PHILOLAUS

, of Crotona, was a celebrated philosopher of the Ancients. He was of the school of Pythagoras, to whom that philosopher's Golden Verses have been ascribed. He made the heavens his chief object of contemplation; and has been said to be the author of that true system of the world which Copernicus afterwards revived; but erroneously, because there is undoubted evidence that Pythagoras learned that system in Egypt. On that erroneous supposition however it was, that Bulliald placed the name of Philolaus at the head of two works, written to illustrate and confirm that system.

“He was (says Dr. Enfield, in his History of Philosophy) a disciple of Archytas, and flourished in the time of Plato. It was from him that Plato purchased the written records of the Pythagorean system, contra- ry to an express oath taken by the society of Pythagoreans, pledging themselves to keep secret the mysteries of their sect. It is probable that among these books were the writings of Timæus, upon which Plato formed the dialogue which bore his name. Plutarch relates, that Philolaus was one of the persons who escaped from the house which was burned by Cylon, during the life of Pythagoras; but this account cannot be correct. Philolaus was contemporary with Plato, and therefore certainly not with Pythagoras. Interfering in affairs of state, he fell a sacrisice to political jealonsy.

“Philolaus treated the doctrine of nature with great subtlety, but at the same time with great obscurity; referring every thing that exists to mathematical principles. He taught, that reason, improved by mathematical learning, is alone capable of judging concerning the nature of things: that the whole world consists of infinite and finite; that number subsists by itself, and is the chain by which its power sustains the eternal frame of things; that the Monad is not the sole principle of things, but that the Binary is necessary to furnish materials from which all subsequent numbers may be produced; that the world is one whole, which has a fiery centre, about which the ten celestial spheres revolve, heaven, the sun, the planets, the earth, and the moon; that the sun has a vitreous surface, whence the fire diffused through the world is reflected, rendering the mirror from which it is reflected visible; that all things are preserved in harmony by the law of necessity; and that the world is liable to destruction both by fire and by water. From this summary of the doctrine of Philolaus it appears probable that, following Timæus, whose writings he possessed, he so far departed from the Pythagorean system as to conceive two independent principles in nature, God and matter, and that it was from the same source that Plato derived his doctrine upon this subject.”

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Entry taken from A Mathematical and Philosophical Dictionary, by Charles Hutton, 1796.

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PETIT (Peter)
PETTY (Sir William)
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PHENOMENON
* PHILOLAUS
PHILOSOPHER
PHILOSOPHICAL Transactions
PHILOSOPHIZING
PHILOSOPHY
PHOENIX