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Ideas Of Plato In The Context Of Contemporary Science

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This essay will discuss the significance of Plato’s theory’s and how they may or may not affect scientists’ ideas. These ideas may be affected by Plato’s belief in ‘a priori’ knowledge. This means theory’s using reason rather than experience. Reason meaning using knowledge and common sense to come to a justified conclusion on a scientific study where reason may have been used to arrive at an end solution. This will therefore consider whether scientists have used Plato’s theories of reason to find an explanation for something or have arrived at the end result in a different way, illustrating Plato’s theory’s as being ineffective. Plato used mathematics to show lines of reasoning as in mathematics everything is seen as a pattern and answers are derived through reasoning and working out of a specific formula. This metaphor helped Plato to come to conclusions about nature through reason as he applied the same knowledge of mathematics to real-life scenarios. ‘In astronomy, as in geometry, we should set problems to be solved and leave the visible heavens alone. This quote can be automatically seen as Plato advising and encouraging people to use their inner knowledge of reason and using the comparisons of astronomy and geometry to show how they link to each other and to trust your ‘a prior knowledge. This topic of discussion can be seen as important as we can see how one Philosopher could be viewed as significantly influencing scientists in ways to use their own knowledge rather than relying on ‘Empirical evidence.’ This could then answer how and why scientists get to various conclusions, like mathematics, astronomy, nature and many other factors. This essay will also give a clear point of view of how Plato may be shown as deluded and wrong, in affecting scientists’ ideas. Sources like. Plato as ‘Architect of Science’, Phronesis vol 43, No3, Brill) show the other side of the argument. They show how Plato’s relevance in the scientific world was nothing to be referred to or commended. Plato’s theories can be judged as they do not have any evidence for supporting them. This is due to all his theory’s using his own line of reasoning and knowledge as he thinks that evidence is not needed to make judgements on specific things such as Nature. Many people like ‘Zhmud’ may be sceptical of these ‘judgements’ as he believes science is mostly based on evidence rather than knowledge. Moreover, showing that by the end of this essay there will be both points to remember and forget Plato’s significance in affecting scientists. In addition, this essay will display whether scientists’ ideas are even still affected today by Plato’s theories. It will continue to show the relevance of his theories. It will judge if his theories were only used for specific amounts of time, or if they have carried on throughout time and are even being used in today’s modern science. This will also show how admissible they were even if they did affect scientists’ ideas. Overall, we can see that Plato’s great gift to science was his insight that mathematics is essential to decoding the mysteries of nature; though his academy may not have been a scientific institute, his ideas may have continued to inspire many scientists today.

There are various significant reasons why Plato is a strong influential character when affecting the way scientists think. One way this is presented is by ‘geometrization of nature’ Plato advised that you should approach the study of nature as an exercise in geometry. Plato’s remark in the republic was ‘Let’s study astronomy by means of problems, as we do in geometry, and leave the things in the sky alone.’ This shows how Plato is referring to the discoveries of astronomy in science the same as the way we solve solutions in geometry. (John Freely, Before Galileo: The Birth of Modern Science in Medieval Europe (2012). John Freely shows how Plato is seen as a huge influence on scientists’ ideas by this point as the article shows the ‘geometrization of nature can be used to discover many things like the ‘Big bang theory’ he says that this theory was discovered mainly to do with reason and understanding the alignment of the Planets. This clearly illustrates how Plato has affected science as the Big Bang was formed due to the use of common sense and reason. Geometry was made and solved through reason and inner knowledge. Therefore, John Freely is showing how we can use these points of Geometry being solved using reason, and link it to nature, e.g. ‘The Big Bang.’ Moreover, this can be seen as affecting scientists’ ideas as without using reason as we do in mathematics, it would be impossible to come up with ‘The Big Bang.’ This means Plato’s a priori knowledge can be seen as influencing scientists to use their own knowledge and common sense to come up with solutions and conclusions, in this particular scenario about how the world was formed. Plato says that scientists should use their reason to arrive at deductions about mathematics and therefore nature, and ‘the slave boy experiment in Plato’s Meno’ is a demonstration that it is possible for almost anyone to arrive at mathematical and scientific truths by thought and reason. ( The slave Boy Experiment in Plato’s ‘Meno’ By Plato written 380BC Translated by Benjamin Jewett). The view of the slave boy experiment is that we have innate ideas and that we are literally born with knowledge. (Emrys Westmacott, 2019 ThoughtCo.) The experiment is when a slave boy asks Plato if he can prove that ‘all learning is recollection,’ he, therefore, calls the slave boy (Meno) over and gives him a geometry problem. He draws a square and asks the slave boy who has had no teachings of geometry at all to draw a picture doubling the square. The slave boy, therefore, completes the question and gets it right. Therefore, without needing any teaching the boy answers the question with ease using his own knowledge and reasoning to answer the question. Accordingly, this shows that without needing evidence or previous teachings scientists can easily make judgements and come to justified conclusions through reasoning and their own embedded knowledge.

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One other major influence Plato had was on a well-known scientist; ‘Stegmuller’ Stegmuller a German physicist who believes that one of the most difficult questions facing science in contemporary physics is the concept of ‘matter.’ (Stegmuller 1987:89 ff. ‘The mysterious matter’) Seegmiller however also said that it should be remembered that there is an important difference between ‘physical space’ and ‘mathematical space’. Seegmiller continues his explanation of the problems explored by the Greek Philosopher Plato. The example he highlights is ‘the nature of matter.’ This shows a clear influence of Plato’s work. Seegmiller realises that he has to understand the nature of the matter before he can fully understand the concept of matter itself. Plato clearly outlines in his philosophy that nature is are the ‘properties of the natural world.’ (Plato, 2007 The Republic). This means all the properties that make up our world and therefore matter. Seegmiller also quotes from Plato that we are ‘not wiser than before’ this means that we already hold our inner knowledge, however, we just need to unlock all the bits that are missing when we were born. Plato believes that matter is translated by his ‘Theory of the Forms.’ This means that for Plato the form or idea is the reality that never changes and therefore makes things what they are. Moreover, clearly showing a significant influence on Stegmuller as he believes that he has to understand the nature of the matter, meaning what makes matter what it is today. The only way this can be done is by finding the properties that created things like the sun, soil, and even objects like furniture. This can all be done through knowledge and understanding, using reason and establishing that ‘mathematical space’ and ‘physical space’ are two different entities. This illustrates Plato as being not only an influential character to physicians like Stegmuller but even a teacher of modern-day philosophy. Seegmiller had been enlightened and influenced by the way the ancient Greek Philosophers like Plato used to think using their inner knowledge to make deductions and judgements on things like matter that have no source of empirical evidence to prove that they exist. Therefore, leading to needing to use conscious decisions and practical but effective conclusions to come to the specific differences of the nature and reality of the matter. It is clear that Stegmuller learnt that the ‘mathematical space’ and ‘physical space’ were two completely different things when describing matter, therefore acquired his own knowledge of the two and made specific diverse deliberations when describing the properties of the nature of matter.

Another way Plato can be explored as an influential character in the scientific world can be seen through convincing scientists like Werner Heisenberg. The physicist doesn’t only focus on the differences but mainly the similarities between indestructible units of matter and elementary particles. He says that they can be transformed into each other. He says that Plato’s Timaeus (The elementary of particles), says they are not just substances but mathematical forms. (Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy 1958). This illustrates Plato affecting physicians in mathematical ways through his book. This shows how Heisenberg has used Plato’s theory in the Timaeus to make a judgement how indestructible units of matter and elementary particles link to one and another through geometry which is reason-based and simple maths that gives a result. Plato can be seen here as a leader as the physicist Heisenberg publishes his book of how matter can be linked by Plato’s theories of mathematics and geometry. This can also be seen in real life where maths is used in physics to work out formulas that involve matter and particles. In addition, showing how Plato’s influence on old day physics has hence evolved and been perfected by physician’s like Heisenberg to derive and find answers to other aspects of physics as well like density, mass and volume. Plato here could of be seen as an ‘architect’ of modern-day science in specific physics. He has been able to simply make clear links between science and maths to come to reasoned conclusions, that can be developed on and followed by physicians. We can now see why many scientists may agree and say Plato was an influential character, as his theories and explanations may have been farfetched, however as soon as they were explored in detail, scientists like Stegmuller, Heineburg, and many more are seen as using their reason, which in 337BC was a priori knowledge. This is the knowledge that we have stored before we were even born, and it was believed by Plato that we are just recalling the information and knowledge we had acquired before we were born. This reason has helped them to come to justified conclusions about the matter. Without the use of this, it would have been impossible to find out the cause of most things as there would have been no knowledge to base arguments from, meaning there would not be answers to many questions in science, therefore leaving gaps due to lack of background knowledge in the first place. This reason that we all acquire can be used as stepping stones to find out more about a topic like matter. There would be no starting point without reason of deduction, which can quite simply mean using common sense to come to a justified and approved answer to something using academic deductions and knowledge.

On the other hand, many scientists may argue that Plato isn’t an influential character in old and modern science. Plato as ‘Architect of Science’. He argues that. ‘The tendency of portraying Plato as an Architect of Science… is based on his Dialogues.’ Zhmud shows a view that Plato is illustrated by not being the influencer of science himself, however, it’s his dialogues that may influence scientists in different ways. The main ways that they will be influenced will be

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Ideas Of Plato In The Context Of Contemporary Science. (2021, September 26). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from
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