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Timaeus

Timaeus by Plato
By: (428/427 BC - 348/347 BC)

“Our intention is, that Timaeus, who is the most of an astronomer amongst us, and has made the nature of the universe his special study, should speak first, beginning with the generation of the world and going down to the creation of man…”

‘Timaeus’ is usually regarded as one of Plato’s later dialogues, and provides an account of the creation of the universe, with physical, metaphysical and ethical dimensions, which had great influence over philosophers for centuries following. It attributes the order and beauty of the universe to a benevolent demiurge – a ‘craftsman’ or god – fashioning the physical world after the pattern of an ideal, eternal one.

The dramatic setting of the dialogue is the day after a discussion in which Socrates has described his ideal state – as in the ‘Republic’. A conversation between Socrates, Critias, Hermocrates and Timaeus, including Critias’ account of Solon’s journey to Egypt (where he hears the story of Atlantis), soon gives way to the monologue by Timaeus that forms the bulk of the work.

‘Timaeus’ is translated by Benjamin Jowett and his comprehensive introduction to and analysis of the work precedes the text itself, which he describes as “the growth of an age in which philosophy is not wholly separated from poetry and mythology”.

First Page:

TIMAEUS

by Plato

Translated by Benjamin Jowett

INTRODUCTION AND ANALYSIS.

Of all the writings of Plato the Timaeus is the most obscure and repulsive to the modern reader, and has nevertheless had the greatest influence over the ancient and mediaeval world. The obscurity arises in the infancy of physical science, out of the confusion of theological, mathematical, and physiological notions, out of the desire to conceive the whole of nature without any adequate knowledge of the parts, and from a greater perception of similarities which lie on the surface than of differences which are hidden from view. To bring sense under the control of reason; to find some way through the mist or labyrinth of appearances, either the highway of mathematics, or more devious paths suggested by the analogy of man with the world, and of the world with man; to see that all things have a cause and are tending towards an end this is the spirit of the ancient physical philosopher. He has no notion of trying an experiment and is hardly capable of observing the curiosities of nature which are 'tumbling out at his feet,' or of interpreting even the most obvious of them... Continue reading book >>


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