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l'he Intelligible World-Animal in Plato's Timaeus RICHARD D. PARRY 1. A PASSAGEearly in Timaeus's treatise contains an intriguing but cryptic argument (3 lag-b3). Timaeus wants to argue that the cosmos we live in is unique. There is only one cosmos, not an infinite number. Timaeus seems to have other cosmologists in mind--e.g., the atomists--who held that our cosmos is one in an infinite series, although the scope of his argument is not confined to infinite series. This issue is obviously of some concern to Timaeus because it comes up later on at 3ec5-33b 1. At 31 a2, Timaeus argues from the nature of the Form that the Demiurge will use in creation to the uniqueness of the cosmos to be fashioned after that Form; at 32c5, he describes the way the Demiurge proceeds to create our cosmos so that it will be unique. Let us begin by concentrating on the first argument. The subject of some controversy, it argues from the uniqueness of the Form for our cosmos to the uniqueness of our cosmos. In essence, it says that, because the Form for our cosmos is unique and is the model which the Demiurge uses to create our cosmos, our cosmos is unique; the Demiurge replicates the uniqueness of the Form in our cosmos. In making this argument, Timaeus also offers a subargument to establish the uniqueness of the Form for our cosmos. It is on this subargument that I wish to concentrate our attention. Not only is it interesting as an insight into Plato's cosmogony but, more important still, it is interesting as an insight into his theory of Forms. To begin with, we must understand that the Form for our cosmos is the Form for a living being (zoon). The reason for this, to contemporary ears, strange-sounding claim is the following. Timaeus has already said that our All internal references to the dialoguesare from Burnet's edition. Unlessotherwisenoted, all translations are the author's. [13] 14 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 29:1 JANUARY 1991 cosmos must have intelligence, in order to be among the best kind of perceptual creatures. But if it is to have intelligence, it must have a soul; and if it has a soul, it is a living being (3oa6-cl). So, Timaeus posits a soul for the cosmos and thus the cosmos as a living being. Having done so, he is in a position to explain what he obviously believes to be the workings of intelligence in the cosmos. In turn, the Form for our cosmos must be the Form for a living being. Having already established that the model for our universe will be a Form, Timaeus now asks which of the living beings should be the model for our cosmos, i.e., which of the Forms of living being should be the model. At this early point in the narrative, he seems to be assuming a variety of Forms for living beings, presumably corresponding, in part, to his later taxonomy: fish, bird, land animal, and celestial god (i.e., star or planet). Then he states that our cosmos should not resemble a Form for living being which has the nature of a part. In doing so he seems to be assuming that each of these four Forms is in some sense a part because he concludes that, by contrast, the Form for our cosmos will be the Form of living being which contains all other intelligible living beings. Timaeus states: "we should posit that this [our cosmos] is most like that one of all [the intelligible living beings] of which all the other [intelligible ] living beings are parts, both as individuals and as kinds. For that one [intelligible living being] has and contains in itself all the [other] intelligible living beings, just as [kathaper] this cosmos unites us and all the other perceptual creatures" (3oc5-d 1). It is after this passage that Timaeus turns to the issue of the uniqueness of the cosmos. Asking whether there is one cosmos or an infinite number, Timaeus answers that there is one, since it is fashioned after its model, the Form...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 13-32
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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