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Greek classical elements, plato, his five solids

  1. Jun 18, 2010 #1
    The ancient Greek philosopher Plato theorized that the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_element#Classical_elements_in_Greece".

    I'm not a philosophy or science student, so please keep your reply plain and straightforward. Thanks.

    I can understand the literal meaning of the statement. Plato is actually saying that the classical elements (water, fire, earth, air - space was said to be constituted of aether but tt was not regarded as part of the elements) which made up the earth were composed of the solids. Just as we say every material object is made up of atoms which in turn are composed of elementary particles. Was he saying that? Was he substituting his regular solids for atoms, etc.? How could he say that fire was made up of some material thing such as those solids when it was immaterial? Obviously they had completely different notion of the world around them, and many things which today seem to be part of common sense were really hard ideas in those times. It reminds me of earlier atomic models such as pudding model which just makes me crave for pudding! I sympathize with them for their ignorance as future generations would do with us for our present ignorance...

    Please correct me where I'm wrong.

    Best wishes
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 18, 2010 #2


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    Gold Member

    With such a basic question, perhaps it is best to just wiki it.


    This was one way of making sense of the atomist hypothesis. And in fact a good example of dichotomistic thinking as it said if we have this perfect stuff called matter, then it would also be constrained by the availabilty of perfect forms.

    The traditional greek division of matter was four-fold (following the dichotomies of Anaximander). There were of course five platonic solids. So a role was found for the fifth as the celestial element of aether, the jostling corpuscles with a circular motion that moved the heavenly bodies in their stream.

    This aspect of greek metaphysics may seem laughable now, but it is not really any different in spirit to modern gauge symmetry approaches to particle physics.
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