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Critias's Criterion

Updated on October 2, 2014
New York Film Festival, 2014
New York Film Festival, 2014 | Source

I once saw a Greek film

where one of the characters was a philosopher/writer who would get into dialogues on Kant with his interlocutors; What does it mean for a Greek who's grown up on Plato, Aristotle et al to be ruminating from a modernist perspective on Kantian discourse? Has he been colonised by the West? By Catholic Germanic post-renaissance culture?

By Marxism? By Psychoanalysis? One Greek man I recently met described to me what it was like studying physics in a Greek Lyceum...by reading ancient passages of Democritus interspersed with his contemporary physics text book. It really brings it home in a palpable way, that atomic theory is nothing new...

It's an extraordinary legacy

to have been at the crossroads of something that has long been forgotten in the West (and dismissed by those who would usurp the bragging rights of either the originators, or the renaissancers, as the Greeks must have been).

The moderns make fun of their "primitive" ideas about cosmology, while being blind to their own "funny" identical interpretations (of how the universe is now flat like a pancake — shades of Thales!) and missing out on how intimate is the relation of the contemporary mind with the ancient, if not seamlessly, woven...

Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin | Source

And of how universal

is the thirst for understanding...—But alas in our quest for origins we run into two brick walls: that of myth and that of silent stones that don't speak...Having lost the diffuse consciousness that was the domain of myth, we now take them for fairy-tales and miss everything; And having lost the books that told the story of antediluvian man, we, both the scientists and the fundamentalists, agree that human civilization, whether created by God by spontaneous generation in a garden of Eden, or whether by the beginning of sedentary farming practices that generated the first communities and villages, is only a few thousand (5-10) years old.

Ironically, the creationists and the scientists have really been in the same camp all along...As it is increasingly becoming apparent that even the Aristotelian dividing point between the homo-sapien and the ape is fictional and that we didn't even understand (our own) "Darwinian" theory of evolution.

But one book did make it

into modernity offering up a window to us past the brick walls; a slight window — more like a slit; nevertheless here we glimpse Egypt at the cross-roads between the antediluvian and post-diuvian worlds and another power in the West out across the ocean (now called America) but in those days, Atlantis when the world was peopled with a progenitorial race called gods. Who were they? Extra-terrestrials? A more knowledgeable people? Something else?

Now that we've traced the origins of language and the origins of our genetic makeup to 200,000 years ago, and that it is certain that "Americans" were making tools and had a civilisation 40,000 years ago, this story of Atlantis stands — even though separated by a grand canyon — across a complimentary contemporaneous reality that scientists can accept. Myth and Techne side by side. The two strands Plato deliberately deprived us of, now at our doorstep on the eve of our own binary dilemma: extinction or distinction.

Critias


PLATO (ΠΛΆΤΩΝ) (c. 428 BC - c. 347 BC), translated by Benjamin JOWETT (1817 - 1893)
This is an incomplete dialogue from the late period of Plato's life. Plato most likely created it after Republic and it contains the famous story of Atlantis, that Plato tells with such skill that many have believed the story to be true. Critias, a friend of Socrates, and uncle of Plato was infamous as one of the bloody thirty tyrants.

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