A comparison between Plato and Zoroaster : aspects of the philosophy in the Timaeus and the Gathas

Viviers, D. S. (Daniele Siobhan) (2001-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2001.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The analysis of the system of speculative thought of Plato and Zoroaster, as found in Plato's Timaeus and Zoroaster's Gathas, seeks to compare a well-known philosophy, that of Plato, to a lesser known and often misunderstood system of speculative thought within a religion, namely Zoroastrianism. The purpose of such a comparison is to show that the speculative thought found in religion is often comparable to philosophy, as is the case in the doctrines postulated in the Gathas. It serves to illuminate the philosophy within a lesser known religion (Zoroastrianism) by comparing it to a well-known philosophy (that of Plato), and in doing so, to cast new light on both. The comparison of Plato and Zoroaster has been proposed and sometimes executed by other scholars as well. The main problem in these other comparisons, thus far, has been the fact that no historical contact or definite doctrinal influence of Zoroaster on Plato has been or is likely to be established. Though Plato might well have been familiar with Zoroastrian doctrines, this cannot be satisfactorily proven. This study does not depend on historical contact or doctrinal influence (though the possibility of the latter has been discussed), but compares the two doctrines independent of historical factors and is based solely on the striking similarities between these two systems of thought. This study has focussed on some of the basic concepts within the two doctrines, such as creation, the soul, and dualism. In this study I have emphasised the philosophical aspect of Zoroastrianism, though it is classified as a religion, because I believe that much of what has been classified as religion also incorporates speculative thought that can be analysed separately, and as a system of speculative thought it is comparable to other traditions of speculative thought, such as Greek philosophy. This comparison therefore seeks to counteract some of the assumptions about religions, and how they are studied, by focusing on the philosophical basis underlying the doctrines in the Zoroastrian religion. Another aspect to the comparison is a focus on the similarities of doctrine originating in two cultures previously held to be vastly different, namely Persian and Greek. There has previously been a tendency to consider the cultures of the classical and the ancient Near Eastern world as separate and completely distinct from each other, and in doing so, ignoring important historical contact. Although the historical interaction between these two areas has received increased attention, comparative investigations have emphasised the differences between the cultures of these regions, although similarities do abound and the comparison of analogous aspects of the various cultures could prove valuable to the study of the ancient world. Recognition of the larger context within which the various cultures of the ancient world operated can only add to the understanding of the ancient world, and pave the way for reassessing the traditions and world-views of various cultures.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die analise van die spekulatiewe denkstelsels van Plato en Zoroaster, soos uitgelê in Plato se Timaeus en Zoroaster se Gathas, beoog om 'n bekende filosofie te vergelyk met 'n minder bekende en dikwels wangeïnterpreteerde spekulatiewe denkstelsel binne 'n religie, naamlik Zoroastrisme. Die doel van so 'n vergelyking is om te demonstreer dat die spekulatiewe denkstelsel wat binne 'n religie gevind kan word dikwels vergelykbaar is met 'n filosofie, soos die geval is met die leerstellings/denkstelsels wat uitgelê word in die Gathas. Dit dien om die filosofiese binne 'n relatief onbekende religie (Zoroastrisme) uit te lig deur dit te vergelyk met 'n bekende filosofie (dié van Plato), en in die proses is dit moontlik dat daar nuwe lig gewerp kan word op albei. Die vergelyking tussen Plato en Zoroaster is al deur verskeie academici voorgestel en soms uitgevoer. Die hoofprobleem in al die vorige vergelykings is dat daar tot dusver by Zoroaster geen historiese kontak met of invloed op die leerstellings van Plato vasgestel kon word nie. Alhoewel Plato heel moontlik bekend kon gewees het met Zoroaster se leerstellings, kan dit nie bo alle twyfel bewys word nie. Hierdie studie voorveronderstel geen historiese kontak tussen of beïnvloeding deur die leerstellings van Zoroaster en Plato nie (hoewel die moontlikheid van laasgenoemde bespreek word). Dit is 'n vergelyking wat slegs gemotiveer is deur die treffende ooreenkomste tussen hierdie twee denkstelsels. My studie fokus op 'n aantal basiese konsepte binne die twee leerstellings, soos skepping, die siel, en dualisme. Ten spyte van die feit dat Zoroastrisme as 'n religie geklassifiseer word, word die filosofiese aspek van Zoroastrisme in hierdie studie beklemtoon, want ek glo dat baie sisteme wat as religieë geklassifiseer word spekulatiewe denke inkorporeer wat onafhanklik van die religie self as 'n spekulatiewe denkstelsel soos filosofie geanaliseer kan word, en verder ook vergelyk kan word met ander tradisies van spekulatiewe denkstelsels, soos die oud-Griekse filosofie. Hierdie vergelyking poog om die aannames oor religieë, insluitend aannames oor hoe religieë bestudeer moet word, teen te werk deur te fokus op die onderliggende filosofiese basis in die leerstellings van Zoroastrisme. 'n Ander aspek van die vergelyking is 'n fokus op die ooreenkomste tussen leerstellings wat hul oorsprong het in twee kulture (die Persiese en Griekse onderskeidelik) wat voorheen as heeltemal uiteenlopend en verskillend beskou is, en in die proses is die belangrike historiese kontak geïgnoreer. Alhoewel die historiese interaksie tussen die twee areas toenemend aandag geniet, word die kulturele verskille beklemtoon ten spyte van die feit dat daar veelvuldige ooreenkomste is en dat 'n vergelyking van ooreenkomste tussen verskeie kulture baie waardevol kan wees vir die studie van die antieke wêreld. 'n Waardering van die wyer konteks waarbinne die verskeie kulture van die antieke wêreld gefunksioneer het, kan net bydra tot 'n beter begrip van die antieke wêreld en die weg baan vir 'n herevaluering van die tradisies en wêreldbeskouings van die betrokke kulture.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/52062
This item appears in the following collections: