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RE: SUB: Platonism versus Atheism

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  • Jim Winter
    I was ourfreeworld11 but screen name isn t functioning so I re-subscribed. Monte said: I m not entirely certain what you mean by Plato s conception of the
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 11, 2004
      I was "ourfreeworld11" but screen name isn't functioning so I re-subscribed.

      Monte said:
      I'm not entirely certain what you mean by Plato's
      conception of the Gods as "virtuous abstractions."


      It is my understanding that the Platonic Forms are the essence of thoughts and/or abstractions. Some deities are idealised and personified virtues/qualities of humanity that are used for modeling the behaviour of the devotee. Whether or not a deity is truly "Virtuous" or not is debatable. Other deities are cosmological. Does that make sense?
      --------

      Monte said:
      Just from this writing alone, I have trouble accepting
      your position that Plato said the gods were virtuous
      abstrations.

      Perhaps Plato never said that exactly. :) Rather, I meant that some deities are more like an archetypal human form whose qualities are meant to be emulated and/or invoked for the purpose of self-improvement or identification with a subculture.
      -------

      Monte said:
      THere are plenty of stories in Greek mythology where the gods fight with
      each other and do things that other gods think are bad.

      I personally think that the vice/virtue designation depends on which culture's pantheon you view them from. A member of an Orphic cult may have had a low opinion of a member of a Dionysian cult and heated debates probably took place. Maybe this culture clash is the manifestation of what the myths meant when the Gods fight.

      -Jim





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    • Michael Chase
      ... M.C. That s probably the account an Aristotelian would give of Platonic forms. A Platonist would reject it indignantly: the forms, for Platonists, are the
      Message 2 of 2 , Apr 12, 2004
        >
        >
        > It is my understanding that the Platonic Forms are the essence of
        > thoughts and/or abstractions.

        M.C. That's probably the account an Aristotelian would give of Platonic
        forms. A Platonist would reject it indignantly: the forms, for
        Platonists, are the only things that are truly real, that of which the
        physical world we inhabit is only a pale imitation. In no sense are
        they abstractions ; in Middle Platonism, however, there is a tend
        towards regarding them as thoughts, but not just any thoughts: they're
        the thoughts of God.



        > Some deities are idealised and personified virtues/qualities of
        > humanity that are used for modeling the behaviour of the devotee.

        M.C. Again, that sounds more like a modern interpretation than anything
        the Greeks or Romans actually believed.

        > Whether or not a deity is truly "Virtuous" or not is debatable. 

        M.C. Not for Plato, it isn't. So much so that anyone that questions the
        gods' virtue is to be banned from the Republic, including Homer. Pretty
        well all Plato's successors are of this opinion, although they develop
        an art of allegorical interpretation to explain away myths in which the
        gods *appear* to act in a non-virtuous way.


        > Other deities are cosmological. Does that make sense? 


        M.C. Um, not really. Here again we have to make distinctions. For Plato
        and his immediate successors, I suspect that Hermes, for instance,
        *just is* the planet Mercury : a divine immortal being visible in a
        night sky as a planet. As Neoplatonism develops, the hierarchy of
        divinities becomes incredibly complex: for Proclus there are a number
        of Zeuses on various different hierarchical levels.

        Then there are the demons, who exist already for Plato - remember the
        "lesser gods" who participate in creation according to the Timaeus -,
        and play an ever-greater role throughout the history of Platonism. And
        the, of course, there are the heroes, angels, archangels, and god knows
        what all else.

        So perhaps the motto is : avoid oversimplification. There are few
        topics more complex than the structure of the divine world in Plato and
        (especially) in his successors.



        Best, Mike
        Michael Chase
        (goya@...)
        CNRS UPR 76
        7, rue Guy Moquet
        Villejuif 94801
        France


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