In defence of geometric atomism:

Jan Opsomer

in Neoplatonism and the Philosophy of Nature

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199693719
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739019 | DOI:
In defence of geometric atomism:

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In the Timaeus, Plato claimed that the four material elements are reducible to geometric shapes; the so-called Platonic solids. This theory—also known as geometric atomism—was criticized in Aristotle’s On the Heavens. Aristotle developed an alternative, qualitative account of the elements and their properties. The late Platonists Proclus and Simplicius vindicate Plato’s theory and try to dissolve Aristotle’s counter-arguments. Their account amounts to a type of microphysicalism according to which qualitative properties of material bodies supervene in a complex way on intrinsic and relational properties of the geometric shapes. They argue that in Plato’s model all the physical phenomena accounted for by Aristotle’s theory of the elements can be explained in an equally satisfactory manner (which also means that Aristotle’s physical works could continue to be used in the Platonic schools), but that Plato’s non-eliminative reductionism constitutes a theoretical improvement over Aristotle. The theory also requires a new ontological and categorial analysis of material properties.

Keywords: geometric atomism; four elements; qualitative properties; Timaeus; On the Heavens; Proclus; Simplicius; microphysicalism; supervenience

Chapter.  14827 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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