Plato’s triangles

For Christmas I got a book on Higg’s boson by Jim Baggott. Even though it’s a popular science book and well explained it’s still difficult to understand. But not as difficult as Plato’s account of the fundamental building blocks of matter in Timaeus.

Jim Baggott briefly mentions this theory before plunging into the relatively simple theories (but still incomprehensible) of quantum mechanics. Basically Plato says that everything is made out of triangles!! I’ve read Plato’s account several times but I still still can’t get my head around it. Despite all the advances that have been made in modern physics, they would all agree that they still haven’t got the bottom of the nature of matter so maybe Plato will turn out to be right after all.

πρῶτον μὲν δὴ πῦρ καὶ γῆ καὶ ὕδωρ καὶ ἀὴρ ὅτι σώματά ἐστι, δῆλόν που καὶ παντί: τὸ δὲ τοῦ σώματος εἶδος πᾶν καὶ βάθος ἔχει. τὸ δὲ βάθος αὖ πᾶσα ἀνάγκη τὴν ἐπίπεδον περιειληφέναι φύσιν: ἡ δὲ ὀρθὴ τῆς ἐπιπέδου βάσεως ἐκ τριγώνων συνέστηκεν. τὰ δὲ τρίγωνα πάντα ἐκ δυοῖν ἄρχεται.

First it’s obvious to anyone that fire, earth, water and air are bodies. Now every form of body has depth and it must be that depth has a plane surface around it and the rectilinear plane is composed of triangles. All triangles are derived from two (the rectilinear scalene and isosceles).

Plat. Tim. 53c

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One Response to Plato’s triangles

  1. Awesome. Much more sensical than the later Alexandrian circle.


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