Cicero on Plato’s Contradictory Ideas of God and Footnote


‘It would take too long to recount the self-contradictions in Plato.* In the Timaeus, he states that the father of the universe cannot be named; and in the books of the Laws, that we should not investigate the nature of god at all. As for his claim that god is wholly incorporeal (as the Greeks say, asomaton), what such a nature could possibly be is inconceivable, for it would inevitably lack sensation as well as practical wisdom and pleasure, all of which we associate with our conception of gods. Plato further states both in the Timaeus and in the Laws that the universe is god, and that so are the sky, the stars, the earth, our souls, and the deities we inherit from ancestral tradition. Such views are clearly false in themselves, and wildly self-contradictory. 30
Cicero. The Nature of the Gods (Oxford World’s Classics) (p. 14). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.


Plato: for the citation from the Timaeus, see § 19 n.; the quotation from the Laws (7. 821) totally misrepresents Plato’s own view, for in that passage he is presenting the common notion of Athenians which he proceeds to contradict, here and elsewhere (Laws 9. 966) arguing that astronomy should be studied as a work of piety. There is justification for the claim that Plato’s god is incorporeal; as for his lacking pleasure, Plato attacks the notion that gods enjoy pleasure (Philebus 33b), which for Epicureans is the highest good. It is true that in his Timaeus Plato makes the stars gods, owing their immortality to the will of the Demiourgos; and in the Laws, Ouranos (heaven) is the supreme deity, and the stars are the adornments of the gods. It is possible to make these views consistent by identifying Ouranos with Demiourgos as labels for the creative Mind; but Plato’s pronouncements are poetic and speculative, not to be subjected to the literal interpretation employed by Velleius.
Cicero. The Nature of the Gods (Oxford World’s Classics) (p. 154). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

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