Plato - Platos Cosmology The Timaeus The Forms vs the...

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Plato’s Cosmology: The Timaeus The Forms vs. the Cosmos The world of Forms 1. The world of being; everything in this world “always is,” “has no becoming,” and “does not change”(28a). 2. It is apprehended by the understanding, not by the senses. The physical world (= the Cosmos) 1. The world of becoming; everything in this world “comes to be and passes away, but never really is” (28a). 2. It is grasped by opinion and sense-perception. 3. The cosmos itself came into being, created using as its model the world of Forms. 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, Plato s Universe (pp. 26-27): 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 Elements The physical world must have bodily form; it must be visible and tangible (31b). Hence, its ingredients must include fire and earth. 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 solids , we require two intermediates to combine them. Hence, the demiurge created air and water , 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) Unique 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 Spherical Because that is the most perfect and most beautiful shape Temporal 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.
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The cosmos cannot be eternal, as a Form is, since it comes into being. But it is as much like a Form, as close to being eternal, as it can be (37d). When the Demiurge created the universe, he also created time. But what is Plato’s definition of time? Plato's text at 37d reads: [the Demiurge] began to think of making a moving image of eternity: at the same time as he brought order to the universe, he would make an eternal image, moving according to number, of eternity remaining in unity. This, of course, is what we call “time.” But what is ‘this’? It is sometimes thought that it refers to ‘number’, which would make the
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Plato - Platos Cosmology The Timaeus The Forms vs the...

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