Ancient Philosophy 42 (1):121-145 (2022)

Abstract
In Plato’s eponymous dialogue, Timaeus, the main character presents the universe as an perfect sphere filled by tiny, invisible particles having the form of four regular polyhedrons. At first glance, such a construction may seem close to an atomistic theory. However, one does not find any text in Antiquity that links Timaeus’ cosmology to the atomists, while Aristotle opposes clearly Plato to the latter. Nevertheless, Plato is commonly presented in contemporary literature as some sort of atomist, sometimes as supporting a form of so-called ‘mathematical atomism’. However, the term ‘atomism’ is rarely defined when applied to Plato. Since it covers many different theories, it seems that this term has almost as different meanings as different authors. The purpose of this article is to consider whether it is correct to connect Timaeus’ cosmology to some kind of ‘atomism’, however this term may be understood. Its purpose is double: to obtain a better understanding of the cosmology of the Timaeus, and to consider the different modern ‘atomistic’ interpretations of this cosmology. In short, we would like to show that such a claim, in any form whatsoever, is misleading, an impediment to the understanding of the dialogue, and more generally of Plato’s philosophy.
Keywords Ancient Philosophy  History of Philosophy
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DOI 10.5840/ancientphil20224215
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