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by sdv413
Rated: E · Non-fiction · History · #2158693
Examination of Plato's Critias
As I recorded in the entry for May 25, I have read The Timaeus and The Critias, and I am reading them again. They are companion dialogues about creation and the ideal state, and it has long been assumed that much of The Critias has been lost. I am not so sure about that. This dialogue is a story, a fable, not a philosophical treatise; and in a literary sense it seemed to me to have reached completion at its end when Zeus was about to speak to the Olympian gods on the subject of bringing the Atlanteans back “into tune.” That is to say, Zeus intended to punish or correct them for their iniquity. The dialogue ends before he says anything, and I thought ‘What a grand parable.’ Atlantis’ trajectory was a typical one for a great imperial nation. It was founded by the god (Poseidon) who fathered the ten original, half mortal, half divine rulers with a mortal woman named Clito. With each successive generation the Atlanteans become less divine and more human, less wise and more foolish, less lofty and more carnal, selfish, and greedy until they bore little resemblance to their forefathers. If you look at the divine seed as being a metaphor for the inspiration that gave rise to the great nation, it seems likely that with the passage of time the place will inevitably become inhabited by people that lack that noble inspiration or for whom it has been diluted. This is the trajectory of Athens, Rome, Spain, Britain, and America. What should Zeus say to bring the fallen state back towards the ideal? Though the ending of the dialogue is not in the grammatical form of a question, I believe that there is an implied question that Plato is asking of the Athenians and all later great nations that follow the same path. The Atlanteans are fabulous, they did not really exist as described; Plato wrote this story for the Athenians. What is to be done? How can we make our country again what it ought to be? The god of course would have the proper corrective, but Plato ends the story there and does not let him speak because the ending is necessarily left for us to provide.
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