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Philolaus (Greek: Φιλόλαος; c. 470–c. 385 BCE[1]) was a Greek Pythagorean and Presocratic philosopher. He argued that all matter is composed of limited and unlimited things, and that the universe is determined by numbers. He is credited with originating the theory that the earth was not the center of the universe. He also thought that the immortal soul was imprisoned as a punishment from former lives.

Contents

Life

Philolaus is variously reported as being born in either Croton,[2] Tarentum,[3] or Metapontum.[4] All three places were located in southern Italy. He may have fled the second burning of the Pythagorean meeting-place around 454 BCE,[5] after which he migrated to Greece. According to Plato's Phaedo, he was the instructor of Simmias and Cebes at Thebes, around the time the Phaedo takes place, in 399 BCE.[6] This would make him a contemporary of Socrates, and agrees with the statement that Philolaus and Democritus were contemporaries.[7] The various reports about his life are scattered among the writings of much later writers and are of dubious value in reconstrucing his life. He apparently lived for some time at Heraclea, where he was the pupil of Aresas, or (as Plutarch calls him) Arcesus.[8] Diogenes Laërtius is the only authority for the claim that Plato, shortly after the death of Socrates, traveled to Italy where he met with Philolaus and Eurytus.[9] The pupils of Philolaus and were said to have included Xenophilus, Phanto, Echecrates, Diocles and Polymnastus.[10] As to his death, Diogenes Laërtius reports a dubious story that Philolaus was put to death at Croton on account of being suspected of wanting to be the tyrant;[11] a story which Laërtius even took the trouble to put into verse.[12]

Writings

Diogenes Laërtius speaks of Philolaus composing one book,[13] but elsewhere he speaks of three books,[14] as do Aulus Gellius and Iamblichus. It may have been one treatise, divided into three books. Plato is said to have procured a copy of his book, from which, it was later claimed, Plato composed much of his Timaeus.[15] One of the works of Philolaus was called On Nature,[13] which seems to be the same work which Stobaeus calls On the World, and from which he has preserved a series of passages.[16] Other writers refer to a work entitled Bacchae, which may have been another name for the same work.

Cosmology

Philolaus did away with the ideas of fixed direction in space, and developed one of the first non-geocentric views of the universe. His new way of thinking quite literally revolved around a hypothetical astronomical object he called the Central Fire.

Philolaus says that there is fire in the middle at the centre ... and again more fire at the highest point and surrounding everything. By nature the middle is first, and around it dance ten divine bodies - the sky, the planets, then the sun, next the moon, next the earth, next the counterearth, and after all of them the fire of the hearth which holds position at the centre. The highest part of the surrounding, where the elements are found in their purity, he calls Olympus; the regions beneath the orbit of Olympus, where are the five planets with the sun and the moon, he calls the world; the part under them, being beneath the moon and around the earth, in which are found generation and change, he calls the sky.
Stobaeus, i. 22. 1d

A popular misconception about Philolaus is that he supposed that a sphere of the fixed stars, the five planets, the Sun, Moon and Earth, all moved round his Central Fire, but as these made up only nine revolving bodies, he conceived in accordance with his number theory a tenth, which he called Counter-Earth. This fallacy grows largely out of Aristotle's attempt to lampoon his ideas in his book, Metaphysics. In reality, Philolaus' ideas predated the idea of spheres by hundreds of years. He never recognized the fixed stars as any kind of sphere or object.[17]

His new ideas about the nature of the Earth's place in the cosmos would be influential. Nicolaus Copernicus mentions in De revolutionibus that Philolaus already knew about the Earth's revolution around a central fire.

Number Theory

Philolaus was deeply involved in the distinctively Pythagorean number theory, dwelling particularly on the properties inherent in the decad – the sum of the first four numbers, consequently the fourth triangular number, the tetractys – which he called great, all-powerful, and all-producing. The great Pythagorean oath was taken by the sacred tetractys. The discovery of the regular solids is attributed to Pythagoras by Eudemus, and Empedocles is stated to have been the first who maintained that there are four classical elements. Philolaus, connecting these ideas, held that the elementary nature of bodies depends on their form, and assigned the tetrahedron to fire, the octahedron to air, the icosahedron to water, and the cube to earth; the dodecahedron he assigned to a fifth element, aether, or, as some think, to the universe. This theory, however superficial from the standpoint of observation, indicates considerable knowledge of geometry and gave a motivating boost to the study of science.

Philolaus argued that all matter is composed of limiters and unlimiteds. Limiters set boundaries, such as shape and quantity. Unlimiteds are universal forms and rules such as the four elements of earth, air, fire and water and the continua of space and time. Limiters and unlimiteds are combined together in a harmony (harmonia), which can be described mathematically (similar to the combinations of elements in modern chemistry). Philolaus used the musical scale to illustrate his philosophy, whereby whole number ratios limit pleasing sounds (e.g., the octave, fifth, and fourth are defined by the ratios 2 : 1, 4 : 3 and 3 : 2).

Following Parmenides' philosophy[citation needed], Philolaus regarded the soul as a "mixture and harmony" of the bodily parts; he also assumed a substantial soul, whose existence in the body is an exile.

Notes

  1. ^ "The most likely date for Philolaus' birth would then appear to be around 470, although he could have been born as early as 480 or as late as 440. He appears to have lived into the 380s and at the very least until 399." Carl A. Huffman, (1993) Philolaus of Croton: Pythagorean and Presocratic, pages 5-6. Cambridge University Press
  2. ^ Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica, 148
  3. ^ Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica, 267; Diogenes Laërtius, viii, 46
  4. ^ Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica, 266-67
  5. ^ Not to be confused with the first burning of the meeting place, in the lifetime of Pythagoras, c. 509 BC
  6. ^ Plato, Phaedo, 61DE
  7. ^ Apollodorus ap. Diogenes Laërtius, ix. 38
  8. ^ Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica; comp. Plutarch, de Gen. Socr. 13, though the account given by Plutarch involves great inaccuracies
  9. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, iii. 6
  10. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 46
  11. ^ "The story at D.L. 84 that Philolaus was killed because he was thought to be aiming at a tyranny is clearly a confusion with Dion who is mentioned in the context and did have such a death." Carl A. Huffman, (1993) Philolaus of Croton: Pythagorean and Presocratic, page 6. Cambridge University Press
  12. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, iii. 84; cf. Suda, Philolaus
  13. ^ a b Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 85
  14. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, iii. 9, viii. 15
  15. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 15, 55, 84, 85, iii. 9; Aulus Gellius, iii. 17; Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica; Tzetzes, Chiliad, x. 792, xi. 38
  16. ^ DK 44 B 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  17. ^ Burch, George Bosworth. The Counter-Earth. Osirus, vol. 11. Saint Catherines Press, 1954. p. 267-294

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PHILOLAUS (b. c. 480), Greek philosopher of the Pythagorean school, was born at Tarentum or at Crotona 1 (so Diog. Laert. viii. 84). He was said to have been intimate with Democritus, and was probably one of his teachers. After the death of Pythagoras great dissensions prevailed in the cities of lower Italy. According to some accounts, Philolaus, obliged to flee, took refuge first in Lucania and then at Thebes, where he had as pupils Simmias and Cebes, who subsequently, being still young men (vcavifKoL), were present at the death of Socrates. Before this Philolaus had returned to Italy, where he was the teacher of Archytas. He entered deeply into the distinctively Pythagorean number theory, particularly dwelling on the properties inherent in the decad - the sum of the first four numbers, consequently the fourth triangular number, the tetractys (see Vit. Pythag. ap. Phot. Bibl. p. 712) - which he called great, all-powerful, and all-producing. The great Pythagorean oath was taken by the sacred tetractys. The discovery of the regular solids is attributed to Pythagoras by Eudemus, and Empedocles is stated to have been the first who maintained that there are four elements. Philolaus, connecting these ideas, held that the elementary nature of bodies depends on their form, and assigned the tetrahedron to fire, the octahedron to air, the icosahedron to water, and the cube to earth; the dodecahedron he assigned to a fifth element, aether, or, as some think, to the universe (see Plut. de Pl. Ph. ii. 6, be $E rob SwbeKaESpov rofi 7ravT63 04aipav and Stob. Ed. Phys. i. 10, 6 Ta agaipas 6XKOs). This theory, however superficial from the standpoint of observation, indicates considerable knowledge of geometry and gave a great impulse to the study of the science. Following Parmenides, Philolaus regarded the soul as a "mixture and harmony" of the bodily parts; he also assumed a substantial soul, whose existence in the body is an exile on account of sin.

Philolaus was the first to propound the doctrine of the motion of the earth; some attribute this doctrine to Pythagoras, but there is no evidence in support of their view. Philolaus supposed that the sphere of the fixed stars, the five planets, the sun, moon and earth, all moved round the central fire, which he called the hearth of the universe, the house of Zeus, and the mother of the gods (see Stob. Ed. Phys. i. 488); but as these made up only nine revolving bodies he conceived, in accordance with his number theory, a tenth, which he called counter-earth, avriXOccv. He supposed the sun to be a disk of glass which reflects the light of the universe. He made the lunar month consist of 291 days, the lunar year of 354, and the solar year of 365; days. He was the first who published a book on the Pythagorean doctrines, a treatise of which Plato made use in the composition of his Timaeus. This work of the Pythagorean, to which the mystical name BaKXac is sometimes given, seems to have consisted of three books: (I) IIEpi Kkuou, containing a general account of the origin and arrangement of the universe; (2) llepi ckaaes, an exposition of the nature of numbers; (3) IIEpc kxi)s, on the nature of the soul.

Boeckh places his life between the 10th and 95th Olympiads (49 6 -39 6 B.C.). He was a contemporary of Socrates and Democritus, but senior to them, and was probably somewhat junior to Empedocles, so that his birth may be placed at about 480.

See Boeckh, Philolaus des Pythagoreers Lehren nebst den Bruchstiicken seines Werkes (Berlin, 1819); Schaarschmidt, Die angebliche Schriftstellerei des Philolaus (1864); also Fabricius, Bibliotheca graeca; Zeller, History of Greek Philosophy; Chaignet, Pythagore et la philosophie pythagoricienne, contenant les fragments de Philolaus et d'Architas (1873); Th. Gomperz, Greek Thinkers (Eng. trans. (1901), i. 123 sqq., 543 sqq. and authorities there quoted; also art.

Pythagoras. For fragments see Ritter and Preller, Hist. Philosoph. ch. ii.


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Simple English

Philolaus (ca. 480 BC – ca. 385 BC, Greek: Φιλόλαος) was a Greek Pythagorean and Presocratic. He argued that all matter is composed of limited and unlimited things, and that the universe is determined by numbers. He is credited with originating the theory that the earth was not the center of the universe.



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