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date: 23 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter presents a reading of Plato’s Timaeus. The Timaeus, like the Republic, emphasizes the need to grasp the proper principle of our disciplines of study. As Timaeus says in his opening speech, “Now in every subject it is of utmost importance to begin (arxasthai) according to the natural principle (arkhê)” (29b2–3). But what is the natural principle of cosmology? Timaeus’s cosmology concerns the coming-into-being of the cosmos, down to and including the nature of man. Thus, the question becomes: What is the natural principle of the study of the coming-into-being of the cosmos? It is shown that the principle is a principle of coming-into-being, not of being. Timaeus accepts that there may be more fundamental principles of everything, but cosmology, as he understands it, does not provide the appropriate method for approaching such ultimate principles. The subject of cosmology is the world as it has come into being, and its method one that is appropriate to this subject-matter. Cosmology, as Timaeus understands it, is not concerned with the principle of absolutely everything. Cosmology is not concerned with being as such, its ultimate principle is not the ultimate principle of being, and its method is not that of dialectic, in the Republic’s sense.

Keywords: Timaeus, Plato, cosmology, coming-into-being, principle of being

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