Black, John Books
John Black teaches Liberal Studies and Philosophy at Malaspina University College on Vancouver Island. He received his PhD from the University of British Columbia. His previous books are in the area of overlap between ancient Greek philosophy, mathematics and music, though more recently he has turned his attention to the European Enlightenment2000 0-7734-7771-3
This work explores a puzzling aspect of Plato’s treatment, in Timaeus, of the geometry of the four elements. The claim that the elements are connected by a geometric proportion has been variously interpreted as either playful or obscurantist, but there has not yet been a treatment which both takes the claim seriously and grounds it in the essential structure of the elements, conceived in the Timaean manner as consisting of atoms of the same shape as four of the five regular solids. The intention of the study is to go as far as one can in the direction of a detailed explanation of how the claim might be justified. Although it becomes clear that it is not possible to generate a definitive interpretation which underwrites a geometric proportion, it makes plausible that Plato’s meaning is captured by the approach taken. This approach calls upon the Pythagorean roots of the dialogue to assign specific numerical values to the polyhedra which the character Timaeus associates with the elements. Attached as an Appendix is the author’s translation into English of a significant article in literature on Timaeus: “The Chemistry of the Timaeus” by E. M. Bruins. This will be of value to Timaean scholars who cannot easily read the French original, and thus allows them to gain access to the work of an important ad ingenious commentator.2007 0-7734-5404-7
Alexandro Malaspina conducted the most ambitious scientific experiment of the eighteenth century, and wrote the Meditación in 1798, while imprisoned for sedition in the fortress of San Antón off La Coruña. His fall, precipitated by the reaction to the politico-economic recommendations he made to the Monarchy on the subject of colonial relations, led to the suppression of most of the results, whether botanical, zoological, ethnographic or gravimetric, of his voyage, and so the loss, until recent times, of a significant voice in Enlightenment thought. This translation is an attempt to redress an intellectual injustice, the silencing of a mind at once broader and deeper than those of his most well-known counterparts Cook and La Pérouse, a mind which exercised itself on the philosophical issues of the day from a vantage-point of learning and anthropological experience to which few could lay claim. Malaspina’s main topics in this work are questions of aesthetics: does Beauty lie in the eye of the beholder? Is Beauty to be found in Art or in Nature? Does Beauty depend on Utility? He supplements these with Notes on a range of matters, literary, historical and scientific, opening a fascinating window onto his own time.2002 0-7734-7167-7
This facing-page translation provides the English-speaking world of classical scholarship with access to a key text in the understanding of Plato’s views about the role of mathematics in the cosmos. It deals with interpretive issues surrounding Plato’s mathematically-based accounts, derived from Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans, of reproduction among the ruling class of the Republic, of terrestrial and celestial music, and of atomic stereometry. It indicates surprising ways in which these accounts are essentially connected. Ahlvers offers a re-analysis of Plato’s derivation of the nuptial number in Republic, and devotes much attention to the broader issues raised by Timaeus. It will be of interest not only to Plato scholars, but to scholars of medieval thought, and music.