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Title: Traditional gods and civic religion in Plato's later dialogues
Author: Bartninkas, Vilius
ISNI:       0000 0004 7961 8822
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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Two types of divinities predominate in Plato's later dialogues, the traditional and cosmic gods. This thesis focuses on the traditional gods and inquires into their cosmological status and function in the Timaeus and the Critias as well as the ethical value of civic religion in the Laws. In the first chapter, I discuss the place of traditional gods in the cosmogony of the Timaeus. I argue that the dialogue preserves only a few elements of the conventional religious language and, in general, challenges the beliefs based on the religious tradition. Nonetheless, the dialogue follows the tradition insofar as the creation of the universe begins with the birth of Ouranos and Gaia, whom the dialogue also regards as the parents of traditional gods. In this way, it integrates the traditional theogony into the general cosmogony. The second chapter explores the role of traditional gods in Plato's narratives of human origins. I argue that the Timaeus makes the traditional and cosmic gods jointly responsible for the creation of human beings as ensouled mortal animals. But the shared function is lost in the Critias, where only the traditional gods remain accountable for the origins of the first cities. Consequently, the Platonic anthropogony and politogony should be viewed as discontinuous in their explanatory schemes. Finally, the third chapter addresses the relationship between ethics and civic religion in the Laws. I argue that the ideal of godlikeness becomes both the main ethical and the central religious principle in the dialogue. In particular, the ordinary citizens of Plato's last utopia are required to imitate the traditional gods in various religious events and settings by practising the moral virtues. For this reason, I analyse the ways in which the religious institutions of Magnesia are capable of responding to basic psychological challenges and thus providing resources for training, testing, and demonstrating the virtuous character of its citizens. Overall, traditional religious ideas constitute an integral part of Plato's later dialogues: the traditional gods play an explanatory role in Plato's accounts of origins, while civic religion contributes towards fostering ethical development of human beings.
Supervisor: Betegh, Gábor Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council ; Cambridge Commonwealth ; European and International Trust ; Pembroke College
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Plato ; Timaeus ; Critias ; Laws ; Cosmology ; Theology ; Political Philosophy ; Ancient Philosophy ; Civic Religion ; Traditional Gods ; Cosmic Gods