Why the Cosmos Needs a Craftsman: Plato, Timaeus 27d5-29b1

in Phronesis
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In his opening speech, Timaeus (Timaeus 27d5-29b1) argues that the cosmos must be the product of a craftsman looking to an eternal paradigm. Yet his premises seem at best to justify only that the world could have been made by such a craftsman. This paper seeks to clarify Timaeus’ justification for his stronger conclusion. It is argued that Timaeus sees a necessary role for craftsmanship as a cause that makes becoming like being.

Why the Cosmos Needs a Craftsman: Plato, Timaeus 27d5-29b1

in Phronesis



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As Sedley 2007103 n. 20 points out. There are various possible ways here in which one could think of the relationship between substantial and non substantial changes. Among others: (a) one could think of any change in any category as changing the identity of the subject and so amounting to a substantial change; (b) one could think that changes in all categories happen at the same time so at the same time as a change in any category there will also be a change in substance; (c) one could think that a change in substance involves a changes in all other categories.


See Frede 198839.


On the cogency of this idea see Frede 1988.


Broadie 201231-8 argues that the craftsman looking at an eternal paradigm is a necessary and sufficient condition for beautiful things coming into being. It is clearly sufficient according to Timaeus since such a craftsman is said in T1 to necessitate this outcome but it is only necessary on the assumption that the only other possible cause is a craftsman looking at a generated paradigm. But why the cause should be a crafting intellect at all is not so obvious.


For this interpretation see Johansen 200475-6.


See Broadie 201228-9.


Santas 2010140 argues similarly that being immune to change and destruction are good-making characteristics citing Rep. 381a-b (‘It is universally true then that that which is in the best state by nature or art or both admits least of alteration by something else’) as well as the assumption in Diotima’s speech in the Symposium that immortality is a great good.


Broadie 2012: 36 underlines the development from Stage 1 to Stage 2. At Stage 1 Timaeus refers to what comes into being as an ‘ “object of opinion joined with unreasoning sense-perception”. But in the echo’ (i.e. my Stage 2) ‘sense-perception is no longer qualified as “unreasoning”. This verbal repetition-plus-omission surely conveys that it is no longer appropriate to call sense-perception “unreasoning”. Why so? Because Timaeus has begun to speak about this cosmos which he is about to explain was modelled on an intelligible paradigm. When opinion partnered with sense-perception has this cosmos for its object the partner is not radically irrational. It was called “unreasoning” in the earlier passage because (as I see it) the redeeming theme of maker and intelligible paradigm had not yet been introduced. By verbal arrangements Plato shows not says: were it not for the eternal paradigm cognitive responses to the cosmos would be entirely devoid of reason; given that paradigm they can and should aspire to something better.’ Like perception becoming is described in A in terms of what is true of insofar as it is not (yet) modelled on being.


So Mueller 199886: ‘It seems clear that the demiurge is the aition of this cosmos and his thoughts and motives give the aitiai for why things are the particular way they are.’


The point is well argued by Broadie 201260-83in her opposition to what she calls the ‘gateway to metaphysics’ view of cosmology.


See Lane 1998146 on what she calls the ‘dynamic aspect’ of political expertise in the Statesman: ‘In defining the authority of political expertise the Statesman makes its capacity to deal with the demands of time definitive both of the content of the expertise and by extension of its second-order authority over productive action.’


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