REL 391, Tuesday-Thursday 9:00-10:15 am Class Section # 23641 The answer should consider how what Plato means by “maker” differs from “cause” and the role that the idea of “space” plays in the Timaeus’ account. Public belief is that philosophy is at the best of times a difficult subject to understand. The philosophy of Plato’s Timaeus is made farther difficult to understand, as the dialogue was never finished, Plato’s ‘Critias’ it is believed was meant to be the resolution to the dialogue of the Timaeus.
Ancient Greek philosophy is considered the basis for both medieval and modern philosophy, Plato himself is also considered by most if not all historians and philosophers as one of the fathers of philosophy. The difficulty to understand Plato and his contemporaries is made worse by a single factor, time. The years between when the Greek philosophers first wrote and when their writings were brought back into the mainstream of knowledge, the world had become an almost entirely different place.
The philosophy of the early medieval world was a radically different philosophy than that of the Greeks. As a result of this modern philosophy appears to be split at times between the Greek’s thinking and the medieval thinking. This leads to the ultimate complication of reading and interpreting Plato. What do we as modern readers and modern philosophers understand Plato to be explaining, and what did Plato as a philosopher of Ancient Greece understand himself to be explaining.
I will be looking at Plato with a modern understanding, through the writings of modern philosophers, writings published in the last seventy five years, on Plato, but I will be doing this with a ear to the social perceptions and societal understandings of Plato’s time. In Plato’s Timaeus the ‘the Craftsman’ or ‘To Demiouirgous’ is defined by Plato as those who create, while the ‘the Maker’ or ‘To Poioun’ is defined as the one or ones who copy what was already created. To follow Plato’s line of reasoning then the ‘Craftsman’ creates the world and all that is in it, and the ‘Maker’ only copies all that the Craftsman has created. If a craftsman copies an eternal model, his work will be good: If the model is a generated thing, it will not be so…Where the good type of craftsman is the carpenter who makes an actual bed, taking for his model ‘the real bed’ – a Form which he does not create or invent, but which exists in the nature of things… bad type is the painter who takes a generated thing, the carpenter’s bed, for his model, and produces only an appearance of a thing which itself is not wholly real, an image of an image. ” (Cornford pg. 27).
In the previous quote Cornford likens the ‘good type’ of craftsmen, in this case the carpenter, as almost a lesser form or being of God. In the opposite corner the ‘bad type’ of craftsman, the painter, is identified as the craftsman or ‘maker’ who copies what God has already created. But not all historians and philosophers agree with this understanding. All readers of historic documents and historic writings interpret what they read differently but often times several readers will agree on the same idea or reasoning understood from the past.
This seems to be what is happening here: “And in the Timaeus the entire sensible world is viewed as an expression of the goodness if a divine craftsman who looks to the pattern of the Forms and shapes the recalcitrant and disorderly material at his disposal into a good (29a-30b) through far from perfect (49d-e) series of structures. ” (Kruat pg. 14). “…and that consequently the everlasting gods must be the Forms after whose pattern the world is made, or else the Demiurge himself. But the Demiurge is nowhere in the Timaeus identified with his model, and the Forms are nowhere spoken of as gods. (Cornford pg. 99). Like Cornford, Kruat claims that Plato viewed the Demiurge as the ‘Creator’ or ‘Craftsman’. White also agrees with this claim, White’s writing in fact appears almost an exact repeat of what Cornford says: “Thus he [Plato] thinks of the demiurge in the Timaeus as comprehending all of the Forms before time has been created along the cosmos and its ordered motion. The timelessness of the Forms is more than just a matter of their being the same through all time …it is that they lie ‘outside’ of the time in the ‘eternity’ of which time is only an ‘imitation’. (White pg. 289). By my understanding from the writings of Cornford, Kruat, White, their contemporaries and understanding of the Timaeus, lead me to define the ‘maker’ as God who created the Forms where in the cosmos is brought into being. God is here fore the ‘maker’ but the ‘maker’ is not cause. Cause as defined by the dictionary as ‘a thing that makes something happen’ (Webster). The ‘maker’ may not be cause but the ‘maker’ can be reason. “Reason overruled Necessity by persuading her to guide the greatest part of the things that become towards what is best. ” (Cornford, pg. 35). His [God] Necessity is irregular and disorderly, and not inexorably determind, but open to the persuasion of Reason; and Reason has need to persuade her, not having unlimited power to compel. ” (Cornford, pg. 36). “If Reason is not a creator god, standing apart from his model and materials, where it is to be found? ” (Cornford, pg. 38). Plato never answers the question that Cornford puts forward in the last quote, but I will try at my own answer. Cornford’s analysis of Timaeus leads me to the understanding that while Reason is not a separate creator god, Reason could possibly be part of the ‘maker’.
Following this thinking then since the ‘maker’ is God; therefore Reason is a part of God, and part of the creator of the Forms and cosmos. Of all the concepts Plato explains and analyses in the Timaeus, Space is one of the few if not the only concept that Plato explains so minimally that the Timaeus’s connection and reasoning of Space is understandable as the ancient Greek the Timaeus was written in. Cornford makes the rather brave and almost impossible attempt to define and clear up the explanation of Space that is conveyed by the Timaeus. “… the relations of the Form and the copy to Space. (Cornford pg. 193). “The Form is contrasted with Space in that the Form ‘never receives anything else into itself from elsewhere’, and with the copy in that ‘it never enters into anything elsewhere’. ”(Cornford pg. 194) “ …the Form, since it is self-subsisting, requires no medium and so is not in Space. ”(Cornford pg. 194). “Nor can the Form ever pass in to anything else anywhere; it can never enter Space, and Space cannot receive anything more than the copy. ”(Cornford pg. 195). From this explanation of Cornford’s, my understanding becomes that Space is similar but not the same as the Forms.
There in Space is a form of its own but Space is not defined by the same rules or the same parameters as that of the Forms. As a form that is separate from the Forms defined in the Timaeus, Space allows the copy to exist in the world or to become into being separate from the Form. Through all of this my understanding of Timaeus leads to the question of this paper: ‘How does Plato’s Timaeus explains how God is “the maker” (to poioun) or “the craftsman” (to Demiouirgous) of the cosmos, such that Plato’s ‘maker’ differs from his cause and that Space explaining factor of the cosmos? This is my answer. God is the ‘maker’ not the ‘craftsman’ because God creates and the ‘craftsman’ can only copy what God has created. Reason is a part of God and Reason is the cause of Necessity, there in God is the cause of necessity. God created the Forms, which produced the cosmos; Space is a form not of the Forms. God created all the Forms, meaning God created Space, so by doing allowed the Forms to be copied, there by the copies could come into being separate from the Forms. Works Cited: * Cornford, Francis M. Plato’s Cosmology. “Timaeus”) Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co. , 1997. (ISBN: 0-87220-386-7; B387. A5 C65 1957) * Kraut, Richard (ed. ). The Cambridge Companion to Plato. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. (ISBN: 0-521-43610 9; B395. C28 1992). * Esp. Michael L. Morgan, “Plato and Greek Religion” pp. 227-247. * Nicholas P. White, “Plato’s metaphysical epistemology” pp. 277-310 * Popkin, Richard H. Columbia History of Western Philosophy, The. NY: Columbia UP, 2005. (ISBN 0231101295) (B72. C593 1999), pp. 32-52 * Webster’s Dictionary
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