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 Plato with members of the Academy Aristotle by Francesco Hayez

Plato’s philosophy included the 4 elements similar to Empedocles but added a triangular ingredient.  Fire and earth have to be combined with at least one other element that is not solid, air and water.  He arranged all four elements proportionally as fire is to air, air is to water, water is to earth.  How did these elements come to be?  Plato’s answer was that the elements were all made of triangles.  Each particle is a regular geometric solid.  A particle of fire is composed of a tetrahedron (4 triangles).  Air is an octahedron (8 triangles), water is a 20 triangle icosahedrons and earth is a cube with 6 sides but each side is made up of 2 right triangles for a total of 12 triangles.

At age 17, Aristotle went to Athens (Greece) to study under Plato at the Academy.  Aristotle did not succeed Plato to leadership of the Academy after his death because Aristotle’s views were different.  He traveled to various courts and returned to Athens to start his own school called the Lyceum.  The Lyceum flourished until the death of Alexander in 323 BC.  Aristotle attempted to understand and explain matter or substances.   He developed four causes that act as “things.”

1. Materials which an object is created
2. Efficient cause by which it is created
3. Formal cause of what it is
4. Final cause, for which it is.

In other words, Aristotle was having a hard time describing matter.

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