Cosmology has been a subject of concentration since primordial times. It is described as the study of the entire structure of the universe and this includes humanity. Notably, Cosmological studies evolved from the primordial perception of the world. The ancient Greek Philosophers are credited for having set the pace for cosmological studies. Plato as one of the earliest Greek philosopher is a principal contributor to the studies about the universe. The following is an assessment of Plato contributions to cosmology. It commences with a discussion on Plato and his thoughts, and then proceeds with the assessment of his contribution to cosmology. Plato was a Greek philosopher whose worldview of the universe influenced contemporary Cosmology.
Plato and his Contributions to Cosmology
The following is a discussion about Plato and his contribution to Cosmology. It commences with an exhaustive elucidation of Plato and his view of the world. It then continues with the assessment of his contribution in the study of cosmology. The main contributions discussed include his explanation about the motion of the planet along a crystalline sphere, the planetary motion, celestial bodies and the planets orbit around the sun. Plato as an ancient Greek philosopher largely contributed to the cosmological studies of all times
Plato is a key figure among the earliest Greek philosophers whose work has been studied by many scholars. He was an intellectual, who was influenced by the thoughts of the Socrates. He is accredited for having started an academy in Athens (Zeyl, 2009). He was fascinated by morals and advocated kings who would be philosopher as the leaders of the government. Plato was delighted with the beauty and the mode in which the universe was ordered, and in his dialogue he wanted to describe it (Zeyl, 2009). Plato observed that, the order and the beauty seen in the universe demonstrated the intellect of the creator and rational souls were expected to imitate. This would in turn reinstate the soul to its unique state of excellence.
Likewise, Plato devised varied scope significant in the quest for liberal arts. They comprised of solid geometry, astronomy, mathematics and plane geometry. He argued that cosmology comprised of forms, absolute space, specific objects, brute matter and God who was the Divine craftsman. He stoutly supposed that God was the architect of all things. This contemplation particularly influenced ethics of that time together with the religion. Moreover, Plato emphasised that God could not make a perfect world from defective materials (Mohr, 2006). Markedly, this idea was highly admired by various generations of philosophers. It further aroused curiosity in carrying out more exploration about the divinely created universe.
Similarly, Plato argued that matter comprised of four imperative elements. Such elements constituted of the water, fire, air and the earth. This insight became universally acceptable until the time when Chemistry was developed by the scientists of the 18th century. He demonstrated on the significance of those elements in the survival of the universe (Lattis, 2010). He advocated that these were eternal substances and could only be represented by mathematical objects. Similarly, Plato upheld that the earth was spherical and it was the centre of the universe. He elucidated that there was a motion of planets along the crystalline spheres. He stoutly alleged that philosophy be pursued for the realization of knowledge. Therefore, he suggested that astronomy be studied as an exact mathematical science. This was established on the assumption that motions were regular and circular. In this venture, he wanted to establish the truth from what emerges to the eyes. Nevertheless, Plato held the belief that no one could derive the absolute truth (Wright, 2013).
Unquestionably, Plato cosmological reflection had varied contributions in the study of cosmology. As clearly stated, cosmology concentrates on significant question about the formation, and future development of the universe. In this line, he projected that the earth was spherical and the stars were implanted on the inner sphere. Similarly, as the outer sphere turned, it carried the stars around the earth in a daily alternation. He went on to explain that the sun, moon and other planets revolved around at different speed, this brought about eclipses. His elucidation provided the response to the question of the eclipses and it was further studied by later scientists. Evidently, this clarification shaped the field of Cosmology until the times of Copernicus (Wright, 2013).
An additional contribution of Plato to cosmology lies in his description about the planetary motion. Plato asserted that the irrational movement of the planets could be explained by holding that each planet moved on numerous circular tracks. He said that amalgamation of orbits made planetary motion. As the clockwise track turned on one track, it made the adjacent track to move anticlockwise. Resultantly, a regular geometry was created from what seemed like highly irregular behaviour (Mohr, 2006). This clarification was central to the studies related to Cosmology. Moreover, to the subject of the irregularities, Plato postulated that it would be probable to produce a reasonable, geometrical description on the movement of the moon, the sun, stars and the planets (Wright, 2013). Notably, this became a field of concentration by the Greek astronomers of the later centuries.
Additionally, Plato gave a principal test to his learners and to the astronomers in the generations to come. The test constituted in giving a systematic elucidation on the unsystematic motion. He supposed that all normalities were not real; on the contrary they were apparent. Plato suggested that beside the visible peculiarities, there were actual and orderly movements which could be articulated mathematically (Zeyl, 2009). Evidently, this basic assumption is a major motivation for astronomers of our times. In addition, the exploration for a solution to the issue of planetary motion was a major occupation for the Astonomers from the west for a long period.
In addition, Plato’s study of the universe had a practical value in the pre-historic world. In the Greek world, constellations were useful means of keeping time and forecasting changes in the season. Manifestly, this study shed a lot of light in the future studies of cosmology (Craig, 2001). For instance, the world stood in dire need for precise calendar and it was only realized through keen studies of the universe, which resulted to the rise of lunar calendars. The fruit of such observation are valuable not only in cosmology but also in other fields.
In the same line, Plato explanation about the universe gave a key input in comprehension of the celestial movement. As discovered by later scientists, this movement took different motions into consideration. Such include the daily revolution of all celestial bodies around the earth from east to west, movement of the sun, moon and planets in the opposite direction against the background of the constellation, and the retrograde movement of the planets. For instance, the planets like Mars unlike the sun and the moon move irregularly and they have a retrograde movement. Therefore, Plato is credited for having inspired later cosmological discoveries (Cornford, 2014).
Furthermore, Plato contribution in the perception of the universes is quite significantly. For instance, Plato retained a comprehensible thought that the centre of all things was the earth. Thus, the stars and all other planets orbited around it. This belief inspired other astronomers to endeavour into other investigations about the planets and the stars. Evidently, Copernicus expounded on the findings of Plato and suggested that the Earth and the other planets orbited around the sun (Johansen, 2004).
In conclusion, Plato was an influential philosopher who gave valuable contribution to Cosmology. He was enchanted with the order of the universe, and took an enormous task of unfolding how that order subsisted. Notably, from this task he supplied answers to essential questions about the universe. He established that matter comprised of various elements such as air, fire, earth and water. Besides, he proposed that the earth was spherical and it was the centre of the universe. Plato supplied adequate elucidation about the motion of the planets along a crystalline sphere. Moreover, he explained the planetary motion, celestial bodies and the orbit of the planet. Later scientists build on Plato’s ideas in their venture to provide accurate explanation about the universe. Therefore, it can be held that Plato as an ancient Greek philosopher gave valuable contribution in Cosmological studies.
Cornford, F. M. (2014). Plato’s cosmology: the Timaeus of Plato. Routledge.
Craig, W. L. (2001). The cosmological argument from Plato to Leibniz. Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Johansen, T. K., 2004, Plato’s Natural Philosophy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lattis, J. M. (2010). Between Copernicus and Galileo: Christoph Clavius and the collapse of Ptolemaic cosmology. University of Chicago Press.
Mohr, R., (2006). God and Forms in Plato, Las Vegas: Parmenides Publishing.
Wright, R. (2013). Cosmology in antiquity. Routledge.
Zeyl, D. J., (2009). Visualizing Platonic Space in One Book The Whole Universe: Plato’s Timaeus Today, R. Mohr, K. Sanders and B. Sattler (eds.), Las Vegas: Parmenides Publishing.