Plato and Pythagoreanism

Plato and Pythagoreanism


By (author) Phillip Sidney Horky

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Format: Hardback | 336 pages
  • Dimensions: 163mm x 239mm x 28mm | 567g
  • Publication date: 19 September 2013
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0199898227
  • ISBN 13: 9780199898220
  • Sales rank: 1,531,576

Product description

Was Plato a Pythagorean? Plato's students and earliest critics thought so, but scholars since the 19th century have been more skeptical. In Plato and Pythagoreanism, 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 new approaches to science that sought to reconcile empirical knowledge with abstract mathematical theories. Plato and Pythagoreanism shows 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 over the development of philosophical and scientific methods have 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 concerning the essential relationships between the cosmos and the human being.

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Author information

Phillip Sidney Horky is Lecturer in Classics at Durham University.

Review quote

"Plato and Pythagoreanism is a most interesting study, from which I learned a good deal and derived much pleasure. Horky sets out here to investigate the nature and extent of the influence on Plato and the Academy of that tradition within early Pythagoreanism which may be termed 'mathematical.' Despite the sketchy nature of the evidence, Horky proves his argument sufficiently to make this an important contribution to scholarship."--John Dillon, Trinity College Dublin"Horky's wide-ranging and meticulously researched Plato and Pythagoreanism provides an important contribution to our understanding of the doxographical traditions and the ongoing dialectic between the Greek philosophers of the fifth and fourth century BCE by engaging with some of the lesser known -- but no less interesting -- 'mathematical Pythagoreans' and systematically presenting their transformative influence on Plato's philosophy. This book deserves close attention from any student in ancient philosophy."--Mariska Leunissen, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill"This impressive work is crucial reading for students of early Pythagoreanism... Essential." --Choice

Table of contents

Contents ; Acknowledgements ; Abbreviations ; Preface ; Chapter 1: Aristotle on Mathematical Pythagoreanism in the 4th Century BCE ; Chapter 2: Hippasus of Metapontum and Mathematical Pythagoreanism ; Chapter 3: Exoterism and the History of Pythagorean Politics ; Chapter 4: Mathematical Pythagoreanism and Plato's Cratylus ; Chapter 5: What is Wisest? Mathematical Pythagoreanism and Plato's Phaedo ; Chapter 6: The Method of the Gods: Mathematical Pythagoreanism and Discovery ; Afterword ; Index Locorum ; Bibliography ; General Index