5.0 out of 5 stars Early physics...sort of
Plato is deep. That can't be emphasized enough. He deals more with physics in "Timaeus" than in any other extant work. This is not so much a belief system, or paradigm, presented, so much as ideas. Nowhere does Plato actually endorse these views (although they are well worth learning). He sort of asks the reader to listen with an open mind, and THEN be critical...
Published on Dec 24 2003 by Carl Slim
3.0 out of 5 stars The Atlantis Stories & Other Far-Fetched Theories
Plato was an excellent thinker. He wasn't afraid to just take hold of an idea and develop it beyond normal reckoning. During a time when science did not provide the answers people sought, philosophers provided their own answers. Timaeus begins with a dialogue discussing the perfect society and if it ever could or ever did exist. It goes on into a dialogue of how god...
Published on Dec 14 2002 by paisleymonsoon
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5.0 out of 5 stars Early physics...sort of,
Plato is deep. That can't be emphasized enough. He deals more with physics in "Timaeus" than in any other extant work. This is not so much a belief system, or paradigm, presented, so much as ideas. Nowhere does Plato actually endorse these views (although they are well worth learning). He sort of asks the reader to listen with an open mind, and THEN be critical. I found something interesting in one of the parts on geometric physics that seems to have excaped every commentater I am aware of,so who knows what else is still hidden after more than 2,000 years?
You get Atlantis stories, flood myths, the Atomic theory, evolution/reincarnation, medical/biological theory, and creation myth. Running through some parts is some very interesting (to me, at least) mathematics. All from one of (if not the) clearest mind(s) I have ever read. Not to mention an excellent writer.
"Critias" is unfinished, whether it was left that way, or the ending has been lost. It's the earliest tale of Atlantis we have (Atlantis is only discussed very briefly in "Timaeus"). It can be taken as a morality parable. On the other hand, it may also be a myth that found it's way to Plato...or even a relatively accurate historical account. Or all of the above. Because, like I said: Plato is deep.
5.0 out of 5 stars Plato's Science and Psychology,
Desmond Lee, the translator of the Penguin edition of Timaeus and
Critias, claims his goal is an accurate representation of Plato's
thought, as opposed to maintaining style or convention. Indeed,
despite the purported obscurity of the original Greek, his work
plainly reveals Plato's ideas. Timaeus presents some of Plato's
clearest statements on issues related to science and psychology,
the focus of this review. Lee provides a good introduction, section
summaries, and helpful diagrams of Plato's ideas, but few footnotes
and no index. Incidentally, Timaeus and Critias introduce astrology
and the famous story of Atlantis, one of the most intriguing
mysteries in literature. Lee writes an appendix on Atlantis, pointing
out its mythical qualities, clarifying Plato's descriptions with maps,
and outlining the case for its historical origins. This edition would
be a good choice for readers interested in the source material for the
Atlantis legend and a summary of its ramifications, with a short
bibliography. The importance of Timaeus, however, is its presentation
of Plato's philosophy in its maturity, one relevant to science.
Materialism dominates Western culture today. Briefly, materialism
Plato's philosophy denies that reality is only material objects, because
Plato's model consists of a perfect eternity of Being having ideal
Plato casts his psychology as the workings of the soul. Timaeus refines
Today, Plato's descriptions of creation, physical and biological processes,
3.0 out of 5 stars The Atlantis Stories & Other Far-Fetched Theories,
Plato was an excellent thinker. He wasn't afraid to just take hold of an idea and develop it beyond normal reckoning. During a time when science did not provide the answers people sought, philosophers provided their own answers. Timaeus begins with a dialogue discussing the perfect society and if it ever could or ever did exist. It goes on into a dialogue of how god created man with relation to the four elements (earth,wind,fire, and water). He tries to answer questions about why we get sick and the nature of colors. Critias is devoted entirely to Plato's tale of the lost Atlantis which was "as large as Asia & Libya combined" -- not quite a city, but a continent. He begins by telling that Poiseidon had 5 sets of twin boys (with a human mother). He set these boys as the rulers of different cities in Atlantis. The capital was fortified by concentric rings of water and land that were only later connected by bridges. Plato says that Critias had heard the story of Atlantis from his grandfather, who had heard it from Salon, who had in turn heard it from his travels in Egypt. There is the possibility that Plato's rendition of the Atlantis story was based in reality, but probably as trumped up as other versions of the story. This book is great at the beginning and the end, but the middle section is so full of obviously scientifically inaccurate information that it's difficult to keep turning the pages to get to "the good part" about Atlantis.
4.0 out of 5 stars Truly a Classic,
The Timaeus and the Critias are two dialogues written by Plato. In the Timaeus he explores the origin of Earth by means of a dialogue between Socrates and Timaeus and in the Critias, also a dialogue, he writes about the myth of Atlantis. I was suprised by how much he knew, such as that the Earth is a sphere, but also by the ignorance he had in saying that there were only 4 elements. The writing for the most part is clear, but in some places hard to follow, an example is when Plato is discussing the creation of the soul of the World. I had never read a book by Plato before and I am now interested in his other works. Those who have never read ancient philosophy shouldn't be discouraged by this book, it is a rewarding read, and not hard to understand.
4.0 out of 5 stars Plato's Timaeus,
There are a plethora of disciplines (disciples) who would wish to claim the Timaeus as their own (or at least one part or another). Plato's cosmogony seems to hold something for everyone. Even to this day zealous mathematicians and geometricians have to vie with crystal worshippers and spirit channelers to proclaim Plato's take on the Pythagorean 'sacred geometry' idea relating to the make up of the universe (a bunch of triangles, apparently (p. 54-56)) as plausible and still worthy of serious study. Others search for clues within a small section of what would seem to be nothing more than a literary device (p.25)- for the secrets of the lost city of Atlantis, the story of which is related to the gathered characters by Critias as an illustration of what Plato's Republic could be, or could have been. Yet others see it as a handbook of ancient astrology (1).
Although described as a 'dialogue', it really isn't. In fact Hermocrates gets to exchange social pleasantries once or twice at the beginning and is thereafter mute throughout. Critias gets a reputable monologue recounting the fate of Atlantis (p.20) before handing off to Timaeus (perhaps Timaios, a Pythagoran), the astronomy expert, who handles, with a line or two of encouragement from Socrates (p.29), the entire piece to its end.
Perhaps it was living in the shadows of the persecution, trial, and subsequent execution of Socrates that allowed Plato to lift his eyes to focus on 'The Forms'.
This was his theory put forward in the 'Republic' and repeated again in the 'Timaeus' (p.40), that a divine craftsman created our universe. This demiurge modeled our close approximation on some original Divine set of 'Forms' which we can, through application of philosophy strive toward, but never see (sense) or 'know' (have intellectual certainty of). This Demiurge created the pantheon of Gods and gave to them the task of creating all living creatures from the elements of fire, earth, air and water (p.49). Each 'bit' of each element possessed a particular geometric shape, too small to be seen by the human eye, which mingles with others - or doesn't - according to a set of mathematical rules.
After the planets (spherical, thus perfect (p.33)), man was created next closest to perfection (after a somewhat disastrous beta cycle (p.43)). Woman came into existence as the transmigrated soul of men who didn't cut the mustard the first time around (p.42) and were made into something less than a man, that is, a woman. The scale of incompetence declined steeply from there. Next were animals that dragged their four limbs across the ground, birds, then fish and last of all oysters.
The known planets, Mercury (Hermes), Venus (Aphrodite), Jupiter (Zeus) and Mars (Apollo), along with the moon and the sun where put into motion in their allotted orbits around 'Mother' Earth. By virtue of Platonic decree, the heavenly bodies were set in their sophisticated motion by the souls that inhabited them, for they were living beings, too. Fixed stars, being fixed, were hooks to hang each soul on between incarnations (p.38).
But it seemed something was missing in Plato's unifying theory. It seemed for this universe of close approximation to exist, it had to be held in, perhaps nurtured by, framed by,'The Nurse Of Becoming', or the more ominous sounding 'receptacle of becoming' (p.48)'.
What Desmond Lee's translation does not convey about this Receptacle (Greek: Khora) is that within the text of the Timaeus, the Receptacle is a 'she' (2). When read within the context of the female genitive, the sexual politics give a much clearer picture of what both Plato and Desmond Lee seem to be struggling with when they discuss her blank void and her inability to give form or function to that which she holds within her. That it is the 'he' that attributes the form and the function.
Being denied one such omission, one wonders what other oversights one is unaware of.
Plato's Anatomy and Physiology lesson (expounded by Timaeus) is, in all respects, somewhat wide of the mark. Still, however, an interesting read (the description of the function of the liver is particularly fascinating), and at times (unintentionally) humorous - and at others it is thought provoking and insightful in a mythic sort of way. Here he touches on the metaphysical once again, setting up road signs back to the extispicy practices of the Akkadians (3) and forward to the Greco-Roman mystery religions of the first few centuries AD.
I have a thing or two to say about the Penguin Classic edition, also. The paper is yellowed and cheap and acts like blotting paper when one takes a hi-liter to it. I would much prefer nice shiny white paper, with plenty of white space for marginalia and esthetics.
The Timaeus is hard. The translator, Desmond Lee says so. Plato says so. Who am I to differ? Mr. Lee's notes were of great help, but I sometimes got the impression that he was as lost as I - which I found strangely comforting. At times he defers to the 'Cornford' translation (also available from Amazon), perhaps this tells us something.
This is essential reading for anyone who has an interest in math, comparative cosmogony, myth, astrology, archeoastronomy or philosophy. I advise all medical students to stay away.
(1) See "Hamlet's Mill', pp. 305-309, De Santillana, Giorgio, David R Godine, Publisher, Inc. Jaffery, New Hampshire (2) See 'Space & Timaeus', Bigelow, John, Monash University. URL [...] (3) See 'Ancient Mesopotamia', p.213, Oppenheim, A. Leo, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1977
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Penguin Classics Timaeus And Critias by Plato (Paperback - Sept. 23 2008)
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