Plato’s Cosmology: The
The Forms vs. the Cosmos
The world of Forms
The world of being; everything in this world “always is,” “has no
becoming,” and “does not change”(28a).
It is apprehended by the understanding, not by the senses.
The physical world (= the Cosmos)
The world of becoming; everything in this world “comes to be and passes
away, but never really is” (28a).
It is grasped by opinion and sense-perception.
The cosmos itself came into being, created using as its model the world of
The Demiurge (Creator)
Literally, “craftsman.” The creator of Plato’s physical world is not a divine intelligence or a
personal ruler, but (as it were) a manual laborer. Cf. Vlastos,
That the supreme god of Plato’s cosmos should wear the mask of a manual worker is a triumph of the philosophical
imagination over ingrained social prejudice. .
.. But this divine mechanic is not a drudge. He is an artist or, more
precisely, what an artist would have to be in Plato’s conception of art: not the inventor of new form, but the imposer
of pre-existing form on as yet formless material.
The physical world must have
form; it must be
Hence, its ingredients must include
Since fire and earth will have to be combined, there must be at least one other ingredient
that serves to combine them.
But since fire and earth are
, we require
intermediates to combine them.
Hence, the demiurge created
, and arranged all four elements
proportionally: as fire is to air, air is to water; as air is to water, water is to earth.
As we will see below, we have not reached the bottom with these four elements: there are
(geometrical) atoms of which these elements are composed.
Features of the Cosmos
A living being
Because it is based on the Form of living being (= Animal)
Because it is based on a unique model (the
Form of living being
), and the Demiurge makes it as
much like its model as he can (subject, of course, to the limitations imposed by the fact that it’s
made of matter).
It has a soul
Because it is a living being
Because that is the most perfect and most beautiful shape
That is, there is time in the cosmos
it is characterized by temporal predicates. This is because it
is modeled on a Form, an eternal being.