Monday, May 05, 2008

He's better when he's talking about stuff no one can see

When Plato is good, he's very good. But when he's bad, he's hilarious.

There are a number of moments of the latter sort in the Timaeus. I ran across one of these some time ago, and it remains one of the funniest things I've ever read in philosophy. But there is so much more.

On the order in which a soul gets incarnated in different bodies on earth:
And if a person lived a good life throughout the due course of his time, he would at the end return to his dwelling place in his companion star, to live a life of happiness that agreed with his character. But if he failed in this, he would be born a second time, now as a woman. (42b-c)
On creating the human body:
Copying the revolving shape of the universe, the gods bound the two divine orbits into a ball-shaped body, the part that we now call our head. [...] They intended it to share in all the motions there were to be. To keep the head from rolling around on the ground without any way of getting up over its various high spots and out of the low, they gave it the body as a vehicle to make its way easy. (44d-e)
On why women want to have babies:
A woman's womb or uterus, as it is called, is a living thing within her with a desire for childbearing. Now when this remains unfruitful for an unseasonably long period of time, it is extremely frustrated and travels everywhere up and down her body. It blocks up her respiratory passages, and by not allowing her to breathe it throws her into extreme emergencies, and visits all sorts of other illnesses upon her until finally the woman's desire and the man's love bring them together....(91c-d)

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