Natural Science


Science has a long history ascending to the time when it had been tightly intertwined with philosophy, which drastically influenced on its development. Ancient Greek philosophers have done significant impact on the development of sciences giving birth to different concepts and philosophic ideas. Despite the absence of modern scientific toolkits, they were able of characterizing the key logical and mathematical ideas, which with time became more vivid. The major approach to the variety of questions put in front of them Ancient Greek philosophers attempted to study with analysis and synthesis making these operations the most basic for all investigations. One of the important philosophers of that time was Plato and Aristotle because their ideas gave birth to future sciences such as astronomy, sociology, mathematics, economy and other. This paper investigates the approaches of Plato to the nature of knowledge, his theory of forms, and his methodological views towards natural sciences such as astronomy. Moreover, it analyzes the difference of views of Aristotle towards Plato’s concepts as well as his overall understanding of the global features of the physical universe. Despite the opinions of the philosophers differed, their principles of analysis significantly boosted scientific investigations giving advanced methodological basis for scientists of future generations. This research is useful for the students of philosophy and scientists because it enhances the understanding of modern aspects of science through their historical analysis.

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Plato’s Philosophical Analysis of the World

The works by Plato have the form of written dialogues, which include discussions of various aspects of surrounding and abstract phenomena between Socrates and his students. One of the well-known works in this respect are Meno and Timaeus named after the individuals participating in discussions. Each of the works includes the conversation between three different individuals. Thus, Plato uses the speech of students or a slave, and Socrates in order to gradually unfold one’s conceptual vision of the world and different phenomena. Through reading these works one gets familiar with the concepts of the nature of knowledge, the so-called “theory of forms”, the methodology of natural sciences and other from the position of an ancient philosopher. One of such concepts is the learning about the immortality of the soul and therefore the universal nature of knowledge. Plato renders this idea through the words of Socrates, who mentions that the soul is immortal, born many times and has the experiences and knowledge of any living being. Gradually, through a series of replies to the questions of Meno, Socrates explains the details of the universality of knowledge. Despite its inborn awareness in the soul, it has a specific lack, which leads to the fact that newborn individuals lose their knowledge and require recollection. As a result, through Socrates’ words Plato argues that learning is nothing but a recollection of the past memories of the soul, “I am saying that there is no teaching, but only recollection”. Furthermore, Socrates shows an example of the work of this theory by means of interviewing a small boy slave about the principles of organization of square in terms of finding the length of different sides and lines. Using questions, Socrates practically gives the answer to the boy using them as hints for the production of his own correct ideas. As a result, the boy successfully solves the tasks set by Socrates allowing the latter to state that “Do you see, Meno, what advances he has made in his power of recollection?”. Therefore, Plato’s learning about the nature of knowledge is based on the concept of universality forgotten after each human incarnation and requiring assistance in order to be recollected. The philosopher accepts that he assisted the boy in discovering the truth, but such assistance stimulates the soul’s will for remedying its ignorance and seeking for recollection through learning.

Furthermore, it is important to characterize Plato’s theory of forms because he introduced the idea of objective idealism, which is based on the concept of the initial existence of a non-material world. Thus, in Timaeus, he renders states that there are ideal forms of all the phenomena of reality including time. These ideal objects exist as abstract ideas or ideal forms, which are at some extent materialized in the surrounding world. Moreover, the ideal concepts are materialized by nature in order to be investigated by people by the analysis of their explicit shapes and other characteristics. Consequently, Plato argues about the existence of an ideal non-material world, which imposes its forms on the material one making them visible and comprehendible by other senses including logical analysis and synthesis. At the same time, the philosopher argues about the critical rule of the non-material world “that which is to receive all forms should have no form”. Thus, the world of ideal forms should be totally non-material in order to preserve the correct origin and further materialization of things. Similarly it is impossible to comprehend the non-visible world because it cannot be affected by any material phenomena. In contrast, the material things are comprehendible because the nature occasionally gets inflamed, water gets moistened, “the mother substance becomes earth and air, in so far as she receives the impressions of them”. As a result, Plato leads the reader towards the idea that human perception is one of the factors allowing comprehending the world, which is only a variant of materialization of ideal things. Therefore, the philosopher comes to the idea that there are two worlds, material and non-material, where the first one is perceived by senses and exists in motion. However, the non-material world is “always the same, uncreated and indestructible, never receiving anything into itself from without, nor itself going out to any other, but invisible and imperceptible by any sense”. Thus, soul initially exists in the non-material world having all the knowledge and losing it after incarnation, which is why the procedure of recollection through teaching is needed. Lastly, according to Plato, there is a third nature, space, which encompasses all previously mentioned phenomena and is “hardly real” but universal and ever existing. The produced ideas have a great impact on the vision of natural sciences by Plato as he applied his classification towards any science getting interesting results.

One of the unique aspects of ancient philosophy is that along with reflective thinking about different phenomena of the world philosophers formed the basis for different sciences. Thus, defining science as “a system of knowledge” it is critical to note that the Ancient Greeks formed both the major scientific concepts and the toolkits for their investigation. One of the vivid examples in this respect is the works of Plato reflecting his ideas regarding natural sciences. The philosopher applied the principles of his structural thinking of the world to sciences and characterized them as elements, which organize a system of knowledge coexisting with each other. For example, Plato viewed the human body as a composition of elements, “earth and fire and water and air”, which may form a disease in the case of their wrongful interaction. Despite these ideas are far from the scientific approach to medicine, this approach allowed Plato structuring human body depending on the natural source of organs and tissue. This example demonstrates that Plato applied the principles of analysis and synthesis towards any science forming it as a new concept and separating from others. Along with the medical terms and the human body, Plato gave description to the nature of physical objects, light, color, temperature and other. Furthermore, he applied similar synthetic and analytical methodology to a large scope of sciences, from biology to astronomy. For instance, he developed the two approaches of characterizing astronomy, practical and theoretical one. It is an interesting fact that his theoretical investigations with the application of mathematic formulas allowed characterizing “heavenly objects” with calculations apart from visual observations. Among the aspects taken into account by Plato during such operations was the number of revolutions of heavenly bodies, their rotation and other. At the same time, the philosopher recognizes the fact that heavenly bodies from time to time do not follow exact mathematical pattern of movement. Initially, the analysis of heavenly bodies by Plato stood on theological grounds, stating that were created by God or a Craftsman, who models them. Similarly, this concept is mixed with the previous one discussing material and non-material aspects of life. Moreover, the powers of reason and necessity move the cosmic spheres implementing ideal models in a concrete material setting. Therefore, Plato’s ideas gave birth to the fundamental concepts of science and philosophy forming the movement of objective idealism, which has been dominating throughout a considerable amount of time. Despite some of his approaches were rejected, the overall patterns of critical and reflective thinking were borrowed and enriched by the scientists of latter generations. At the same time, along with Plato, there were other Ancient Greek philosophers such as Aristotle, who held different opinion towards the characterized phenomena.

Aristotle’s Vision of the World

Aristotle was one of the talented students of Plato, which, however, did not lead to the fact that he supported the majority of the views of his teacher. First, he disagreed with idealistic views of Plato insisting on the existence of the material world and the relationship of the objective things in it. In this respects scholars state that “where Plato spoke of the Forms as existing independently of particulars, Aristotle denied this, maintaining that while form and matter are distinguishable in thought, they are not distinguishable … in the … world around us”. Thus, he rejected the idea that the realities of the objective world have specific ideal forms preceding them in the non-material state. Moreover, Aristotle developed the concepts of materialistic vision of the world stating that all material objects experience development and pursue the achievement of the specific shape. Thus, the position of Aristotle towards the world was close to materialism, which characterized nature as a constant dynamic motion of an objective matter pursuing creation of specific forms. Despite his objections opposed to Plato’s views, they significantly enhanced philosophical and scientific toolkits for future generations because of the accent on material phenomena.

Furthermore, Aristotle criticizes other key principles of Plato’s theories including the relationship between the form and matter, the theory of nature, the role of God and other. For instance, the philosopher considered that Plato’s vision of material and non-material character of the world lacks connection between them. The critique of Plato’s idea was the fact that since the world of forms in incomprehensible no one is capable of reviewing the real identity of any material object. For example, it is impossible to analyze whiteness or heaviness, or height of any object comparing it with its “ideal” analogue from the world of forms. Moreover, Aristotle insisted on the presence of the relationship between different material objects leading to the fact that they can change their forms and properties. For example, a matter can be changed in the case of application of power for its rearrangement. At the same time, each object has the essential form or attempts achieving it in the case it lacks it. Furthermore, Aristotle divides all material objects into living and non-living introducing the four principles or “causes” of the study of the natural world. They are the composition of the matter, their form, the goal or final state of progress, and its purpose or function. As a consequence, Aristotle classified the four natural phenomena, which are air, fire, water, and earth as well as the world of living organisms including people. Despite the principles of scientific classification of objects are different nowadays, Aristotle was one of the first scholars, who practiced this approach as a methodological tool for investigations. At the same time, Aristotle believed that God is the cause of all motion, which led to the fact that all objects undergo motion pursuing their specific destination. As a result, Aristotle viewed God as a cause of change of the things, which was different from Plato’s vision of the same aspect through the framework of the theory of forms. This concept allows stating that Aristotle’s concept of the physical universe was a unity of material objects, which constantly preserve movement towards their goals. Thus, the cause for all physical motion was not non-material forms but God, who directed specific destination for change disregarding living or non-living origin of a material object. At the same time, Aristotle was sure that the matter of the things preserves the same despite their aspects may undergo changes depending on the goal. Therefore, Aristotle’s critique of Plato’s concepts led to the fact that early natural science obtained materialistic approach and was enriched with different scientific concepts and tools. Therefore, Ancient Greeks philosophers were the first scientists, who originated the principle of methodological analysis practiced today by their modern counterparts.


Summarizing the presented information, the paper comes to a conclusion that Plato and Aristotle significantly impacted the world’s science and philosophy. Thus, Plato in his dialogues discussed the nature of the world, introduced different scientific notions and attempted to form a universal concept applied to any phenomena of the world. As a result, he formed the philosophical movement of objective idealism, which stated that ideal non-material forms precede the creation of the objective matter and preserve the ideal characteristics of things. The philosopher introduced the concept of the theory of forms, according to which any phenomena consisted of the four natural elements consisting of different shapes. Despite this opinion is a mistake, Plato has done an important work for creating a universal approach to any phenomena of the world. Furthermore, his student Aristotle developed many of these aspects mainly by means of critique because he disagreed with the positions of objective materialism. In contrast, his ideas formed a concept of material world, in which any object is characterized with the specific motion pursuing the creation of a specific material form. As a consequence, Aristotle’s impact towards science was even more significant because his concepts were mostly based on the premises of materialism. Therefore, the performed analysis allows stating that Ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle founded the basis of modern science introducing different methodological toolkits. Many of them such as analysis and synthesis have become one of the most critical toolkits for modern scientists.

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