Who is Philolaus (Philolaos, Filolaos)?

Who is Philolaus (Philolaos, Filolaos)?

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

Philolaus (Philolaos, Filolaos) is one of the pre-Socratic philosophers.

Philolaus (Philolaos, Philolaos), known as the successor of Pythagoras, is the owner of the idea that there is something unlimited and limiting at the base of everything. It is also said that the idea that the Earth is not the center of the universe was put forward by Philolaus.

Philolaos, BC. He lived in the 5th century. He became one of the important philosophers of the Pythagorean school. Philolaos, BC. He was born in 470 in Italy. After Pythagoras’ death, he went first to Lucania and then to Thebes. Later, he returned to Italy, where he would work as the teacher of the Greek philosopher Archytas. Philolaos is the student of the famous thinker Pythagoras, who emphasized the importance of numerical groups, and the defender of his theory. He was particularly interested in the sum of the first four numbers. He is considered the first philosopher to write a book on Pythagorean philosophy. Speusippus, Plato’s successor as head of the Greek Academy, is reported to have copied the doctrine of the first four numbers from this book of Philolaus. However, only fragments of his work survive, and the belief that it was the first systematic study of Pythagoreanism remains valid.

Philolaos’ philosophical thoughts center around objects and problems of becoming. According to him, all objects gathered under the concept of being consist of two opposing principles. One of them is determinative, limiting, and the other is indeterminacy. The determinant principle is the beginning and the end, and the indeterminacy indicates the environment in which the objects occur. Man can know only the determined. What is determined also depends on three conditions: situation, form, and place. The situation is related to the type of presence of the object, its form feature, the environment in which it is located, and the space. The determining principle provides unity, and indeterminacy provides duality, being in a different state. Duality is not rational, it is nature, about which no definite judgment can be made, it is the source of error and longing. Unity, on the other hand, is God, the eternal power that governs, regulates, does not change, is sovereign, resembling only itself, that governs the entire universe of existence. As all objects are filled with this divine power, they also contain their opposites. Thus, in the object, its opposite and the divine coexist. This unity and duality are the two opposing principles of the whole being, as well as the principle of numbers. Therefore, numbers are also the constituent elements of the whole being.

Philolaos is of the opinion that the numbers that he describes as the principle of existence consist of “dots”. According to him, the essence of the point, which is the founding element, is unity. Two points form a line, three points form the surface, and four points form three-dimensional objects. Thus, unity becomes the constitutive element of the point and duality of the line. Outside the point is the interval that forms the property of the undetermined. This is because all objects are together with their opposites. This is also true in music. It is the numbers that provide its essence and harmony. There are four elements in living things against the number four: the brain, heart, navel, and reproductive elements. They are limited from top to bottom, according to the stages of superiority. Philolaos is of the opinion that there are five constitutive forms and elements formed according to a certain order in concrete beings. These are regular tetrahedron, cube, regular octahedron, regular dodecahedron, and regular twentieth. On the other hand, there are five other tangible elements corresponding to these five regular bodies: fire, earth, air, water, and the fifth essence. However, he did not reveal the name of this fifth essence, but left its nature.

According to some historians of philosophy, Philolaos claimed that the earth rotates and created a new planetary system.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook