Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Can the Demiurge be the designer?


The Demiurge appears in Plato’s Timaeus as a human craftsman ([correction]demos = common people; ergo = work; hence a human craftsman). But it is interesting to note what David Hume does to the demiurge. Hume in Dialogues, through his character Philo, attacks the notion that there might be an analogy between the designer of nature and human intelligence. However, in section VII, Philo calls for a belief in copulation and generation from Hesiod’s Theogeny and Plato’s Timaeus. In other words, Hume quotes the Timaeus, in which the demiurge appears, to attack the idea that there is an analogy to human intelligence from design in nature – an apparent contradiction. David Sedley comments in Creationism and its critics in Antiquity that the demiurge should be interpreted metaphorically and gives the game away – as does Erasmus Darwin in Zoonomia.

“The late Mr. David Hume, in his posthumous works [Dialogues], places the powers of generation much above those of our boasted reason; and adds, that reason can only make a machine, as a clock or a ship, but the power of generation makes the maker of the machine; and probably from having observed, that the greatest [401] part of the earth has been formed out of organic recrements; as the immense beds of limestone, chalk, marble, from the shells of fish; and the extensive provinces of clay, sandstone, ironstone, coals, from decomposed vegetables; all which have been first produced by generation, or by the secretions or organic life; he concludes that the world itself might have been generated, rather than created; that is, it might have been gradually produced from very small beginnings, increasing by the activity of its inherent principles, rather than by a sudden evolution of the whole by Almighty fiat. What a magnificent idea of the infinite power of THE GREAT ARCHITECT! THE CAUSE OF CAUSES! PARENT OF PARENTS! ENS ENTIUM!” E.Darwin – Zoonomia.

In other words, Plato’s demiurge should be interpreted metaphorically as a ‘power of generation’ at work in nature enacting gradual change over long periods of time. Plato also had a Metaphor of the Sun in the Republic, where the sun was a source of generation – the sun being a metaphor for a spiritual reality as a light bearer. Yes Plato was apparently influenced by the cult of Mithras.

To sum up, I think Darwinian evolution is in fact based on a metaphorical reading of Plato’s Timaeus, and Hesiod’s Theogeny. Although Charles Darwin took the pagan imagery out of the family theory, the paganism is latent in the ambiguity that exists in the concept of nature between Plato and Epicurus. Those who think the intelligent designer might be Plato’s demiurge need to consider how Plato should be interpreted. For those of us who are Christian supporters of the design argument, the battleground is still between Philo and Cleanthes, whether there really is an analogy to human intelligence, or whether design might arise through some blind pagan force of nature, or through purely random events.

----Timeaus: "Glad for your support. I’m so grateful I’ll even forgive you, temporarily, for preferring Aristotle to Plato." In the spirit of full disclosure, I confess the following: If Aquinas' moderate dualism and his realistic epistemology had not made Aristotle plausible for me, I probably would have stayed with Plato. He would have just as easily and faithfully saved me from the madness of Hume, Kant, and Hegel. Besides, what's so bad about holding the #2 spot out of millions and billions of thinkers? (insert smiley face) StephenB
Can my e-mail address be put under my name and date on top left corner for each posting already on sites and those yet to be entered or do you prefer for all correspondence to be through you? If above is not desired,is it too much to ask to forward questions and comments to my e-mail address as well as being posted? Is any of this out of line with your site intentions? Please reply. I want to return what I know about posted to me posted back. Dr. Time
dr.time@ns.sympatico.ca Can my e-mail address be posted below my name for contact?Probably missed comments and/or questions and will continue to do so the way system is now.PLEASE if possible and thank you if yes.You have created quite a teacher`s guide.Is there any cost to down load?Don`t have printer hooked up. Just curious. Dr. Time
Well, you know, it’s really not so ludicrous to link Darwin to Plato. There is a misunderstanding about the “modern” age—that it is something entirely new. It is new in the sense that Nietzsche decided to do in “the good,” the transcendent value sought by Plato and Aristotle and their disciples; but it is not new in the sense that it is totalitarian. It is not new in the sense that it represents a “relifting” of the antithesis, in this case against the synthesis that was Transcendentalism. Understand: if “the good” is intellect, as both Plato and Aristotle claimed, then it must either be pure intellect—a transcendent value in which there is no cumbersome mixture of matter—or it must be some sort of construct or synthesis or intellect and matter; of intellectual and material “causes,” as Aristotle put it. There is no other option. “The good” is a transcendent value—pure. The only way for intellect to make itself pure is to negate sense, which leads to the problem of nothingness, as seen in Plato. And the only way to overcome this nothingness and still claim that intellect is “the good” is to attempt to describe some sort of middle term or coming-together between intellect and sense. Hence all of intellectual history consists of the movement of antithesis-synthesis-antithesis. Plato’s notion of purity ruled the “dark ages” through Augustine and Plotinus; Thomas overthrew it with Scholasticism; he himself was overthrown by the Renaissance Neoplatonists and later by Scientific Rationalism (Descartes); these two convergent totalitarian movements were “folded” into the Transcendental Aesthetic; and then Transcendentalism was overthrown by the antithesis that is Nihilism. Modernism overthrows Kant’s construct of being and nothingness with the notion of pure nothingness—with the idea that happiness can be obtained by negating “being” and the implication of a transcendent being and embracing the will to power, which seemed to have transcendent potential because of Darwin’s creation myth and the idea that the excellence of the species is the result of the survival of the fittest. Nihilism (which is rooted in Darwin) is wholly unlike Plato in that it rejects “the good” and any possibility of design, but it resembles Plato in the sense that it attempts to obtain a transcendent value (the superman) by negating a proposed synthesis of intellect and sense. Nihilism is in fact a negative form of idealism. Which brings us to the totalitarian nature of idealism. In the simplest terms, idealism is totalitarian because it negates sense. Idealism is rooted in a longing for transcendent values that are also transcendently simple. It reflects a dislike of mixed descriptions of value and being—an ardent desire for purity. Hegel referred to it as the “unhappy consciousness,” meaning that the negative impulse evident in Plato and Descartes (the strong desire to negate sense for the sake of pure intellect) comes from alienation from being, which is a mixture of intellect and sense. Be that as it may, the notion of pure intellect can only produce what it desires by totalizing intellect and negating sense. In the Modern age, we see a negative mirror of this totalitarianism. “Being” has been negated for the sake of pure nothingness. Darwin resembles Plato's totalitarianism in the sense that there is absolutely no room for transcendent being in his creation myth. This totalitarianism is seen in his legionary followers who stoutly refuse to allow any inference of a designer whatsoever in science. allanius
StephenB: Glad for your support. I'm so grateful I'll even forgive you, temporarily, for preferring Aristotle to Plato. I agree with you that Darwin was heavily influenced by the understanding of nature that emerged out of modern philosophy. Whether he read the actual words of Hume or Kant or any other philosopher in particular is not important; the main ideas were "in the air" at the time that he wrote. The atmosphere was filled with Cartesian, Hobbesian, Baconian, Humean, Kantian, Hegelian and other uniquely modern molecules, and Darwin and his contemporaries inhaled them in every waking moment. In any case, the linking of either Plato or Platonism with Darwinism is ludicrous. If one must have a villain, someone to blame as the source of Darwin's ideas, one must look to certain key ideas of modern philosophy. And to the extent that there were ancient antecedents of those ideas, they were found not in Plato, but in materialistic thinkers like Lucretius, who was roundly decried by all Platonists throughout the history of Western thought. T. Timaeus
If I may be bold enough to weigh in on such an erudite discussion, I promise to be economical with my words. While I am an Aristotelian first and foremost, I love Plato and consider him to be the second greatest philosopher who ever lived. My differences with him are rooted in his assumptions, but I recognize the fact that he did not make blatant logical errors. Nor did he allow his personal feelings or biases to contaminate his philosophy. Hume, on the other hand, was a mountain of contradictions. On the one hand, he insists that miracles are impossible because they violate the immutable laws of cause in effect. On the other hand, he characterizes those same laws as undependable when they are used in traditional arguments to prove God’s existence. If anyone ever went out of his way to stack the deck against God, even to the point of being irrational, it was Hume. By contrast, Plato understood that impersonal “forces” or "laws" or “generators” cannot create anything. While his Demiurge did NOT posses the power to create “ex nilio” (out of nothing) it did manifest supreme “wisdom” and “intelligence” by organizing that which was already there. Put simply, Plato understood that nature’s creative principle cannot reside “in” nature Reason makes this clear. Since all of empirical reality is changing, and since physical laws are unchanging, the origin of those laws must transcend that changing reality. If the laws and the creator of those laws were part of that changing reality, (immanence, pantheism, materialist Darwinism), then they too would always be changing. Once transcendence is acknowledged as a logically necessary condition for creation, a personal creator must be affirmed. \ Translation: Darwin didn't follow Plato, he followed Hume and Kant. StephenB
Andrew: I agree with you that we should not automatically defer to academic experts. Sometimes the experts are blinded by a prejudice, and one has to go behind them and study the original material for oneself. In the case of biology, the experts are prejudiced by Darwinian evolution, and one has to go behind them, to nature itself, to show why the experts are wrong. For example, one can show that nature reveals discontinuity rather than continuity, as Darwinism would predict. In the case of Plato, numerous scholars have been blinded by prejudices, and one has to get behind those prejudices to the original, that is, to Plato himself. Regarding The Republic, Popper (like an army of others) is blinded by the prejudice that The Republic is literally a recommendation for how a good state should be run. To correct Popper, one has to re-learn how to read Plato, without typical Anglo-American scholarly prejudices. It is by doing what you recommend -- by testing Plato for myself (though not without help from talented teachers and dissident scholars) -- that I learned that the common view of Plato (that he recommended a totalitarian state) was based on a serious misunderstanding. It is also important to note the difference between the sort of academic prejudices about Plato which can taint even serious scholars like Popper, and opinions about Plato which have no following among those who have seriously studied Plato. For example, I know of no serious Plato scholar who thinks that the passage about the sun in The Republic has anything to do with solar religion. This is true even of those Plato scholars who think that Plato had an esoteric teaching. So I can't imagine what source you pulled that idea from. But let's set aside Plato's original intentions for the moment, and just look at the presentation of creation given by Timaeus in the dialogue of that name. It's clearly an account of intelligent design. No one has ever doubted that, for over two thousand years. So whether Plato believed it literally or not, he gave the West its first great account of design. And while Christian theologians have disagreed with this account over some important details, e.g., it does not assert creation ex nihilo, they have all recognized that it rejects materialism and posits a divine Mind as the source of order in the world, and thus is akin to Christian teaching. I think what throws many people off is the perception that Plato is "pagan". If "pagan" means non-Christian, then Plato is "pagan". But if "pagan" means nature-worshipping, then Plato is not pagan. Plato, unlike Hesiod, pointed beyond nature, to the Mind which orders nature. It is for this monotheistic tendency that Augustine and many of the other Church Fathers held Plato in high regard. In fact, some of the Greek and Latin Fathers believed that Plato (who was born too early to have known the Christian revelation) was one of the few non-Christians admitted to heaven. In some Eastern Orthodox art Plato and Socrates are represented along with the early saints of the Church. And I am told by a professor of religion at a major Reformed seminary that Calvin believed that Plato went straight to heaven. If this is so, this should caution even conservative Protestants against undue hostility towards Plato. T. Timaeus
Timaeus - I am sure you are a great scholar in your field - But I am not sure there is a correct exoteric way of reading Plato. If the works of Plato contain both exoteric and esoteric readings then seeking to uncover the hidden meaning is fraught with difficulty, and I admit I may be making some mistakes - but questions remain that need careful research. My own background is in science and ethics. Having studied in depth both arenas, what struck me was how Plato is used by both left and right to justify tyranny and state control. Secondly, I don't trust official academic teachings without testing them for myself - that is what Darwinian science has forced me to do, and I suspect that Plato needs careful examination when different agendas may seek to control what is taught. Leo Strauss was accused of teaching different things to different people. Andrew Sibley
Andrew: Regarding Hume, I don’t know whether that’s him or his character speaking. In either case, as a description of the account in the Timaeus, it’s completely wrong. As someone who’s spent a fair bit of time on both the Timaeus and on Hesiod, translating some of the Greek in each case, I can say with some confidence that Hume isn’t even close. Timaeus’s account has almost nothing in common with Hesiod’s. If my daughter would like a doll, I might make one for her; but if my daughter would like a baby sister, I cannot make but can only generate one for her. The two things, making and generating, are completely different processes, and one is not a “metaphor” for the other. This is a very bad conceptual confusion which, if it represents Hume’s actual personal opinion, is further proof that Hume is greatly overrated as a thinker. Regarding Plato and solar religion, I’ve studied Plato’s dialogues for about 30 years now, translated parts of them, and taught several of them, and I’m pretty familiar with the serious secondary literature on him (English, German, American, etc.), and I’ve never heard anyone accuse him of sun-worship. Contrary to your assertion, there’s no “debate” about how sun-worship influenced Plato, because it didn’t influence him, and no competent Plato scholar thinks that it did. Further, even aside from the complete lack of historical evidence for the connection, no one who has read passage about the sun in the Republic, in context, and has an understanding of Plato’s thought, could possibly think that Plato meant any such thing. And yes, Plato could have heard about sun-worship from all kinds of earlier sources (including Greek sources – he hardly needed to go to Egypt or the East, as you suggest), but you specifically named, and linked him to, the mystery religion of Mithras, which cannot possibly have influenced Plato because it was too late. Your historical claims on this subject should simply be withdrawn. If Plato had an esoteric teaching in the Timaeus, it certainly wasn’t to bring people back to the mythological world-view of Hesiod. If Socrates’s frequent comments on the myths in the other dialogues give even an approximation to Plato’s own view, Plato was virulently anti-Hesiodic. I did not ask Christians to adopt Plato’s teaching in place of Christianity. I did not say that Plato was better than Christianity or even as good as Christianity. My point was only that the two agree regarding intelligent design. Your reply seems to be overreacting, and rushing to the defense of Christianity. But this defensiveness causes you to be unjust to Plato. You seem to be jumping around here and there, looking for negative things that various people have said about Plato, and most of the things that you’ve said are either untrue or in need of great qualification. There’s nothing in common between the city of Babylon and Plato’s notion of a good city, and nothing in common between Plato and theistic evolution. And as I’ve already pointed out, Popper did not know what he was talking about when he called Plato’s thought tyrannical. In fact, in the Republic, Plato explains at length the social pathology that leads to tyranny, and its parallels in the individual diseased soul. But I am getting the strong impression that your notions about Plato are largely secondhand, and largely from people who are poor Plato scholars or not Plato scholars at all. You can’t expect people who know Plato’s writings in some detail to take these borrowed notions seriously. So I’m going to excuse myself from further debate, unless you are willing to restrict all your claims to notions actually found in Plato’s writings. T. Timaeus
Hume and E.Darwin were Freemasons, that's why you see Darwin use the phrase "Great Architect" which is a freemason term for their concept of God. Freemasons were the catalyst for the Royal Society, whose goal it was to change society through the indoctrination of freemason religious beliefs manifested through their control over, and the influence of the Royal Society and it's members over the ruling class. Freemason beliefs are syncretic and vary to some degree or another for individual believers, but a basic teaching is that God is an impersonal transcendental force rather than an individual personality. The concept of an impersonal Godhead was common to most gnostic based or platonic based mystery religions. It is also common to several variants of Hinduism (those that incorporate Advaita Vedanta). Because their view of God is impersonal they need to create a rational sounding creation theology which can explain the origin of our world. That was what led to evolutionary thought, and what has always led to some form of evolutionary thought among those who believe in an impersonal Godhead who is still mysteriously somehow the source of everything. Why do they believe in an impersonal Godhead in the first place? Probably it has to do with the inequality of peoples lives, the "problem of evil", and similar theological problems that philosophers have tried to solve. Some people find it easier to believe in a God who is impersonal and unconscious but still is the source of the world in some mysterious way, rather then believing in a personal God who allows so much suffering. The Demiurge in gnostic thought is an example of trying to explain how the world could be created by a being who ultimately was not God, thereby absolving God as being the cause of human suffering. Freemason theology is a mix of gnostic and kabbalistic thought. Kabbalism is jewish gnosticism. Both the gnostics and kabbalists see the world as being the result of some imperfection, with the kabbalists it is with God (as some impersonal unknowable being), with the demiurge in gnosticsm being blamed for creating an imperfect world. The purpose of freemasonry is "The Great Work", it comes from the kabbalistic notion that we need to fix the world/universe, that by our actions here, through rituals, proper acts, etc, that the world/universe is gradually being fixed, and that we will attain for ourselves some type of metaphysical apotheosis. The freemasons saw the teachings of mainstream Christianity or any monotheistic religion as a bad influence on society, they saw it as interfering with the Great Work, which can be accomplished faster with more people being involved. They also saw it as a threat to themselves because of the political and cultural power which could be aimed at them for being "blasphemers". So they desired to take down mainstream Christianity for a number of reasons. They believed that their gnostic/kabbalah based origin theories, if promoted as high sounding science to the public at large, especially in schools, that it would have the effect of weakening the faith of as many people as possible in monotheistic mainstream religious teachings. Later the evolution project was taken up by countless people who had been convinced that there was no God or who also believed in some type of impersonal Godhead. There are many "Christians" and "Jews" who don't have a problem with or vigorously support evolution for the same reasons that evolutionary thought has always appealed to people with some type of religious faith -- they find it easier to believe that God is not involved in our world when faced with the difficulty of explaining human suffering. mentok
Given the hint of the thief who mind travels,consider Heaven first then Earth of building the empire.Which way would evolve faster?Would the point of meeting have to be complete,knowing what is known?Does the key have to fit the door that is not needed?!! Dr. Time
Due to some personal issues I am not particularly inclined to accept the veracity of Hume or Darwin (E. or C.) but I did take the liberty of Googling "demiurge" and I suspect "reading Plato exoterically" may be an apt description. Wikipedia (for what it's worth) Demiurge (the Latinized form of Greek demiourgos, ??????????, literally "public or skilled worker", from demos "common people" + ergos "work"[1] and hence a "maker", "artisan" or "craftsman") Britannica Concise Encyclopedia: Demiurge Subordinate god who shapes and arranges the physical world. In his dialogue Timaeus, Plato identified the Demiurge as the force that fashioned the world from the preexisting materials of chaos. In Gnosticism of the early Christian era, the Demiurge is regarded as an inferior deity who had created the imperfect, material world and who belonged to the forces of evil opposing the supreme God of goodness. For more information on Demiurge, visit Britannica.com. Not much here that explains "the origin of nature from an animal birth, and copulation." Methinks Hume and Darwin were looking for a fertility cult. dgosse
This is what Hume said: "Hesiod, and all the ancient mythologists, were so struck with this analogy, that they universally explained the origin of nature from an animal birth, and copulation. Plato too, so far as he is intelligible, seems to have adopted some such notion in his Timaeus." Hume Dialogues VII Steve Fuller in his book on Intelligent Design draws attention to Leo Strauss's Persecution and the Art of Writing, in which he comments that in many ancient works of philosophy there is an exoteric and esoteric meaning. The exoteric reading is for general readers, the esoteric meaning is for the elite and an invocation to the gods to keep people docile - read that as you will, but it may also be an invocation for future generations to put into practice the works of the philosopher. As I have said the works of Plato are ambiguous. Whether or not Plato was morally responsible for what others have done to his work is dependent upon Plato's intention. Sun worship predates Roman Mithraism and Mitra was worshipped by the Hindu Vedas before Plato so there is nothing anochronistic in saying that sun worship - Mitra or Mithra - influenced Plato. There is debate about how Plato was influenced by sun worship; it may have come from contact with Persians and Hindus, or it may have come through the Egyptian religion where the temple or religious cave was a model of the universe with the central flame representative of the Sun - that is how Newton was things (Consider the Delphic Corycian cave with its eternal flame of Hestia at Apolos Helios, or the typical Egyptian temple). Lord Monboddo, a friend of Hume, saw Pythagorean science and metaphysics coming out of Egypt, and Plato too may have learnt of sun worship and eastern mysticism via Egypt and the Chaldeans. Undoubtedly Plato and Pythagoras were very clever, and knew a lot about mathematics. However, such mathematical knowledge was once common to ancient cultures, but maths developed into a closed shop where only the elite could learn the trade. Knowledge dumbed down for the masses, ruled over by philosopher kings. Platonism has at times hindered science. Kepler's best work was done when he abandonded trying to fit the orbits of the planets into the Platonic shapes, Galileo's division of science and faith was influenced by the Platonism of Averroes, now evident in American education policy through a Prussian based system. Steno's demonstration of the organic origin of fossils was rejected by Jesuits and Royal society members holding to a platonic theory of fossil formation. I think Christian proponents of intelligent design will have problems with Plato, seeing the ambiguity of a lesser deity who may be seen as a light bearer, or Lucifer. Also because of Platonism's restrictive and tyranical social policies in state and education. For Christians there is a battle between the city of God, and the city of mystery Babylon (that may be seen as Polis of the Republic). In theology, Platonic influence is often at odds with Christian theology. Platonism tends to divide spirit and matter, Christianity brings together spirit and matter - Christian theology is rooted in real historical events i.e. the creation of man from the dust of the ground, the death and ressurection of Jesus, shedding his blood into the ground. The ressurection of the body, not just the soul. Platonic influence tends to spiritualise theology as is the case with theistic evolution. Those who are attracted to the Demiurge may want to question why Hume and E.Darwin saw the designer of Timaeus as a power of generation (later gradualistic evolution under C.Darwin) - were they reading Plato esoterically? Andrew Sibley
PS to TIMAEUS:I felt there was something extra that has beenon my mind for a while also and that is ,don`t worry about making mathematical errors.Sometimes you get more than you ask for.Kind of like winning the lottery except money can`t buy that wonderful gift or gifts.Blessed be us all.Tomorrow is another day.May the sun shine on us all. Dr. Time
For TIMAEUS also:There is an old saying,"You can run but you can`t hide." I do know that when God takes you by the hand that it is the most wonderful experience one can ever experience.Et will literally blow your mind sometimes.He takes one on trips and rewards with gifts that money can`t buy in this world,now mind you,you also have to be crazy to not become insane as one of his students.Out in the universe is not like it is here.Science fiction truly does live out in the universe.Allhis creation seen on electronics,in art and in written and audio are alive out there in the universe but many of them are here in their changling forms.GOD is alive entity and won`t take no for an answer sometimes even though I don`t choose God chooses anyway.His choices are always better than mine+- always.He is always full of surprises also.God blesses us all.Too bad we don`t believe sometimes. Keep giving your best.That is all that GOD asks. Dr. Time
Good posts Timaeus - I had been wondering about your choice of screen name. 8^> dgosse
Andrew: Regarding point 3, there is a difference between Plato and Platonism. Platonism is a generic word for later thought built upon the ideas of Plato (neo-Platonism, the Platonism of the later Academy, Christian Platonism, etc.). Your article was not discussing Platonism, but a particular writing by Plato, the Timaeus, and purported to comment on Plato’s meaning in that dialogue. That dialogue was written long before Mithraism had an influence on Platonism. Cumont, whom you cite, was an excellent Belgian scholar in his day. He was concerned with the great period of the mystery religions in the Roman Empire (2nd-3rd century AD). The mystery religions of that period may well have acted on the Platonism of that period. They may even have influenced the way that Plato’s Timaeus was interpreted in that period. But they could not have influenced Plato in his writing (4th-century BC) of the dialogue Timaeus. Plato was aware of home-grown mystery religions (the Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries, for example), but he shows no awareness of the import Mithraism. So your suggestion was anachronistic. It's like writing a novel about the Middle Ages with a steam locomotive in the plot. Not that this is very important, since your comment on solar religion was a side-remark having nothing to do with your main argument. But I wanted to make it clear that Plato’s dialogue preceded Mithraism (Mithraism as a Western religion, that is – Mithras was of course worshipped in Persia much earlier) by four or five centuries. Regarding point 4, Plato was the pre-eminent philosopher for most of the history of Christianity. The ascendency of Aristotle only came with Scholasticism, and only lasted a few centuries (except in neo-Thomism where it continues). After 1495, when Ficino started publishing the works of Plato in translation, Plato rapidly eclipsed Aristotle in importance. Kepler, Galileo and other early modern scientists were influenced by Plato. Also, Thomas More, Erasmus, the Cambridge Platonists, and in succeeding centuries many philosophers, theologians, scholars, poets and literary people, including C. S. Lewis, loved Plato. This is not to say that all of these people hated Aristotle, whom most of them still greatly respected, but only that on many points they greatly preferred Plato. The reason for this is obvious: Plato’s writing leaves greater room for the existence of a spiritual realm than Aristotle’s does. Also Plato’s writing at points seems almost transcendently beautiful, which cannot be said of Aristotle’s clipped exposition. As for how Plato has been used by ideologues of the left and right, that again comes under the history of thinking about Plato, not Plato himself. Plato cannot be blamed for how people have used him, any more than Jesus can be blamed for the Crusades or the Inquisition. People like Popper who have written about the tyrannical politics of Plato Republic have very little understanding of Plato’s literary art. The Republic is not a treatise on how states should be run. It is a thought experiment which shows the inherent implausibility of “ideal states”, and it is more about the soul and the virtue of justice than it is about the state. The dialogue called The Laws brings us much closer to Plato’s idea of how states should be run. In any case, whether Plato’s political ideas are good or bad, the question is what the speaker Timaeus is describing in the dialogue called the Timaeus. And Timaeus is describing intelligent design. Further, he is describing it in far more detail than is provided by the Bible. Some of the leading design theorists today (Denton, Sternberg) now speak openly of the design of the universe as revealing Platonic mathematical forms. I think the connection you drew between Hesiod and Darwinism is quite plausible: Hesiod is, after all, mythologized naturalism, and Darwinism is naturalistic. But Plato’s Timaeus is the finest ancient example of design thinking. Both secular philosophers and Christian theologians over the ages have agreed on that. T. Timaeus
1. Yes - thanks - finger trouble. 3. There is debate over how much influence Mithraism had on Plato, with Franz Cumont, Reinhard Merkelbach and Manfred Clauss argung that Platonism was strongly influence by Persian Mithras. i.e. www.uhu.es/ejms/Notices/Manfred%20Clauss.doc 4. Plato has always been full of ambiguity, hence his work appeals to many philosophies from left and right. Neo conservatism 'Noble Lies' and Leo Strauss, Karl Marx and Das Kapital. Karl Popper wrote in The Open Society and its Enemies - The Spell of Plato that Plato betrayed Soctrates in the Replubic. Plato has become preeminent in philosophy since Robert Fludd argued that of all ancient writers Plato was the truly enlightened one and thus acceptable to Christianity while the other works from antiquity were demonic. I have my doubts about Plato bearing in mind how Plato's social policies in the Republic have been put to use by both the extreme left and extreme right. Andrew Sibley
Andrew: The remarks above about Erasmus Darwin’s use of Hume are interesting. The fact that E. Darwin appeals to the skeptical Hume to defend his ideas is revealing. And of course I agree with your implied criticism of Hume and Darwin. However, some corrections are needed in the above post. First of all, the Platonic term is “demiurge”, not “demiruge”. Second, “demi” does not mean “man” in Greek; the root of the word is “demos”, which refers to a public matters. A “demiourgos” (the original Greek form) is literally a “public worker”. In Homer the term apparently meant craftsmen, potters and so on; later on the term had other uses in Athens and other Greek cities, to include a broader variety of workers, and sometimes it meant an official in charge of certain areas of civic life, and hence, a rational public planner of some sort. It is likely that Plato had the idea of “rational planner for the public good” in mind when he chose the name “demiourgos” for the God of the dialogue. Third, the cult of Mithras did not have any significant following in the West until the second century A.D., during Roman Imperial times. Plato was writing in Athens five centuries earlier, when Mithras was still dwelling at home in Persia. Further, there is no evidence that the analogy of the sun in The Republic had anything to do with solar or other mythology. The Republic is as anti-pagan a work as you will find outside of the Hebrew scriptures. Fourth, and most important, we must be very clear about what Plato himself wrote, as opposed to what later writers like Hume did with what he wrote. Whatever Hume may make one of his characters say (and keep in mind that Hume’s Philo does not necessarily represent Hume’s own view), the authority for what Plato meant is Plato, not Philo or any other character from Hume. If we are trying to decide whether there is any similarity between the ideas of Plato and the ideas of Hesiod, we must carefully read Plato to find out. When we do, an important distinction leaps out at us, right away. Plato’s Demiurge (often capitalized, thought it doesn’t have to be) is a “maker”, not a “generator”. Making and generating are two fundamentally different modes of production. The notion of “making” implies directed intelligent activity, whereas the notion of generation implies unconscious biological activity. Hesiod’s Theogony is indeed an account of generation: the Gods blindly beget or bear other gods, unplanned, as a result of their amorous copulations. Plato’s Demiurge looks to the Forms and plans out everything he is going to make. Of course, there is a difference between the God of Genesis and the Demiurge of Plato’s Timaeus. The God of Genesis, at least as interpreted by traditional Christianity and Judaism, is omnipotent, whereas the deity of Plato’s Timaeus is not. But both are makers, and both are designers, and both imply the falsehood of organic mythological accounts such as those of Hesiod. It is possible to see Hesiod as a mythological progenitor to Darwin. It is not possible to see the Demiurge as such. The Demiurge represents the repudiation of pagan origins mythology. This is not surprising, given that Plato’s dialogues show repeated criticism of the mythological gods. Plato served the same function in ancient Athens that the Bible served in the world of the Ancient Near East – to show the defects of pagan conceptions of God. The wisest and most philosophical Christian writers have always sensed the kinship here. However, the long tradition constructive co-operation between Platonism and Christianity is not the important subject here. The important subject is design. And in Plato’s Timaeus you have an idea of design imposed upon nature to bring it into an orderly form that it could not have attained without the intervention of an intelligent designer. As the speaker Timaeus makes clear throughout Plato’s dialogue, and as Plato makes clear in the Phaedo and elsewhere, the argument proposed by Hume and Erasmus Darwin (and later by Charles Darwin) is ludicrous. Blind forces of nature, reproductive (as in Hesiod) or mechanical (as in ancient atomism), could never have produced the ordered whole which is the cosmos. That is the important thing to see. This is why Michael Behe can list the Demiurge as one of his possible candidates for the designer. Behe understands the gist of Plato’s Timaeus correctly. T. Timaeus
There is indeed no requirement to be a Christian to support ID. But Christian supporters are bound to ask questions about the shape and origin of the design argument and what it means for faith in society. Andrew Sibley
I thought that you didn't have to be a Christian to support ID. Platonist

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