Plato's mythological project in the Timaeus




Zawislanski, Andrew Peter

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In the Timaeus Plato sets forth his cosmological system, and near the beginning of the dialogue he carefully qualifies his claims by saying that his account of the cosmos is not absolutely true, but only no less likely than any other account. Rather than being an offhand remark, this statement is key to understanding Plato's aim in constructing his cosmological myth. Plato's epistemological position prevents him from making strong assertions about physical objects and phenomena, but does allow him to make assertions of truth in morality and metaphysics. Thus while the Timaeus is ostensibly an account of the physical universe, for Plato its true value is in using the physical universe as a mythological symbol for moral and metaphysical truth. Plato's account is no less likely than those of other ancient cosmologists because multiple accounts can fit with the observed phenomena. However, his account, while no more likely, is superior to those of others in that it avoids impiety and, by qualifying its claims about the physical universe, is not threatened by future observations.



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