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date: 27 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The chapter studies the natural philosophy of Pythagoras and Plato, carefully delineating similarities and contrasts. The sources on Pythagoras are all much later than his life, and often unreliable or hagiographical; whereas for Plato we have a large corpus of his own writings—which nevertheless are not simple to interpret. Plato and Aristotle regard Pythagoras as primarily a religious figure, not a mathematician or natural philosopher. A sharp distinction between Pythagoras as religious figure and Pythagoras as natural philosopher and mathematician may not be the best interpretation. Plato’s cosmology constructs a highly ordered cosmos, in which mathematical forms (circles, regular solids, and simple ratios) play a decisive role. Several thinkers influenced by the work of Pythagoras or Plato are also treated: Archytas, Eudoxus, and Philolaus.

Keywords: Archytas, Aristotle, astronomy, cosmology, Eudoxus, harmonics, mathematics, Philolaus, Plato, Pythagoras, Pythagorean theorem, tetraktys

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