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Timaeus and Critias Paperback – 20 May 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Createspace (20 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442181168
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442181168
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.6 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,395,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Born to a politically connected and aristocratic family between 428 and 423 B.C. , Plato received a good standard of education at an early age, and was able to immerse himself in the intellectual community of Ancient Athens. His most notable contemporary and mentor was Socrates, an eccentric but highly capable philosopher who was to feature as a principle character in most of Plato's scholarly writings. Owing to his high standard of education in art, mathematics, rhetoric and philosophy, Plato was able to assemble a comprehensive philosophy of his own via his favoured form of writing which was the dialogue. In total, over thirty of these Platonic dialogues have survived the passage of time - and together they form the backbone of Ancient Greek philosophy. After enjoying success as a writer and academic, Plato in 385 B.C. founded The Academy. This school was to unite the most capable thinkers of Greece, and would help to advance learning throughout Greek society's Golden Age. It was in the Academy that Plato would instruct and apprentice Aristotle, who was to go on to gain renown as a philosopher and scholar. Owing to his reputation Plato was hired by Dion, whose nephew Dionysus II was the rightful ruler of Sicily - Dion wished his nephew to receive a good education in the art of sound and wise governance. However Dionysus II became suspicious and accused both Plato and Dion of conspiracy - after some time spent under arrest, Plato returned to his homeland. In his late period, Plato continued to tutor and mentor the best young minds of Athens, and he would perish around 348 B.C. having lived beyond the age of eighty. Today Plato's legacy remains lauded: the philosopher ably used logic and reason to imbue insight on democratic governance, while developing a cohesive philosophy on topics such as art, metaphysics, justice and the 'Theory of Forms' - his iconic take on how ideas related to reality. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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Written in the 4th century BC, "Timaeus & Critias" are two of Plato’s more famous stories. Considered as the sequel to the Republic, “Timaeus” speculates about cosmology, where the universe as a whole is divine and ruled by mathematical truths. “Critias” is a short, probably incomplete dialogue telling the myth of Atlantis.

This must be one of my favourite Plato reads. The explanation of the purpose of the universe, the introduction of a demiurge as the architect of the universe, the detailing of the theory of the four elements and the triangles at molecular level creating the physical world, I found fantastic. The subsequent introduction of the World Soul making the universe a single living thing I found compelling. It does make “Timaeus & Critias” a fantastical journey through the worldview and mindset of some of the ancient Greeks. This is even more so as the Pre-Socratics never seem far away from Plato’s speculations.

As always, Plato’s works give the reader a lot to do, but his prose as well as Thomas Johansen’s introduction and excellent explanatory notes make this a great read. Furthermore, listening to Peter Adamson’s podcast and reading his accompanying book, Classical Philosophy: A history of philosophy without any gaps, Volume 1 is an excellent and enjoyable companion to classical philosophy in general and Plato’s themes, theories and context more specifically.
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I bought this like most other people to read about the Atlantis myth and for anyone interested in either the myth or Plato's natural philosophy this is an important work.

The Criteas is a short fragment of a dialogue where the Atlantis myth originates. He puts the story in a historical context by talking of the discoveries made by Solon on his travels in Egypt, but it is not clear if it is allegorical or that this is a real history. Most of the story is a description of the Island and then an account of their conflict with other peoples and final destruction and fall. The story ends abruptly and we do not see the final moral of the story because the rest of the dialogue is lost.

The Timaeus is Plato's work on natural sciences. He was not an experimentalist and so his theories are based on theory and observation. There is the discussion of the elemental particles, which would come to be known as the Platonic solids as well as some view on medicine and health. For Plato the metaphysical laws of philosophy are well established, whereas natural philosophy is difficult. This is perhaps the opposite to the view we would have today.
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I finally got round to reading Timaeus and now appreciate where Arthur North Whitehead got the inspiration to collate his 1930's Gifford Lectures into his book, 'Process and Reality'. The theme of an Organic Philosophy comes out right from the earliest parts of Timaeus.
I was mildly irritated by the translator's disparaging comment about the neo-platonists, since the Process comunity has its origins in neo-platonism, obviously with a modern world view both in science and theology. Other than that, I can definitely recomend this book.
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Timaeus was never one of Plato's crowd pullers ! though very influential with later mathematical-mystical thinkers. There are some
parts of general interest however, and this book offers the chance to read these, and as much of the more convoluted matter as
pleases you, in clear English, without any financial investment that hurts ! I read it 55 years ago for exams, more fun this time !!
For easier Plato (with intriguing picture of Socrates) you can try The Apology,, The Symposium, the first parts of The Phaedo,,
and the Republic itself. (They raise lots of questions and challenges for the thoughtful reader)..
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