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Greek Science


Plato's (427–347 B.C.E.) main interest was with morals and he distanced himself from the material forms of explanation found in the Milesians and the Atomists. In the Timaeus he gives an account of the cosmos based on theology, in which the world is created by a divine craftsman. With this image he clearly demonstrates his commitment to design and an ordered and purposeful universe.

According to the account in the Timaeus, the Earth lies at the center of the cosmos and consists of atomic elements shaped like regular solids; geometry is thus built into the system at the most basic level. The cosmos has a soul and is itself a living being. After the creation a little soul was left over and human souls consist of remnants of the world soul. Studying the geometrical regularities exhibited by the movements of the stars and planets improves the human soul, because they mirror the world soul. According to Plato, astronomy should not be studied for its usefulness or in order to understand the physical world. Rather Plato recommends in the Republic that astronomy is studied to direct the mind toward an unchanging reality of which the sensible world is but a faint image.

Because of Plato's lack of interest in the sensible world he has often been seen as an enemy of science. However, this view must be tempered not least because of his emphasis on the fundamental role of mathematics. Plato also founded the Academy, which drew many eminent mathematicians and philosophers, among them Plato's most famous student, Aristotle.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Glucagon to HabitatGreek Science - Early Cosmology, Plato, Aristotle, Mathematics, Mechanics And Technology, Astronomy, Medicine, Bibliography