Plato and Pythagoreanism

Oxford University Press USA (2013)

Authors
Phillip Horky
Durham University
Abstract
Was Plato a Pythagorean? Plato's students and earliest critics thought so, but scholars since the nineteenth century have been more skeptical. With this probing study, Phillip Sidney Horky argues that a specific type of Pythagorean philosophy, called "mathematical" Pythagoreanism, exercised a decisive influence on fundamental aspects of Plato's philosophy. The progenitor of mathematical Pythagoreanism was the infamous Pythagorean heretic and political revolutionary Hippasus of Metapontum, a student of Pythagoras who is credited with experiments in harmonics that led to innovations in mathematics. The innovations of Hippasus and other mathematical Pythagoreans, including Empedocles of Agrigentum, Epicharmus of Syracuse, Philolaus of Croton, and Archytas of Tarentum, presented philosophers like Plato with novel ways to reconcile empirical knowledge with abstract mathematical theories. Plato and Pythagoreanism demonstrates how mathematical Pythagoreanism established many of the fundamental philosophical questions Plato dealt with in his central dialogues, including Cratylus, Phaedo, Republic, Timaeus, and Philebus. In the process, it also illuminates the historical significance of the mathematical Pythagoreans, a group whose influence on the development of philosophical and scientific methods has been obscured since late antiquity. The picture that results is one in which Plato inherits mathematical Pythagorean method only to transform it into a powerful philosophical argument about the essential relationships between the cosmos and the human being.
Keywords Plato  Pythagoreanism  Ancient Philosophy  Aristotle
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Reprint years 2016
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ISBN(s) 9780190465704   9780199898220     0199898227
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Chapters BETA
Aristotle on Mathematical Pythagoreanism in the Fourth Century bce

This chapter describes the kinds of Pythagoreans who may have existed from the sixth through fourth centuries bce and their philosophical activities based on the evidence preserved by Aristotle. It identifies the characteristics that distinguished the mathematical Pythagorean pragmateia fr... see more

Hippasus of Metapontum and Mathematical Pythagoreanism

This chapter examines the various ways the Peripatetics and the Academics treated the philosophy of Hippasus of Metapontum. It suggests that some figures in the Early Academy appear not only to have assimilated the philosophy they attributed to Hippasus into their own philosophical doctrin... see more

Exoterism and the History of Pythagorean Politics

This chapter examines the fragmentary evidence derived from Timaeus' history of the city-states of Sicily and Southern Italy, with special attention to the account of a certain Apollonius preserved by Iamblichus in his work On the Pythagorean Way of Life. The analysis introduces the term, ... see more

Mathematical Pythagoreanism and Plato’s Cratylus

This chapter traces Plato's philosophical responses to the puzzle of Epicharmus' “Growing Argument” in the earlier and middle dialogues of Plato, especially Euthyphro and Cratylus. Plato's approach to this problem is rooted in his metaphysical propositions, including the correlative assump... see more

What Is Wisest?

This chapter examines Plato's recurrent response to the “Growing Argument” in the dialogue that exhibits Plato's most extensive evaluation of the concept of “number,” Phaedo. There, Plato illustrates mathematical Pythagorean argumentative techniques in the figures of Socrates's interlocuto... see more

The Method of the Gods

This chapter elucidates the ways Plato camouflages his critical responses to Pythagoreanism by using mythological figures to refer to Pythagorean philosophical invention in the middle and later dialogues, especially Republic, Timaeus, and Philebus. The theme of “discovery” takes on Pythago... see more

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Citations of this work BETA

Socrates and Philosophical Practice.Travis Butler - 2015 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 23 (5):821-842.

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