire; the earth components remain unburned in the ashes that remain. 2. Problem: The transformation of elements seems to violate the principle of conservation of matter .
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