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A Classical Example of Why Needle-sharp Philosophical Investigations are Needed.

Let us proceed to distribute the elementary forms, which have now been created in idea, among the four elements. To earth, then, let us assign the cubical form; for earth is the most immoveable of the four and the most plastic of all bodies, and that which has the most stable bases must of necessity be of such a nature.!

From Plato's Timaus [1330-1370]:
This corresponds to the element of 'fire.
Now, of the triangles which we assumed at first, that which has two equal sides is by nature more firmly based than that which has unequal sides; and of the compound figures which are formed out of either, the plane equilateral quadrangle has necessarily a more stable basis than the equilateral triangle, both in the whole and in the parts. Wherefore, in assigning this figure to earth, we adhere to probability; and to water we assign that one of the remaining forms which is the least moveable; and the most moveable of them to fire; and to air that which is intermediate. Also we assign the smallest body to fire, and the greatest to water, and the intermediate in size to air; and, again, the acutest body to fire, and the next in acuteness to air, and the third to water.

And this blobby Pyramid corresponds to the element of 'air'.
Of all these elements, that which has the fewest bases must necessarily be the most moveable, for it must be the acutest and most penetrating in every way, and also the lightest as being composed of the smallest number of similar particles: and the second body has similar properties in a second degree, and the third body in the third degree. Let it be agreed, then, both according to strict reason and according to probability, that the pyramid is the solid which is the original element and seed of fire; and let us assign the element which was next in the order of generation to air, and the third to water.

The complicated sounding, and complicated looking Icosahedron corresponds to 'water'...
So far, note, this is all nonsense. But it appears very technical and thus impressive. At least Plato is right here, when he continues: 

We must imagine all these to be so small that no single particle of any of the four kinds is seen by us on account of their smallness: but when many of them are collected together their aggregates are seen. And the ratios of their numbers, motions, and other properties, everywhere God, as far as necessity allowed or gave consent, has exactly perfected, and harmonized in due proportion.

And finally, reliable, 'solid' earth. 

From all that we have just been saying about the elements or kinds, the most probable conclusion is as follows:—earth, when meeting with fire and dissolved by its sharpness, whether the dissolution take place in the fire itself or perhaps in some mass of air or water, is borne hither and thither, until its parts, meeting together and mutually harmonising, again become earth; for they can never take any other form. But water, when divided by fire or by air, on re-forming, may become one part fire and two parts air; and a single volume of air divided becomes two of fire. 

Again, when a small body of fire is contained in a larger body of air or water or earth, and both are moving, and the fire struggling is overcome and broken up, then two volumes of fire form one volume of air; and when air is overcome and cut up into small pieces, two and a half parts of air are condensed into one part of water.
There are ideas here, yes. And although these shapes are always called 'Platonic solids', they seem to come rather via Pythagoras (who is 'unfashionable') from the East (which is almost 'unmentionable' in Western versions of the history of ideas). Finding out who really said what, and when, is part of finding out 'the truth'. And we shall do that here. But - more than that - how to separate the useful- from the useless? 

That is the the task of this website.


eugenealper said...

(A suggestion for a post. Thank you for your consideration. EA)

How the Body Keeps Human Nature in Check

The theory of social contract presumes that human nature is bad, and that if people could get away with it, they would steal, rape, rob, and kill. And so, the theory goes, to avoid mutual destruction people enter into a social contract where they give up some of their freedom in exchange for security. But it seems to me that the very premise is incorrect. It seems to me that however destructive human nature may be in theory—indeed, if man has free will, he can do anything—in reality, man's own body, its vulnerabilities and frequent needs, forces him to cooperate with others rather than destruct them.

Even if man were not born into a socializing milieu of other people; even if he did not have a mother whom he learned to please from early on because she was the source of his food and comfort; even, in other words, if man were dropped into the world from the sky not knowing anything at all, he would soon discover that his body needs to be fed every four hours and put to sleep every sixteen. His skin, he would notice, is sensitive to cold, heat, and also to many sorts of pain. He would find that it is quite risky to have to fight for food, or steal it and try to get away, so many times a day, and that it is troublesome to try to find a new shelter every night to stay away from those who he might have angered during the day. He would promptly guess that it is easier and more energy efficient to get food in a peaceful exchange, where he would trade for food something of his own—a thing or a service, or even a promise to be fulfilled in the future. He would also find that even if he were the biggest and strongest among all, he could not be big and strong twenty-four hours a day. For some eight hours daily he would be as defenseless as a baby, and would have to have someone trusted around him not to get hurt. Even the meanest tyrant with the worst human nature would find that he could not be bad all the time under these circumstances. The vulnerability of his own body in sleep and his need to eat non-poisonous food would make him be good at least to his closest circle. This is what the man dropped from the sky would discover: However base his nature may be, his needy body keeps it under control.

The relationship between the body and the soul, then, may be more complex than appears at first glance. Far from being a whetstone one's otherwise soaring soul is sadly shackled to for years, the body, it turns out, provides a needful check on the soul's free will. "Don't be too cocky," says the body, "or you will get hurt."

docmartincohen said...

Thanks Eugene, I've found it now! Looks good. Be in touch by email.

Tessa den Uyl said...

Dear Eugene,

A bit off track from your body issue, your writing makes me think back of these past days I have been talking with Moroccan men about the suggestion that if all frontiers were open, and if every human being would have the right of a passport and be able to take an airplane without restrictions, then maybe the world we live in would change. Now amazingly the persons I have talked to, down here in Morocco, respond all in the same way; that such an idea would not work. There would be a lot of violence, more drugs dealing etc. if everybody had a right to travel. This amazes me, for would it not be the same for all those who have the right to travel now? As if there are better and worse populations? Moroccan people speak and think very bad about their co-citizens, as people not to be trusted. Then there is a kind of almost iddilic idea about western behaviour. (For example in Europe, things work better, people are straighter, trustworthy).

Now in regard to violence, is it not properly because of restrictions, of not having the right to go and live where you want, that there is any such idea? Paradoxically we live in a brutal world ever since, could it get worse? If for example a Syrian refugee could have taken an airplane, no mafia would have people drowned in unsafe boats, robbing money and have persons pass the most inhuman and difficult circumstances to simply find a 'normal' life? To me it seems that negative thinking has come to overrule almost every society, and no society truly takes the point of view that if we would all have the same rights, things might get better?

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