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Timaeus and Critias (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Plato , Desmond Lee
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)


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Timaeus and Critias (Penguin Classics) Timaeus and Critias (Penguin Classics) 4.5 out of 5 stars (15)
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Book Description

February 28, 1972 0760780854 978-0760780855
Taking the form of dialogues between Socrates, Timaeus, Critias and Hermocrates, these two works are among Plato's final writings. In Timaeus, he gives a thorough account of the world in which we live, describing a cosmos composed of four elements earth, air, fire and water which combine to give existence to all things. An exploration of the origins of the universe, life and humanity, which outlines not just physical laws but also metaphysical and religious principles, it remained a paradigm of science for two thousand years. The mysterious preamble to Timaeus contains the first account in literature of Atlantis, while the fragmentary Critias, unfinished by its author, provides a spellbinding description of the lost continent's ideal society, which Critias asserts was created by the god-like children of Poseidon himself.


Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Greek (translation)

About the Author

Plato (c. 427–347 b.c.) founded the Academy in Athens, the prototype of all Western universities, and wrote more than twenty philosophical dialogues.


Desmond Lee (1908–1993) taught for many years at Cambridge University and also translated Plato’s Timaeus and Critias for Penguin Classics.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (February 28, 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0760780854
  • ISBN-13: 978-0760780855
  • ASIN: 0140442618
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,357,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plato's Timaeus August 22, 2000
By xciled
Format:Paperback
Plato's Timaeus
There are a plethora of disciplines (disciples) who would wish to claim the Timaeus as their own (or at least one part or another). Plato's cosmogony seems to hold something for everyone. Even to this day zealous mathematicians and geometricians have to vie with crystal worshippers and spirit channelers to proclaim Plato's take on the Pythagorean `sacred geometry' idea relating to the make up of the universe (a bunch of triangles, apparently (p. 54-56)) as plausible and still worthy of serious study. Others search for clues within a small section of what would seem to be nothing more than a literary device (p.25)- for the secrets of the lost city of Atlantis, the story of which is related to the gathered characters by Critias as an illustration of what Plato's Republic could be, or could have been. Yet others see it as a handbook of ancient astrology (1).
Although described as a `dialogue', it really isn't. In fact Hermocrates gets to exchange social pleasantries once or twice at the beginning and is thereafter mute throughout. Critias gets a reputable monologue recounting the fate of Atlantis (p.20) before handing off to Timaeus (perhaps Timaios, a Pythagoran), the astronomy expert, who handles, with a line or two of encouragement from Socrates (p.29), the entire piece to its end.
Perhaps it was living in the shadows of the persecution, trial, and subsequent execution of Socrates that allowed Plato to lift his eyes to focus on `The Forms'.
This was his theory put forward in the `Republic' and repeated again in the `Timaeus' (p.40), that a divine craftsman created our universe.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Plato's Timaeus and Modern Physics April 10, 2005
Format:Paperback
If there is one book to own, it's this one. Every night read sections 15 to 22 slowly. The rest of the book is important for other reasons, but sections 15 to 22 shaped the face of modern physics, philosophy, and religion in matters of cosmology and cosmogony. It's relevance today is still a matter of scholarly debate, but a few simple substitutions of modern terms for Plato's gives the reader a familiar set of problems, viz. those of modern physics, without being anachronistic to Plato in the least. The current "prime stuff" theory of space, is reached for by Plato in his discussion of space. The amazing success of mathematical description has its origin in Plato connecting the Platonic solids with the first theory of chemistry. Our modern notions of order and pattern emerging from complexity that we see in Mandelbrot and Wolfram are clearly stated by Plato in section 21. You'll see exactly where to place the concepts of quark or Kaluza-Klein, by careful re-reading of these sections. Of the most primary importance, is the unsolved problem of existence and reality as posed then and now. After reading it enough to know the ancient context from our modern one, of this last question one can ask just how far we have or haven't come in 2500 years.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Truly a Classic October 27, 2002
Format:Paperback
The Timaeus and the Critias are two dialogues written by Plato. In the Timaeus he explores the origin of Earth by means of a dialogue between Socrates and Timaeus and in the Critias, also a dialogue, he writes about the myth of Atlantis. I was suprised by how much he knew, such as that the Earth is a sphere, but also by the ignorance he had in saying that there were only 4 elements. The writing for the most part is clear, but in some places hard to follow, an example is when Plato is discussing the creation of the soul of the World. I had never read a book by Plato before and I am now interested in his other works. Those who have never read ancient philosophy shouldn't be discouraged by this book, it is a rewarding read, and not hard to understand.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Plato's Science and Psychology April 13, 2003
Format:Paperback
Desmond Lee, the translator of the Penguin edition of Timaeus and
Critias, claims his goal is an accurate representation of Plato's
thought, as opposed to maintaining style or convention. Indeed,
despite the purported obscurity of the original Greek, his work
plainly reveals Plato's ideas. Timaeus presents some of Plato's
clearest statements on issues related to science and psychology,
the focus of this review. Lee provides a good introduction, section
summaries, and helpful diagrams of Plato's ideas, but few footnotes
and no index. Incidentally, Timaeus and Critias introduce astrology
and the famous story of Atlantis, one of the most intriguing
mysteries in literature. Lee writes an appendix on Atlantis, pointing
out its mythical qualities, clarifying Plato's descriptions with maps,
and outlining the case for its historical origins. This edition would
be a good choice for readers interested in the source material for the
Atlantis legend and a summary of its ramifications, with a short
bibliography. The importance of Timaeus, however, is its presentation
of Plato's philosophy in its maturity, one relevant to science.
Materialism dominates Western culture today. Briefly, materialism
identifies reality as the objects that people perceive and manipulate
in their environment, or the particles that comprise them. The following
concepts fit nicely with this outlook: causality as a product of lawful
interactions among objects, reductionism where the events we perceive can
ultimately be attributed to universal laws and material particles, and
an evolutionary theory that explains the development of the universe
through natural laws from elementary particles.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Plato is Interesting
Good rendition of Plato's books, Timaeus and Critias. Interesting description of the ancient's version of how the human body functions in Timaeus. Read more
Published 4 months ago by John F. Graham
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly less than expected quality.
Quality was listed as good, but the book has pages written on and underlined, I would have considered this fair and may not have purchased it knowing this ahead of time. Read more
Published 10 months ago by padawan71
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
Reading now along with Unearthing Atlantis by Charles Pelligrino. Amazing. Recommend this duo. Once again the classics trump
and are still mightily relevant.
Published 13 months ago by coastalkate
5.0 out of 5 stars Timaeus and Critias
Excellent book. Since I've been reading many books about Atlantis and Lemuria and attending the Ancient Mysteries Conferences at Association of Research and Enlightenment (Edgar... Read more
Published on September 20, 2008 by Diane Kopp
5.0 out of 5 stars Atlantis, Ancient Athens, and a Single God-creator
Atlantis. That is what most people are familiar with, from this ancient tale.

If one reads carefully, it is easy to tell that this is a fictious work by plato, perhaps... Read more
Published on September 5, 2008 by Wayne J. Villines
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Work, Insightful Commentary
I enjoyed this translation as well as the translator's commentary, found in an introduction to Timaeus and an appendix on Atlantis. Read more
Published on August 27, 2008 by Christopher R. Travers
5.0 out of 5 stars The first attempt to systematically explain the universe
Plato's Timaeus is a dialogue (more like a speech actually, since Timaeus talks uninterrupted for the last 100 pages or so) which is his explanation of the nature and purpose of... Read more
Published on December 26, 2006 by Jesse Rouse
4.0 out of 5 stars First Appearance Of Atlantis In Literature
I'm not sure why Plato ever became so famous based on this book.
He states as fact things that are only conjecture really. Read more
Published on December 10, 2005 by Jeff Marzano
5.0 out of 5 stars Early physics...sort of
Plato is deep. That can't be emphasized enough. He deals more with physics in "Timaeus" than in any other extant work. Read more
Published on December 24, 2003 by Carl Slim
3.0 out of 5 stars The Atlantis Stories & Other Far-Fetched Theories
Plato was an excellent thinker. He wasn't afraid to just take hold of an idea and develop it beyond normal reckoning. Read more
Published on December 14, 2002 by paisleymonsoon
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