God & Forms in Plato

God & Forms in Plato

God & Forms in Plato

God & Forms in Plato

Synopsis

This book is a collection of dovetailing essays which together interpret and assess the chief arguments and texts which make up Plato's cosmology. Arguments in the Timaeus, Sophist, Statesman, Philebus, and Laws X are analysed with an eye to problems which affect the wider understanding of Plato's metaphysics, theology, epistemology, psychology, and physics. New interpretations are given to Plato's views on the role and characteristics of his craftsman God, the nature and status of Forms, the nature of time and eternity, the status and nature of space and the phenomenal realm, and the nature of and relations between reason, souls, bodies, and motion. The book is critically sympathetic to the Platonic project, at least to the extent that it argues that many (though not all) features of the Platonic cosmology are more intelligible and coherent than usually supposed by critics. It defends the view that for Plato God makes the world in the way that a carpenter cuts a board to be exactly a yard long - by applying a yard stick to the board and removing the excess wood. This view of a making requires that there be standards or measures that exist independently both of the agent who creates and the world on which he works. These standards are Plato's Forms. Transcendent Forms cannot be excised from the Platonic metaphysics as many modern critics have been trying to do in an attempt to make Plato respectable by today's criteria of philosophical decency. This work presents a revised and updated edition of the author's 1985 book The Platonic Cosmology (E J Brill, Leiden) together with four revised and updated essays by the author on Plato's metaphysics, and a wholly new essay, Extensions, which expands the themes of the book into wider philosophical contexts.

Excerpt

This book is an expanded edition of my 1985 book The Platonic Cosmology (Brill). Since the original work had to be re-keyed, I have taken the opportunity to update and revise its original chapters—correcting errors, discussing some of the secondary literature that has piled up in the intervening twenty years, and, here and there, trying to clarify positions and strengthen arguments. The positions taken and the conclusions reached, though, are for the most part unchanged. The original chapters have been supplemented with four additional essays that I wrote during the general period in which the book was written and that bear on some of its more general claims about Plato. These supplemental essays cover the nature of universals, a debate about temporal creation in Plato, recollection’s relation to the Divided Line, and the nature of numbers in Plato. In addition, I have written for this edition a new essay, “Extensions,” which draws together and develops some general thoughts that in the original book appeared only as wisps or stems. It tries to place Plato’s cosmological commitments in the Timaeus, Statesman, and Philebus into a wider metaphysical context.

This is a book about how, for Plato, God makes the world. Unlike in the Catholic story about how God makes the world, God in this story does not make the world out of nothing. Indeed he doesn’t make the world out of anything—even though he is chiefly characterized as a craftsman (δημιουργός) or, more simply, maker (ποιητής). There is making and there is making. Plato’s God has not read the second book of Aristotle’s Physics and so does not know that one makes things by making them out of matter. On that view, one first finds some indeterminate stuff and then one imposes upon it a form, property, or shape where there was no form, property or shape before. Plato’s God does not work like a carver who whittles an amorphous chunk of driftwood into a cube, nor like an artisan who pours molten brass into a mold to make a bell,

Craftsman—Timaeus 28a6, 29a3, 41a7, 42e8, 68e2, 69c3, cf. Philebus 27bl. Maker—Timaeus 28c3, cf. Philebus 27a5.

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