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A Historical Overview of Plato's Science- Part 1

BY: Femi Omotoyinbo | Category: Education | Submitted: 2010-05-29 09:13:04
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Article Summary: "This article was at the early stage a term paper for a first semester course; PHL 317 Greek Philosophy in Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba -Akoko (, Philosophy and Religious studies department by the Author, Omotoyinbo Femi and three Co-presenters- Ajiwo Abu, Olatunji Tunmise and Ajayi Peter. Although, .."

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Owing to Plato's lack of attention for the visible world he has often been taken as an antagonist of science. But it is obvious that most of his works constitutes great scientific theories and views. Plato's scientific thought revolves round the cosmos or the universe, like that of Greek science. It focuses on the natural world, how it can be investigated and explained.

Before delving into the science of Plato the article will attempt to explain what is meant by science, as a whole, and science in the Greek period to which Plato belongs. The article will then quickly look into what/who Plato is, thereafter his science.

Meaning of Science

In its broadest sense, Science (from the Latin Scientia, meaning knowledge) refers to any systematic knowledge or practice. In its restricted sense, Science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge based on scientific method, as well as the organized body of knowledge gained through such research[1]. The above is the definition of science in its holistic scope.

Science in the Greek period

Science, during the Greek era, oscillates around the cosmos-unlike the contemporary science of invention and infrastructural developments. Greek from its ancient has abundance of artisans, architects, merchants, blacksmiths, shipbuilders, physicians and chroniclers. But most Greeks took this abundance for granted. Not all of them were impressed by it[2]. For they knew that science goes beyond the narrow empirical confines of such abundance. This people were nothing but philosophers, because they preferred words to things, speculations to experience. And one of this is the one being treated in this article.


Since Plato is sourced from the Greek, hence to peruse the Science of Plato we first reduce the projection of the article to the Greek conception of Science.


The Greek conception of science centers on the cosmos or the universe as opposed to the modern conception of science as developing new technologies. In fact, science in the Greek view may be reduced to what is known as cosmogony. From this, one is forced to ask the question; "What is cosmogony?"
A cosmogony is an account of the origin or creation of the universe. The account may be mythological or theological or it may be scientific, for example the big bang theory[3]. There have been various approaches to the Greek views on science.


In a mythological view, the Greeks believe that earthquake can be sourced to the anger of Poseidon, god of the sea. While lightning according to many is sourced from the anger of Zeus. Philosophers like Thales and Anaximander debunked their claims. Thales affirmed that earthquake is sourced from the clashing of the earth on its source-water. Anaximander opined that lightning is a result of clouds being split up by winds[4]. Their claims can be logically seen as scientific, because it is a practice towards a body of knowledge. And this is an example of the views of Plato on science.

Plato's Science?

Plato's philosophy of science, according to Andrew Gregory, focuses on how we might investigate and explain the natural world. His book argues that many of the common charges against Plato (disinterest, ignorance, dismal of observation) are unfounded[5]. Some of his theories about reality cast doubt upon the possibility of a strictly accurate scientific knowledge.
Owing to Plato's lack of interest in the sensible world he has been seen as an enemy of science. But it is obvious that most of his works constitutes great scientific theories and views. And his academy constitutes great scholars among which are prominent scientists. Plato's first thought is that though the world is full of change and imperfection, it nevertheless exhibits order and purpose[6].

Who is Plato?

From the above it is apparent that this article is specifically dealing with the scientific thought of a Greek man; who is as well a Philosopher. Looking through a layman's lens (a non-philosophical view): 'any one could be a Greek man as well as philosopher. So, who is the folk you talking about?'

Personality de script ion

Plato is an eminent fellow in the philosophy circles. His hours of breathing were between 428/27 to 347 B.C.E. He is a notable disciple of Socrates until the latter's death. Plato later had his own academy, which was regarded as the first university to emerge in the history of Western Europe[7]. Despite close ties with eminent people on his maternal side (Perictione's family), Plato still had time for the comprehensive treatment of knowledge which was so powerful that his philosophy became one of the most influential strands in the history of western thought.

Semantic de script ion

Though uncommon, there exist rumors that the word Plato is a mere appellation [since he has no surname like David Plato or so], hence the question stands that what is Plato?

Diogenes Laertius, in Lives and Doctrines of Ancient Philosophy volume 3, Life of Plato, says that Plato's real name was Aristocles, son of Ariston. He wrote this in the third century, AD. He appears to be quoting Alexander of Miletus, who lived in the first century BC. Plato means Broad, and Diogenes says that some say it was given to him by a gym teacher because he was big-boned, others that it was a reference to the breadth of his work[8].
Having known about an idea of Plato's scientific thought and who Plato is, including what he is; one can safely enter deep into his science.

About Author / Additional Info:
Omotoyinbo Femi is an excellent, Godly African writer in diverse fields of life. This article is a confirmation of his subtle knowledge of many things not excluding science. He is also a [growing] consultant. For anything academic you can mail him on or on mobile +234812528070

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