Timaeus

Timaeus

Timaeus

Timaeus

Synopsis

First published in Plato, Complete Works, Donald Zeyl's translation of Timaeus is presented here with his substantial introductory essay, which situates the dialogue in the development of Greek science, discusses points of contemporary interest in the Timaeus, deals at length with long-standing and current issues of interpretation, and provides a consecutive commentary on the work as a whole. Includes an analytic table of contents and a select bibliography.

Excerpt

Translating Plato's Timaeus presents a formidable challenge. the formal and elevated style of Timaeus' discourse and its technical subject matter and vocabulary are unlike those of any other passage of comparable length in the Platonic corpus. Both of these features of Plato's prose in this dialogue account for a complexity of thought and expression that is not easily grasped, let alone conveyed in another language. in producing this translation I have striven to understand and represent in English as closely as possible what Plato intended his readers to grasp. I can only hope that I have had some measure of success. I have been the fortunate beneficiary of a long tradition of superb scholarship on the Timaeus. in particular, I have benefited from the commentary by A. E. Taylor [39] and the translation and running commentary by F. M. Cornford [14]. These works remain indispensable to a serious study of the dialogue, and whenever I have chosen to reject their translations or interpretations—as I frequently believed I had reason to do—it has not been without utmost consideration. a vast quantity of scholarship on the Timaeus—variously philological, philosophical, and scientific—has been produced in the last two-thirds of the 20th century and has challenged and revised long-standing orthodoxies and set new directions. in preparing this new translation and the introduction that precedes it I wish to reflect much of this more recent work.

The lengthy introductory essay I provide is intended to do more than acquaint readers with the Timaeus itself. It is intended also as an introduction to the controversies about the interpretation of the dialogue—some almost as old as the work itself, but most as recent as the last half century. I consider in some detail the hoary question of whether the Timaeus is meant to be read literally or metaphorically, as well as the issue (by comparison, recent) of whether it should be placed in the “middle” group of Platonic dialogues or should keep its traditional place within the “late” dialogues. My own views on these matters will become apparent; I hope I have done justice to opposing views. As I go

1. Bracketed numbers indicate entries in the Select Bibliography, pp. 89-94.

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