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Plato's philosophy of science

Gregory, Andrew David; (1995) Plato's philosophy of science. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis investigates Plato's views on the nature of the natural world, and how we ought to investigate and explain it. Critical questions are whether Plato was antipathetic to the investigation of nature, whether his views were overly teleological, whether his methodology was anti-empirical and discouraged careful observation and the effects, beneficial or otherwise, of his emphasis on mathematics. A central contention of this thesis is that there were significant changes to Plato's views on the stability of the cosmos and the relationship of mathematics to the physical world, and that these changes were significant events in the history of science. It is argued that there are also important co-ordinate ontological and epistemological changes from the middle period, and that Plato produced philosophically and historically interesting answers to many of the questions that must be faced by any realist conception of science. In this the status of the Timaeus is a critical. It is argued that Plato's style of writing philosophy is based on his views on knowledge, and that he is not so much concerned to present us with dogma as to puzzle us, offer us frameworks for the solution of problems and draw us into considering these problems for ourselves. This approach is applied to the Timaeus and it is argued that it presents a series of hypotheses about cosmology, mind and the epistemic status of the physical world for us to judge the worth of, many of these representing advances on the middle period views. One result here is greater epistemological optimism and greater stability in the natural world than some accounts of the Timaeus allow. It is argued that this approach enlivens the Timaeus, allows it a late dating, narrows the gap in style with the other late works and has important implications for our appreciation of Plato's philosophy of science.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Plato's philosophy of science
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Philosophy, religion and theology; Plato
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10105902
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