Essay / Philosophy

A Marathon through Plato IV

We begin Saturday with great enthusiasm. Home repairs kept me away from the first forty-five minutes. The city brings the philosopher back to life!We begin in discussion of the soul. Only soul can possess intellect. That does not mean every soul has intellect. Plato believes this, but does not argue for it. It seems a reasonable assumption to me on the grounds that ideas and matter are different in kind. Matter cannot grasp ideas, because it is not the sort of stuff that could do so. No matter how many red lego bricks one has one could never build a blue castle. In the same way, no matter how complex or great matter might be it cannot think.Timaeus has grasped this concept by using his intellect. For the Demiurge, in the account, to grasp all these things the Demiurge must be good. He wants all things to be like himself.The cosmos seems designed by Timaeus to allow the intellect to function. This is often missed by Darwinists. They build a universe in which matter and energy are free to function, but it is hard to see how intellect has a place. They solve this problem last, if at all.On the other hand, Plato views intellect as primary and solves this problem first. The Demiurge is good and he sees to it that a truly living soul comes into being.Like a myth, this tale tells us something. It is not “serious” astronomy or cosmology. . . but it is deeper than they are. Human things are the most important things humans can study, divine things being the products of Revelation and miracle. Yet we are too close to human things, one human being is more complex than the entire non-animal cosmos. So we look at the beautiful, simple, and large cosmos to see something we might be able to apply to our thoughts about men and gods.Timaeus continues in a playful manner. Of course, playful does not mean a lack of seriousness. (For example, we see his playfulness in his explanation of the large intestine. Why is the intestine long? “To give more time for philosophy,” Timaeus says. Philosophy may not be possible if one is not playful.We begin discussion of the creation of the soul at 34b10. This harmony between cosmic body and soul is beautiful. It is so beautiful that I come to doubt whether it could be. University has taught me the dreadful prejudice that good things, things I wish to be true, never are. Yet this is false. The universe is good. This discussion is good. Soul and body can come together.Here too we see the lie exposed that Plato hates the body. Socrates has been, up to Timaeus, skeptical that body and soul can get along. Here Timaeus reveals the truth. Why do “scholars” often get this wrong? They are so busy creating doctrines about Plato that often they (we!) don’t have time to read the text.Any soul in this arrangement must be happy.We are to a new image. This image looks like the original. There is something about it that makes it almost impossible to see the original. We begin to call (with Timaeus) this image a “god.” This discussion begins to degenerate into idolotry. The better job we do describing the universe, the more likely we are to worship our image. The worship of science is always a temptation.Being, Same, and Other are forced to come together to make soul. (This Being is not quite like the true Being.) I have proposed that this like mixing liquids. How is this possible? It does not seem possible, but it is necessary.It is now time to eat. The afternoon will be even better, I think.

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