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The Theory of Forms: A Problem and Four N pl " Slti eo atonlc o u ons S. SAMBURSKY FROM THE PASSAGESIN PLATO'S WRITINGSwhich directly or indirectly have a bearing on his theory of Ideas, two main interpretations can be deduced of the concept of Idea or of Form. Forms can either be regarded in a purely logical sense as universals representing a class of particulars, or they can be conceived as patterns or models of an image or of a copy or a group of copies. Sections 30c = 31b of the Timaeus contain one of the important instances on which this second interpretation is founded. Plato tells us that the demiurge created the visible universe as a living creature modeled after the pattern of an intelligible being that lives in the world of Forms: "For the God, wishing to make this world most nearly like that intelligible thing which is best and in every way complete , fashioned it as a single visible living creature, containing within itself all living things whose nature is of the same order" (Timaeus 30d). And here Plato raises the question: "Have we, then, been right to call it one universe, or would it have been true rather to speak of many, and indeed of an indefinite number?" And his reply to this question is: "One we must call it, if we are to hold that it was made according to its pattern" (31a). Plato emphasizes the uniqueness of the physical world, for this world has been created as the image of a model the foremost characteristic of whose essence is its uniqueness, its oneness. Proclus, in his commentary on this passage of the Timaeus 1 tells us of a problem which obviously occupied the minds of several later Neoplatonists, and then relates the solutions given by three philosophers, Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Syrianus, each of whom answered the question in his own way. We can add to these three Proclus himself as fourth, because he quotes Syrianus as having contributed a number of alternative solutions, but apparently some of these answers were given by Proclus, who often identifies himself with his teacher and sometimes presents his views as those of Syrianus. The gist of the problem as related by Proclus is this: If indeed the physical world imitates its pattern exactly and completely, it must imitate the three main attributes of a paradigm, namely its Being, Eternity, and Uniqueness. Thus Myarticleis dedicatedin honorofG. G.Scholemonhisseventiethbirthday. aProcli Diadochi in Platonis Timaeum Commentaria, ed. Ernestus Diem (3 vols.; Amsterdam , 1965; first ed.: Lipsiae, 1903-1906), I 436.4-447~32; hereafter cited in my text as In Timaeum. t327] 328 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY the physical world with all its contents was created as a living being which at the same time is also eternal and unique, for necessarily the sensible image must hold all that is held by the intelligible pattern. However, as Proclus mentions, the attribute of uniqueness caused difficulties to some philosophers, since the physical world contains a plurality of men, horses, etc., which means that the idea of a man, the idea of a horse, etc., are causes of a plurality of copies. To this other philosophers replied by pointing out that these entities are but parts of the whole, while uniqueness applies only to the world as a whole. But this answer will not do, as is shown by the example of the sun and the moon, and of other parts of the universe which exist only in single copies. The problem thus remains and has still to be solved. Proclus gives the different solutions in chronological order and thus starts with Porphyry, then goes on to Iamblichus and Syrianus, and winds up with his own solution, putting it out under the name of Syrianus. Instead of following the chronological order, the solutions will here be discussed from a systematic point of view. Porphyry's and Syrianus' solutions explain the difference between the single copy and the multiple copies by certain facts rooted in the sensible world, whereas those of Iamblichus and Proclus see the cause of this difference in a higher reality either in the intelligible world or else in hypostases higher...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 327-339
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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