Making the World Body Whole and Complete: Plato's Timaeus, 32c5-33b1

Abstract

Plato’s demiurge makes a series of questionable decisions in creating the world. Most notoriously, he endeavors to replicate, to the extent possible, some of the features that his model possesses just insofar as it is a Form. This has provoked the colorful complaint that the demiurge is as raving mad as a general contractor who constructs a house of vellum to better realize the architect’s vellum plans (Keyt 1971). The present paper considers the sanity of the demiurge’s reasoning in light of Timaeus 32c5-33b1, where he invokes considerations of wholeness, completeness, uniqueness, and eternality in deciding to build the body of the world from all of each of the simple bodies. Since the passage makes no appeal to the demiurge’s intelligible model, one can mine it for indications of the value that the demiurge takes those features to have independent of mimetic goals. I argue that, for Plato, those features are intrinsically good-making and, thus, that it is not only appropriate for them to characterize Forms qua Forms but also that it is appropriate for the demiurge to aim at replicating them, to the extent possible, in his creation. In particular, I argue that the demiurge’s success in instilling a circumscribed version of each feature in his creation helps to qualify it as a genuine being despite the fact that it comes to be.

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