By Plato; Robin Waterfield (trans.), Andrew Gregory (intr.)
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Extra resources for Timaeus and Critias (Oxford World's Classics)
It is possible to fuse matter and space together in this way, as Descartes did in the seventeenth century when he argued for an equivalence of matter and extension. Whether Plato manages an entirely coherent account here is debatable, though in relation to this diﬃcult topic we must remember that Timaeus is giving us a likely tale, has warned us that his account may not be entirely consistent, and has issued special warnings about the diﬃcult nature of the receptacle. That something beyond forms and their likenesses is required is relatively easy to argue for.
What does Plato mean by necessity, and how is it that necessity can be ‘persuaded’ by anything? As reason scores only a partial victory over necessity, there is some residual chance and disorder. Now, it seems strange that necessity should be associated with these things. However, one might take both chance and disorder in two separate senses, depending on what they are contrasted with: (1) An event might be said to occur by chance because there is no causal chain that leads to its occurrence, contrasting chance with causal determinism.
47a) Astronomy Timaeus gives us a model for the motions of the heavenly bodies: the earth is central and unmoving, and there are the ﬁxed stars, which rotate around the earth once every day. Typically for the ancient world, these stars are all presumed to be equidistant from the earth and to undergo no change of position relative to one another. Unlike Aristotle, where the stars are ﬁxed in a sphere, Plato’s stars are freemoving and hold their pattern due to the intelligences that guide them. Each of the other seven heavenly bodies visible to the naked eye (the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) has a second circular motion, in addition to the ﬁrst, with a diﬀerent axis.
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