A time for learning and for counting – Egyptians, Greeks and empirical processes in Plato’s Timaeus

In Richard Mohr & Barbara M. Sattler (eds.), One Book, the Whole Universe: Plato’s Timaeus Today. Parmenides Press. pp. 249-266 (2010)
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This paper argues that processes in the sensible realm can be in accord with reason in the Timaeus, since rationality is understood here as being based on regularity, which is conferred onto processes by time. Plato uses two different temporal structures in the Timaeus, associated with the contrast there drawn between Greek and Egyptian approaches to history. The linear order of before and after marks natural processes as rational and underlies the Greek treatment of history. By contrast, a bidirectional temporal structure is the basis for the Egyptian approach to historical processes: present actions are not only determined by preceding ones in the past, but can also be influenced by the future (plans, aims). This latter temporal structure is shown to be necessary for learning from history, which makes human actions more regular.

Author's Profile

Barbara Michaela Sattler
University of St. Andrews


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