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Microcosm and Macrocosm


The most fully developed version of the idea in antiquity was made by Plato (427?–347 B.C.E.), but fragmentary evidence indicates that philosophers before him articulated some version of it. The idea may have begun as an archetypal theme of mythology that the pre-Socratic philosophers reworked into a more systematic form. Unfortunately, it is impossible to reconstruct their thinking in much detail, and clear references attributing the doctrine to Democritus (c. 460–c. 370 B.C.E.) and Pythagoras (c. 582–c. 507 B.C.E.) are quite late, dating to the fifth and ninth centuries C.E., respectively. Some form of the idea seems to have been common among most ancient cultures. Since comparisons of human beings and the universe were made in India and China, the concept may ultimately be of Asian origin; but the available sources do not indicate that the theory in Greece was the result of cultural diffusion. Among extant Greek texts, the term first appears in the Physics of Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.), where it occurs in an incidental remark (Physics 8.2, 252b). Plato did not use the terminology when he developed the idea.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Methane to Molecular clockMicrocosm and Macrocosm - Origins, Plato, The Body Politic, Hellenism And Late Antiquity, Jewish And Muslim Theories In The Middle Ages