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The beginning of Timaeus in the oldest surviving medieval manuscript: Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale , Gr. 1807 (9th century)

The Timaeus ( ancient Greek Τίμαιος Tímaios , Latinized Timaeus ) is a late work by the Greek philosopher Plato , written in dialogue form . A fictional, literary conversation is reproduced verbatim. Plato's teacher Socrates , a distinguished Athenian named Kritias and two guests from the Greek-populated southern Italy are involved : the philosopher Timaeus of Lokroi , after whom the dialogue is named, and the politician Hermocrates of Syracuse .

Socrates and Hermocrates only take the floor in the introductory conversation. Afterwards, Kritias reports of a defensive war which, according to him, Athens waged and won nine millennia ago against the mythical island kingdom of Atlantis . Timaeus then gives a long lecture on natural philosophy , which makes up by far the largest part of the dialogue.

According to Timaeus, the cosmos is mainly shaped by two factors, reason and necessity. In the creation of the universe, the reasonable, benevolent creator god, the Demiurge , wanted to achieve the best possible. To do this, he had to come to terms with the “necessity” - given practical constraints - and create order out of the chaos of the existing matter. He formed the world soul with which he made the cosmos into a living, ensouled being. He assigned the subordinate deities he had brought up with the task of creating the human body. He created the immortal individual souls himself. During the transmigration of souls they repeatedly enter new bodies. Timaeus emphatically points to the goodness of the Creator and the harmony and beauty of the world.

From antiquity to the late Middle Ages , the Timaeus achieved the strongest and most lasting effect of all of Plato's works. In the Middle Ages it remained the only work of the ancient thinker accessible to Latin-speaking scholars until the 12th century. The reception reached its greatest intensity in the 12th century, when the Platonic-oriented philosophers of the Chartres School tried to harmonize the biblical belief in creation with the worldview of Timaeus . Modern research took up the question, which was already controversial in antiquity, as to whether the account of creation is to be understood literally in the sense of a specific historical process or symbolically as an illustration of an eternal reality. According to the prevailing view today, the creation of the Demiurge should not be understood as an already completed event, but as a constant process.

The literary and historical context

The entire dialogue situation is a literary construction of Plato and is not based on any historical event.

The conversation situation

In contrast to some other Platonic dialogues, the Timaeus has no framework plot . The event is not told by a reporter, but begins suddenly and is consistently reproduced in direct speech. This type of representation is referred to in the specialist literature as "dramatic form". However, the dialogue hardly offers any “drama”, as it mostly consists of a shorter and a very long lecture. The character of a conversation comes into its own only in the introductory part.

The meeting will take place in Athens. The exact location is not given; in any case, it is neither the house of Critias nor the residence of Socrates. The reader learns, however, that Timaeus and Hermocrates live as guests of Critias in his house during their stay in Athens.

The atmosphere of the meeting is friendly, cooperative and characterized by mutual respect. This is where the Timaeus differs from many Platonic dialogues, in which contradicting views collide and refutation is sought, whereby sometimes sharpness and irony come into play.

The day before, Socrates was the host and entertained his guests with spiritual food by explaining his ideal of the state to them. Now the roles have been reversed, this time he has come as a guest, and the other three are hosts and want to show their appreciation with gifts of the same kind.

The trilogy project

According to the author's intention, the Timaeus should form the first part of a planned trilogy - a three-part complete work. The trilogy should consist of three consecutive conversations with the same four participants. It should begin with Timaeus , continue with Critias and end with Hermocrates . The Critias but remained unfinished and Hermokrates Plato probably never started, probably because he gave up the trilogy project.

All three parts of the trilogy should be characterized by the fact that the interaction between the participants takes a back seat. It was planned that one would be the main speaker and the other would give a lecture. The author not only wanted to convey knowledge, but the constellation with the planned three appearances also had a competitive character in the sense of the " agonal principle " rooted in the Greek mentality . Only for Socrates, who was not supposed to compete with the others, no lecture was planned. As one learns at the beginning of the Timaeus , he made his contribution the day before the meeting when he was host; now he listens to the others as a guest.

According to a hypothesis that has found approval in research, Plato initially wanted to write a unified dialogue consisting of three parts. The Timaeus and Critias were originally supposed to form a single work with Hermocrates . Only after it turned out that the complete work could not be completed was the existing text broken down into two separate dialogues. Because of this togetherness, the term “Timaeus-Kritias” is often used in research literature.

The conception of the trilogy can already be seen in the introductory talk of Timaeus . There you learn that the three hosts Timaeus, Kritias and Hermocrates have divided up a comprehensive topic that they want to present to their guest in three lectures. From a philosophical perspective, you intend to present the beginning of natural history and then excerpts from human history. Timaeus has taken on the task of being the first to speak and to describe the course of the creation of the world. Then Critias will use the Atlantis myth to illuminate an instructive phase in world history. Finally, Hermocrates will speak in the third part of the trilogy. The goal is obviously to sketch an overall picture of the history and nature of the cosmos and its inhabitants.

The interlocutors

Four men are present at the meeting. Socrates, Critias and Hermocrates are certainly historical persons. In the case of Timaeus, on the other hand, it is unclear whether he actually lived or whether he is a figure invented by Plato.


In the dialogue Timaeus appears as a distinguished and wealthy citizen of the Greek colony Lokroi Epizephyrioi (today Locri in Calabria ), who held high offices in his hometown. His competence in all areas of philosophy, especially in the field of natural philosophy , as well as in astronomy is emphasized. He is not referred to as a Pythagorean , but his southern Italian origin suggests a connection with the Pythagorean movement. His view of the world contains Pythagorean elements, but also a striking amount of un-Pythagorean elements; in any case, he is not a typical Pythagorean.

In ancient studies the prevailing view is that Plato invented the figure of Timaeus. It has been suggested that he gave her features of the well-known Pythagorean Archytas of Taranto . The main argument for assuming literary fiction is that all information about Timaeus that has come down from ancient sources can be derived from Plato's statements, except for a very late and therefore untrustworthy note. Timaeus appears to Plato as an important politician and scientist; but such a man, if he had actually lived, would have left a trace in the sources. A counter-argument is that Plato's dialog figures mentioned by name are usually historical persons. Therefore, some ancient scholars do not rule out the historicity of the Timaeus; the possibility is even considered that Plato visited him in Lokroi.


The historical identity of the dialogue figure Kritias is controversial. In older research it was taken for granted that Plato had the politician " Kritias IV " (* at the earliest around 460 BC; † 403 BC) appear in the Timaeus and Critias . This Critias, who also emerged as a poet, came from an elegant and wealthy Athens family and was a cousin of Plato's mother Periktione . He was one of the most prominent representatives of the oligarchic direction. After the catastrophic defeat of his hometown by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War , he assumed a leadership role as an oligarchic group in 404 BC. The democratic state order eliminated. The oligarchs seized power and set up a “ Council of Thirty ” as the highest body. Critias played an important role in the thirty-member council, which consisted of the leaders of the oligarchic movement. The terror-related rule of the thirty did not last long, however. Already in the following year 403 the troops of the oligarchs suffered a decisive defeat in the fight against a force of exiled democrats, with Critias falling in the fight.

However, a clear statement in the Timaeus speaks against the identification of the dialogue figure with "Critias IV" : Plato's Critias mentions his grandfather of the same name and his great-grandfather Dropides , who was close friends with the famous statesman and legislator Solon . If one proceeds from the wording of Timaeus and the historically correct family tree, the dialogue participant Kritias as the great-grandson of Dropides is not "Kritias IV", but his grandfather, who lived around 520 BC. " Critias III " born in BC . Very little is known about "Critias III"; after all, its existence is archaeologically secured. The equation of the dialogue figure with “Critias III” has a number of supporters, but other historians reject it.

A number of arguments have been put forward for identification with "Critias III":

  • "Kritias IV" was the most prominent and hated representative of the oligarchical reign of terror. After his defeat and his death, he was completely discredited in his hometown, which had again become democratic, as he was accused of arbitrary executions during the rule of the thirty. Therefore, Plato's contemporaries would have viewed it as a tremendous provocation if the philosopher had assigned this politician the honorable role of glorifying heroic deeds in his dialogues. In addition, Plato's Socrates expressed his appreciation for Critias in the Timaeus .
  • Plato's Critias reports that at the age of ten he spoke to his grandfather of the same name, then almost ninety years old, who knew Solon as a child. Between the death of Solon in 560/559 BC BC and the middle of the 5th century, when "Kritias IV", born around 460 at the earliest, was ten years old, are around 110 years. Therefore, the oligarch's grandfather, when he was almost ninety around 450, cannot have been alive before Solon's death.
  • The literary Kritias mentions in the Timaeus that at the time of his childhood Solon's poems were still new and were sung by many boys. That cannot be the case around 450.
  • Plato's literary Kritias suggests that he has good long-term memory but poor short-term memory. This senile state of memory does not fit “Kritias IV”, which was still relatively young at the time of the dialogue.
  • If Plato meant the oligarch, he skipped two generations in his genealogical information. Such a blatant error is not plausible, because it is about Plato's own ancestors - "Kritias III" was his great-grandfather - and it is known that he attached importance to the fame of his sex and the knowledge of his own ancestry, as it was then in noble families was common.
  • In other dialogues in which Plato allows "Critias IV" to appear ( Protagoras , Charmides ), he explicitly names him "Son of Callaishros", which rules out confusion. This suggests that the lack of this identifying reference in Timaeus and Critias is not accidental, but rather indicates that it is about a different person.

The researchers, who believe that the participant in the dialogue must be the oligarch "Kritias IV", assume that Plato made an error or deliberately disregard the genealogical facts. You put forward the following arguments:

  • The historical "Kritias III" was probably no longer known to the public at the time of the creation of the Timaeus . Therefore, when Plato's contemporaries read the name of the title figure in a dialogue, they had to think of the notorious oligarch, which the entire ancient world did. This suggests that Plato meant him.
  • Apparently, during Plato's lifetime, the time lag to Solon's epoch was underestimated.
  • Plato also made his uncle Charmides , who like “Kritias IV” a well-known oligarch and who died with him in the fight against the democrats, the title figure of a dialogue, Charmides . In addition, there are more than two decades between the time of Timaeus' dialogue and the beginning of the oligarchical reign of terror. Both oligarchs were innocent at the time of their fictional appearance in Plato's dialogues. This will reduce the offense. In addition, Plato may have intentionally wanted to provoke. In any case, he was a critic of Athenian democracy, and it is possible that his judgment of the oligarch Critias' policies was milder than that of public opinion.
  • As a writer, Plato claimed his literary freedom and placed little value on chronological consistency, as a number of anachronisms in his dialogues show. The only important thing to him was the relationship to Solon, on whose authority he wanted to appeal. Therefore, he can be trusted to skip two generations if, for literary reasons, he intended to let the oligarch Critias appear and not let the chain of tradition become too long.

In the Timaeus , Critias only plays a secondary role, albeit a more important one than Socrates and Hermocrates. He only appears as a reporter, without advocating his own views.


Socrates (Roman bust, 1st century, Louvre , Paris)

In the Timaeus, Socrates is the listening guest, but still a central figure, because the lectures are held in his honor. The didactics characteristic of Plato's Socrates figure , maeutics , is completely omitted in this dialogue. In the introductory talk, Socrates emphatically acknowledges his state ideal. Although he can draft the basic features of the constitution of the ideal state and convincingly present as a theoretical model what he has already done the day before, he does not see himself in a position to adequately picture a concrete realization of the ideal. Therefore, he would like his hosts to take on this task.


Hermocrates speaks only once in the Timaeus . He makes his appearance in the introductory meeting, where he briefly comments on planning the day.

The historical Hermocrates was a Syracusan politician and troop leader who became known in the Peloponnesian War as a determined and successful adversary of the Athenians.

The time of the dialogue action

In the dialogue, Kritias casually mentions that his meeting with Socrates, Timaeus and Hermocrates takes place during a festival of the goddess Athena . It can only be the large or small Panathenaia , which were celebrated in the summer month of Hekatombaion . The year of the dialogue action cannot even be roughly determined. The dating approaches in the research literature vary widely, they fluctuate between the 440s and the last decade of the 5th century and depend on various, sometimes very speculative, assumptions. The Critias of Dialogue is already at an advanced age; therefore, if it is the oligarch "Kritias IV", only a relatively late date can be considered. If, on the other hand, one identifies the dialogue figure with "Kritias III", the dialogue action must be set in the early 420s at the latest. It is hard to imagine that Hermocrates could have visited the hostile city of Athens after the start of the Athenian expedition to Sicily, which began in 415 ; a point in time after 415 should therefore be excluded. Plato probably had no concrete historical situation in mind.

The link between the Timaeus-Kritias dialogue and the previous day’s conversation, in which Socrates presented his concept of the best possible state, does not provide any reference point for the dating. The previous day's talk is certainly not - as was believed in antiquity and still in the 19th century - meant the discussion presented in Plato's Dialogue Politeia .


The introductory talk

After a discussion the day before, Socrates, Timaeus, Critias and Hermocrates met again to continue their exchange of ideas. At the first meeting, Socrates hosted and presented his concept of an ideal state. This time he should be the listening guest; the others take on the task of outlining the main features of the world order and of natural and human history in three lectures. First, Socrates recapitulates the key points of yesterday's remarks, with which he met with general approval. His model envisages a corporate state and social order in which everyone takes on the task according to his disposition. The citizenship should be divided into three parts and organized hierarchically. The lowest level is made up of the producers (farmers and artisans). Above them is the class of warriors or guards who are responsible for both the defense of the state and the judiciary. State control is incumbent on the rulers . The guards receive thorough training. They have no private property, but live in community of property . Their unity is also shown in the fact that they do not start families; on the contrary, the entire guardianship forms a single large family, with reproduction being regulated by the state according to eugenic criteria. The class affiliation results first of all from the descent, but ultimately the decisive factor is the individual disposition and probation. A core element of the model is the careful upbringing of the adolescents, which is based on individual talent.

Now Socrates would like to get a clear impression of what a practical implementation of his concept could look like. But he does not trust himself to be able to present such a concrete representation. Therefore he would like to hear from the others a description of the great deeds that can be expected from the ruling class of such a state. With this in mind, his three hosts have already made an agreement among themselves. Critias wants to tell of heroic deeds of a long forgotten prehistoric age, which he considers to be historical events. He noticed a striking similarity between the conditions at the time and Socrates' model of an ideal state. Thanks to this agreement, the story of Critias is ideally suited to illustrate the Socratic theory. Furthermore, it shows that a concept of this kind has already experienced historical realization. To authenticate his portrayal, Kritias refers to his grandfather of the same name. As an old man, he had once described those heroic deeds to him as they were reported to him, his grandfather, by the famous statesman Solon .

It is agreed that the three lectures by Timaeus, Critias and Hermocrates should follow one another according to the chronological order of their topics. So it is Timaeus' turn first, who has to report on the creation of the world and mankind. Therefore, at first Critias only gives an overview of his subject and then leaves the floor to Timaeus. Only after his lecture will Kritias begin to give a detailed account of the hero's story, which he describes as strange but completely true. It forms the theme of the Critias' dialogue .

The summarizing short lecture of Critias

According to the speaker, Solon once said the following. In Egypt, the city of Sais is located in the Nile Delta , whose inhabitants are traditionally friends with the Athenians. Solon stayed there for some time. He had the opportunity to receive a report from an ancient Egyptian priest about a distant past that is no longer known in Greece. One of the periodically occurring gigantic, cataclysmic natural disasters wiped out the Greek civilization of that time; only illiterate people survived. Egypt, on the other hand, was spared, where ancient records have been preserved in the temples. They tell of the circumstances and events before the Deucalionic Flood , the last devastating flood to which Greek tradition goes back.

Among the states that existed before the flood, the Athenian (original Athens) was the most important according to Egyptian historical records. The original Athenians performed the most glorious deeds. Their state, organized according to estates, flourished nine millennia before Solon's time. The antagonist Ur-Athens was the kingdom of Atlantis , which had its center on a huge island that was later submerged in the Atlantic Ocean and ruled the western Mediterranean. In the attempt to subjugate Greece as well, however, the Atlantic force was defeated by the original Athenians, whose excellent state system proved itself brilliantly with this victory.

The Lecture of Timaeus

After the concise account of Critias, Timaeus gives his long lecture, which makes up the rest of the dialogue. He has set out to depict the origin and nature of the world and the origin of mankind, whereby not mythical tradition, but natural philosophical speculation forms the basis. As a pious person, Timaeus begins by invoking the gods. Then he turns to the philosophical presupposition of his cosmological explanations, the distinction between being and becoming.

Being and becoming

In the sense of Platonic ontology , the doctrine of being or of beings as such, Timaeus distinguishes between two main types of entities . On the one hand there is the “always being” that has never arisen and is immortal and never changes, and on the other hand there is the “always becoming” that never “is” due to its incessant change, but only exists as a process. The two main genres correspond to two different types of perception by humans: the permanent, the eternal can be the object of real knowledge, on the other hand there are only assumptions and opinions about the changeable, because it is always subject to relativity and has no permanent, precise and reliably perceptible quality . Therefore, statements about processes can only apply to a limited extent. Something that is universally and time-independent valid, absolutely true, can only be said about beings. All objects of sensory perception belong to the "becoming". Being and thus recognizable in the actual sense are only pure rational contents .

The ontological order is hierarchical , it implies valuation: the eternal, always the same is objectively “better” than the created and changeable, it has a higher rank in the world order. It is also the reason that what has arisen exists. Everything that has arisen necessarily has a cause, that is, a producer, and a pattern according to which it was created. It is an image of the pattern. If the pattern is a really existing, eternal archetype - an " idea " in the sense of Plato's theory of ideas - then the image is inevitably successful and beautiful. If, on the other hand, an image is created according to an inferior pattern that is itself only an image of something else, it will not turn out so good. These general statements form the framework for Timaeus' epistemology and for his philosophical explanation of the world. The cosmos is perceptible to the senses, that is, it has "become" and belongs to what is becoming. Therefore, absolutely correct statements about its origin are in principle impossible. The model of the creation of the world - the cosmogony - of the Timaeus can thus, as he emphasized at the beginning, only be a "well reproducing myth" (eikṓs mýthos) , that is, an inevitably flawed but usable representation of reality. You have to be satisfied with that, striving for more is pointless.

After all, based on these considerations, a statement can already be made about the cosmos: It is obvious that it is extraordinarily beautiful and that it must be an image as something that has become. From this it follows that he has a producer who created him according to a pattern, and that only something existing and eternal can be considered as his archetype.

The reason for its origin and the uniqueness of the cosmos

Timaeus sees the reason of creation in the goodness of the Creator. He is convinced that the creator of the world is absolutely good. Therefore, he is necessarily completely free from envy and resentment, benevolent and always striving to achieve the best possible. From this it inevitably follows that he did not want to keep the good to himself, but rather allowed it to all and strived for everything to be as similar to him as possible. Therefore, he had to create the best possible cosmos. No other decision was possible for him, because otherwise he would have violated his own benevolent nature, which is impossible. Since the god never changes his nature, he can only act as his character requires. Hence his benevolence extends to matter that he did not create but found. It already existed before creation and was then in a state of chaotic movement, which corresponds to its own nature and is present when no ordering principle from the outside counteracts the chaos. Since this condition was not optimal, the Creator had to intervene and shape the universe. From the formless chaos he created the sensibly ordered cosmos and gave it the greatest possible beauty. Since such beauty can only be due to what is reasonable and only what is animated can be reasonable, the Creator gave the universe a soul, the world soul . This is how the cosmos came into being as a reasonable living being.

The pattern according to which the cosmos is designed is the spiritual world, which includes all contents of reason. From this Timaeus concludes that there can only be one universe. The spiritual world must form a unity, because otherwise it would only be a part of something more comprehensive and higher-ranking, and then the creator would have taken this as a pattern to create the optimal physical image of the spiritual.

The creation of the world body

Then Timaeus turns to the creation and nature of the world body - the visible body of the world soul. Since the material in the cosmos is visible and palpable, the elements fire and earth must have been involved in its creation , because without fire nothing is visible and without earth nothing is solid and tangible. In addition, two mediating links were needed between earth and fire so that a wholeness could arise. This resulted in the four elements of fire, air, water and earth. The Creator determined the harmonic relationship of the elements according to a mathematical proportion in which the first of four numbers is related to the second as the second to the third and the third to the fourth. He made the celestial body spherical, since the sphere is the most perfect geometric body, and only gave it the most perfect kind of movement, rotation.

The creation of the world soul and its connection with the world body

In the world body, the Creator placed the world soul as an invigorating principle. So the cosmos became a completely self-sufficient being, a created deity. Since he has everything he needs in him perfectly and is in harmony with himself, Timaeus calls him a "blessed God".

The Creator God created the world soul before the world body, into which he then implanted it. In creating them, he resorted to the two basic principles of being and becoming, and mixed them up. This created a “third essence”, a mixed form that combines the quality of eternal, indivisible being with that of becoming and divisibility. During the mixing process, he had to forcibly join the natures of the opposing principles “same” and “other”. Then he divided his product according to a mathematical process that precisely describes Timaeus and formed a complex structure from the parts, the world soul. He took three steps to divide. In the first step, he separated seven parts from the whole, which were in a ratio of 1: 2: 3: 4: 9: 8: 27. There were “gaps” between these parts, which he then filled in in the second and third step with further parts that he cut off from the whole. With this method he finally arrived at the ratio 256: 243, which is the mathematical description of the Pythagorean semitone ( Limma ) in music theory . Within the world soul, he set two circular movements in motion, the outer circle of the "same" and the inner circle of the "other". Then he connected the center of the world body with the center of the world soul. The result is the cosmos, the soul of which penetrates the spherical body of the universe everywhere and envelops it from outside.

Time and eternity

The next step was to create measurable time. It came into being at the same time as the order of heaven; the regular movements of the heavenly bodies made it possible to delimit time units, to measure time. Time is to be understood as a “moving image of eternity”. For those people whose existence takes place within time, thinking in terms of time is a matter of course. Hence their language is designed according to temporal experience; when it comes to the distinction between the temporal and the timeless, it is imprecise.

After the Creator had created the seven relatively near-earth celestial bodies - the sun, the moon and the five planets known in ancient times, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn - he put them into their orbits. According to the geocentric world view of Timaeus, these heavenly bodies orbit the earth, which forms the center of the universe. The even circular movement of the sun and moon is ideal. The movements of the planets seem aimless to the earthly observer, but they are also lawful, which only astronomers understand. The orbits of the seven heavenly bodies are assigned to the circular path of the “other” of the world soul, which runs diagonally to the path of the “same” and crosses it. What is meant by the orbit of the “same” is the equator of the celestial sphere and that of the “other” is the ecliptic . The fixed star sky, on the other hand, is based on the path of the “same” of the world soul.

The origin of the gods and other living beings

In the next phase of his activity, the Creator brought forth the "visible and created" gods of the fixed stars. Like all incarnate beings, they are mortal in their own nature, but by the will of the Creator they live forever, because because of his goodness he cannot want something as good as these deities to be dissolved. For the completion of the world, the earthly creatures were needed, which were to populate the water, the air and the land, including humans in particular. The creator could not create these beings himself, because as his products they would be more perfect than it corresponds to their earthly way of existence, they would then have a divine nature. Then the world would have remained without its inhabitants subject to the cycle of birth and death, there would be no living beings below the divine level. Such a world would be incomplete and therefore imperfect. Therefore the Creator commissioned the created gods to produce the inhabitants of the earth. He created their souls himself in the same mixing jug that he had already used for the creation of the world soul. Each soul is assigned to a certain star, its home star.

The explanation for the connection of the immortal souls, the number of which is constant, with the continuously arising and perishing bodies is offered by the doctrine of the migration of souls. The souls are always reborn in new bodies. Their fate in this cycle depends on their lifestyle. The most advantageous earthly form of existence is that of a man. Those who fail in a life as a man are born again as a woman; if he fails further, he receives an animal body. Timaeus emphasizes that all souls initially had the same starting conditions. The evils that attack them in the course of the transmigration of souls are exclusively due to their own wrongdoing, not to the will of the Creator or the gods.

The gods carried out the commission by imitating the activity of the Creator; they created bodies and put souls in them. This resulted in great difficulties for the souls, since they were now exposed to violent influences from their material environment. As a result, they temporarily lost their sanity. This continues to be the case in every human life: After entering a body, the soul is at first unreasonable, only later does it become reasonable in the course of life.

Timaeus next describes the creation and nature of the human body. He explains its usefulness, primarily dealing with the head. The gods created the spherical head of man by replicating the perfect round shape of the universe. Therefore the head is the most divine thing in man, the rest of the body is subordinate to it as a servant. Timaeus presents his theory of optical perception in detail.

The role of necessity

So far, Timaeus has mainly dealt with what is produced by divine reason, the nous . In the following, he includes the second main factor in the creation of the cosmos, necessity (anánkē) , in his considerations. According to his theory, the world came into being through the coming together of reason and necessity. Reason has taken the dominant role in this. She always wanted to do the best, but encountered obstacles stemming from necessity. Therefore reason had to “convince” the necessity of “leading most of what is becoming to the best”. She managed to persuade the need to give in. This does not mean, however, that creation was designed entirely according to the will of reason. In addition to the targeted action of reason, there was also the influence of the “form of the wandering cause”, a random factor.

The space

If one wants to gain a better understanding of the universe, one has to consider a “third genus” in addition to the two main givens considered so far, the existing archetypes and their evolving images. Timaeus describes this as "difficult and dark". It is the authority that absorbs all becoming. Their function is comparable to that of a wet nurse.

The starting point for the following considerations is Timaeus' criticism of the cosmological approaches of the earlier philosophers, the pre-Socratics . The pre-Socratic natural philosophy was based on the doctrine of the four elements earth, water, air and fire, from which the cosmos is composed according to the understanding of the time. Pre-Socratic thinkers tried to determine a material primal principle, the "origin of everything"; some equate it with one of the four elements from which everything else then emerged. Timaeus thinks this approach is a mistake. Although he also starts from the four elements, he does not see any primary givens in them that could be considered as origin. If a substance were the origin of everything, it would have to be stable. However, the four elements are unstable; they change and merge through processes such as solidification and melting, volatilization and ignition. They are not substances (a "this"), but only states of aggregation (a "such"). Timaeus compares this with different figures made of gold, which are just different, changing shapes of the one substance gold. That which absorbs all physical things, however, has to be something permanent, a "this". So that it can contain all visible forms, it must itself be invisible and formless. This substrate , the “wet nurse of becoming”, is the chṓra , the space. Originally the room was only the place of the irregular, the chaotic, the amorphous primordial matter. By using “shapes and numbers” what he found there, the Creator created the basis of order. This is how the system of the four elements came about.

The elements and the aesthetics of the cosmos

From the amorphous primordial matter, the god created the four elements. He started with the triangle, the simplest flat figure. From triangles he constructed three-dimensional figures in the form of regular convex polyhedra , which he used as tiny building blocks of the elements, invisible to the human eye. For each element, he took one of these geometric bodies as the basic building block. He built three of the bodies, the tetrahedron , the octahedron and the icosahedron , from equilateral triangles , the fourth, the regular hexahedron ( cube ), from six squares, each of which he constructed from four isosceles right-angled triangles. He created fire from the tetrahedral building blocks, the air from the octahedral ones, the water from the icosahedral ones and the earth from the cube-shaped ones. Another polyhedron, the dodecahedron , he used in the construction of the universe. The entire visible world is made up of these five polyhedra, which today - in connection with the Timaeus - are called " platonic solids ". The assumption that the basic building blocks of the four elements have precisely these four forms results for Timaeus from the principle that God must have created the cosmos optimally. Because of its perfection, the cosmos as a whole and with regard to its components must have the greatest possible beauty for a three-dimensional structure, as far as this is compatible with the requirements of expediency. The five platonic solids are the only regular convex polyhedra that exist. They offer the highest degree of symmetry and therefore beauty. If the deity couldn't find anything more beautiful, it must inevitably have used these shapes. For Timaeus, nothing is accidental or arbitrary in the construction of the cosmos, but everything results inevitably from the meeting of the will to create aesthetic, expediency requirements and mathematical necessity.

In this context, Timaeus returns to the question of a possible multiplicity of worlds discussed earlier . He continues to exclude an infinite number, but he is now more cautious. He contemplates the possibility that there are five worlds that correspond to the five platonic solids. Although he decides again for the uniqueness of the world, since this is the best-founded theory, he now leaves the possibility of the number five open.

The explanation of nature with the Platonic theory of elements

The theory, according to which there are a total of four elements, which differ in the stereometry of their basic building blocks, serves Timaeus as the basis for his explanation of a number of natural phenomena. He interprets these as the results of the interaction of the elementary particles; For example, fire has a dissolving effect due to the sharpness of its particles. The earth particles are the only ones that have a square base; therefore the earth is the most stable and immobile element. It cannot be converted into another element. The other three elements, the particles of which are constructed from triangles, can merge into one another; For example, two fire particles can arise from one air particle. During these processes, the particles are split apart or they come together to form a new polyhedron. Timaeus goes into great detail. Among other things, he explains how kinematic properties, processes such as melting and solidification as well as perceptions such as “warm” and “cold”, “hard” and “soft”, “heavy” and “light” can be explained in the context of his physical worldview. He denies that there is an above and a below in space, because for him the globe does not break up into two different hemispheres. Pleasure and pain sensations as well as taste, smell, sound and color perception are also explained in this context.

The human being

In the overview of natural history that Timaeus offers in his lecture, the next topic is the human being. It is described from the point of view of the connection and interaction of soul and body. At the beginning Timaeus again emphasizes the importance of symmetry and mathematical proportion in the world order. Fundamental to his concept of the relationship between body and soul is the distinction between an immortal and a mortal soul part, with the mortal part being subdivided. According to Timaeus, only the part of the soul initially created by the world creator is immortal. The gods, who were commissioned to put the immortal souls into mortal bodies, had to create mortal soul parts for this purpose, which are responsible for the interaction of the soul with the body and the material environment. As far as possible, they separated these transient parts from the far more noble part of the soul, which is by nature divine. This was done by making the head the abode of the immortal, rational part and separating it from the torso by the neck.

The gods determined the different regions of the trunk to be the seat of senseless, perishable parts of the soul: they assigned courage and anger to the area above the diaphragm, and the urge to eat to the area between the diaphragm and navel. They arranged the entire anatomy in such a way that it optimally supports the various functions of the body and its interaction with the parts of the soul. Timaeus shows how this is done by discussing the individual organs and areas of the body, whereby he also goes into breathing, nutrition and blood.

In connection with the treatment of the breathing process, Timaeus comes to speak of the question of emptiness. He denies the existence of a vacuum . In his opinion there is nothing empty, rather the whole universe is densely packed with particles that collide everywhere. Supposed miraculous phenomena such as magnetism can be explained by the direct interaction of the particles; the hypothesis of an attraction is superfluous.

Age and death are phenomena that can be explained physically. Death in itself is not contrary to nature. It is painful when it is caused by illness or wound. But if it occurs naturally due to age, it is not only painless, but also - like everything natural - pleasant. The soul then flies away, and that is a pleasurable process for them.

Sickness and healing

Then Timaeus goes into the development of diseases. He sees their causes in an overabundance or deficiency of one of the four elements in the body or in the non-natural production and distribution of the elements and the substances formed from them. He analyzes the decomposition and inflammation processes in detail. Among the mental illnesses, he considers excessive feelings of pain or pleasure to be particularly bad, as they can turn off reason. He interprets some ailments as the consequences of physical influences on the soul or an inharmonious relationship between body and soul. This creates an unhealthy state when a strong, powerful soul inhabits a relatively weak body and overwhelms it. When a strong body is associated with a weak mind, the soul becomes dull, dishonest, forgetful, and ignorant.

Healing means returning to the natural state, to harmony and balance. In this way man imitates the excellence of the cosmos in himself, especially its beauty, which is based on appropriateness and harmonious proportions. The harmful one-sidedness of an excessive preponderance of mental or physical activity must be avoided; Where such an imbalance has arisen in the way of life, a balance has to be created. A healthy lifestyle with plenty of physical activity is preferable to the use of medicines. The means of maintaining mental health is to deal with and orientate yourself to the cosmic harmonies. It brings people into harmony with the universe and leads them to eudaimonia , the "bliss" that results from a successful life. This is possible because the immortal part of the soul is not an earthly, but a heavenly “plant”.

The transmigration of souls as a degeneration

Then Timaeus turned to reproduction and the animal world. In doing so, he comes back to his doctrine of the migration of souls and summarizes them briefly. The ethical aspect is in the foreground for him . A soul gets into increasingly unfavorable circumstances through irrationality and a bad lifestyle. Anyone who has lived unjustly as a man is born again as a woman. If a soul has not tried properly or not at all for knowledge in human existence, it fails because of its ignorance and enters an animal body in the next life. There are gradations within the animal world; the lowest level is life as an aquatic animal that is even unable to breathe air.

The final word

Timaeus closes his lecture with an enthusiastic praise of the cosmos. For him the cosmos is a divine living being of perfect beauty, a visible deity, the unique image of the invisible but mentally comprehensible Creator.


The eikos myth

A main topic of research is the question of how Plato assessed the truth of statements about the creation of the world. His Timaeus takes a fundamental position on the reliability of assertions in the field of cosmogony. He speaks of an eikos mythos , a report that he presents that reproduces reality relatively well. He is skeptical about the recognizability of what is going on in the realm of what has become and what is becoming. He thinks that reliable knowledge about it is in principle unattainable, so one should be satisfied with a usable model. In the philosophical-historical discourse, the classification of this concept in the epistemology of the philosopher known from other works, especially the Dialog Politeia , is discussed . It is about the question of how, in the terminology of Plato's parable of lines, the realistic (eikos) of Timaeus should be described with regard to the reliability of the mode of knowledge. According to a widespread research opinion , it is to be equated with “ holding to be true(pístis) , which is a kind of opinion (dóxa) , a trust in the correctness of not sufficiently secured opinions. According to another interpretation, it corresponds to the much more reliable mode of knowledge of conceptual thinking (diánoia) . The mixing of elements of mythical narrative with philosophical argumentation is interpreted differently: Partly the mythical aspect is emphasized, partly the scientific approach, the basis of which is the attempt to derive an explanation of nature from mathematical facts. The question of whether the epistemological restriction to relative closeness to reality only affects the cosmological statements or also the epistemology itself is answered differently. It is predominantly assumed in research that Plato made a claim to truth for his epistemological theses.

Difficult and controversial is the translation of Plato's term eikos , which roughly means “well reproduced”. It is often translated as “likely”, which is problematic, as it is not a question of probability in the sense we are familiar with today. The widespread translation of “plausible” also meets with contradictions. What is meant is a model concept that, like any model, inevitably has defects and what it is supposed to represent cannot satisfactorily reproduce in all respects, but which nevertheless represents a useful approximation to a reality that cannot be better understood. What the various translations and paraphrases have in common is that such a “myth” is in any case inadequate in a certain sense and therefore only partially reliable.

The demiurge

The figure of the demiurge is interpreted differently in research and placed in the context of the Platonic ontology. It has mythical traits and is often interpreted as the personification of a principle, whereby the principle of the good and the nous are primarily taken into account. The equation of the demiurge with the totality of the Platonic ideas is widespread. If it is about the nous, the question arises whether the nous of the world soul or a separate nous that exists independently of it is meant. The objection to the determination of the Creator as Nous is that in Platonism , Nous can only exist in a soul, but the world soul is a product of Plato's Creator God.

A fundamental difference between the demiurge Plato and the Christian Creator God is that in Timaeus the Creator is by no means omnipotent and did not create the world out of nothing. Rather, the demiurge only forms a pre-existing matter in a pre-existing space, encountering the resistance of necessity. He has to overcome this resistance by “convincing”, which he largely but not completely succeeds.

The need

In research, Plato's concept of “necessity” is an often discussed topic. The Greek word anánkē as well as its German translation “Necessity” contains the aspect of requirement and enabling as well as that of restriction and compulsion. Plato's necessity is both a prerequisite for the spiritual in the physical to become visible as well as a restriction, since visible images can only show the nature of their archetypes to a limited extent. It is thus both a contributory cause and an obstacle to creation. An essential difference between the Platonic and the modern term is that the Platonic does not imply any law, but on the contrary excludes this aspect. The hallmark of Platonic necessity is irregularity, the absence of order.

In the pre-cosmic world, which - in terms of time - existed before the creation of the cosmos, the predominant research opinion was that the aimlessly working necessity was the determining factor. Whether an influence of world reason can already be assumed for the pre-cosmos or even the necessity itself already contained a germ of reason and order and pre-structured the elements is controversial. According to the wording of the Timaeus , there was no influence of world reason before creation, but some historians of philosophy do not take this statement literally. They think that necessity cannot cause anything by itself, so reason must have been the cause even then. By the contrary interpretation, there are effects of pure necessity; the chaotic character of the pre-cosmos results only from its aimlessness, not from an existing lack of causality.

Luc Brisson emphasizes the purely mechanical character of necessity. In the context of the timely model of the Timaeus , he differentiates between three stages. In the first, pre-cosmic stage, “pure” necessity, which is not subject to the influence of reason, creates a chaotic state. At the end of this stage, she becomes convinced of reason and begins to cooperate with it. The interaction of the two factors enables the creation of the cosmos, which takes place in the second stage. Thus necessity becomes a subordinate or auxiliary cause of creation. In the third stage the creation is completed, the demiurge has withdrawn. Now the influence of reason only asserts itself through the world soul, which has taken over the control of the world, while necessity continues to play a role as a cooperating second cause. According to Brisson's understanding, the stages can only be separated mentally, not in the sense of a real temporal sequence, since the “generation” of time is not conceivable as a temporal process, but only as an ontological fact.

A hypothesis that completely deviates from the usual interpretations is that there is no need in the pre-cosmic world. Rather, the explanations of the Timaeus should be understood in such a way that the necessity only appeared with the creation. The term “necessity” relates to the relationship between cause and effect, which has only existed since creation, and not to the pre-cosmic self-movement of matter.

The spatial and material aspect

Another research discussion revolves around the “wet nurse of becoming”, the chora . This term is usually translated as “ space ”. However, this does not mean a potentially empty space. Rather, the chora has both spatial and material character, so that one can speak of “space-matter”. It is the stable substrate that receives material objects; it gives them spatial expansion and thus enables them to exist physically. An adequate interpretation of Plato's relevant statements must take into account both the spatial and the material aspect of the chora . Space cannot be thought of in isolation, it is always related to the bodies present in it. It can be separated from its material content only conceptually, not really. Dana Miller takes a different view from this standard interpretation (“One Entity View”). It means that the receiving entity is physical, but something other than the space or place that is a separate entity.

As a neutral, formless entity that enables existence through its indeterminacy, the chora has similarities with the “indefinite duality”, which plays an important role in Plato's doctrine of principles . There the indefinite duality is one of the two highest principles to which everything is reduced. The assertion that the “unwritten teaching” or the theory of principles, which has only been handed down indirectly, is an authentic Plato concept and that its main features can be reconstructed, is one of the most controversial hypotheses in Plato research. Proponents of authenticity base their hypothesis, among other things, on the statements about the chora - the material and spatial principle - in the Timaeus . Michael Erler compares Plato's concept of the chora with that of the field in modern physics.

The matter of pre-cosmic space was not absolutely undifferentiated. It already contained “traces” (íchnē) of the elements that the Creator then produced when the cosmos was created. The traces can be understood as aggregate states of pre-cosmic matter. Difficult is the problem of chaotic movement in pre-cosmic space, the cause of which is not specified in the Timaeus and is controversial in research. One explanatory hypothesis assumes the influence of ideas as the cause, others assign the role of the principle of movement to necessity, the already acting world reason, an irrational part of the world soul, an irrational psychic force outside the world soul, the chora or the inhomogeneity of substances. According to the latter hypothesis, matter causes its own movement.

The nature of the triangles and squares that make up the elements is disputed. Numerous hypotheses have been put forward and discussed. These include the assumptions that we are dealing with two-dimensional geometric figures, immaterial physical objects, two-dimensional boundaries of space, three-dimensional bodies or a purely theoretical concept.

The relationship between Plato's mathematical concept of the smallest building blocks of sense objects and the materialistic atomism of his older contemporary Democritus has received a lot of attention in research . Plato's model is seen as a reaction to that Democritus, with which it bears considerable similarities. A fundamental difference is that Democritus viewed the atoms as a primary fact, for which he was not looking for an immaterial cause and whose movement he did not try to explain, while Plato presented his model as part of his comprehensive metaphysical explanation of the world. In addition, the two models differ, among other things, in that Democritus, unlike Plato, assumed the existence of an empty space and considered the atoms to be immutable and indivisible.

The mixing processes

An intensely discussed research topic are the mixing processes in the creation of the world soul by the creator god, the demiurge , and the individual souls by the gods subordinate to him. The role of the mean values ​​( geometric , harmonic and arithmetic mean ) in the representation of the mathematical basis of the creation of the world soul is emphasized. In his statements on the structure of the world soul, Plato probably took into account the mathematical relationships on which musical harmony is based. However, he did not address the music-theoretical interpretation of the numerical ratios given, but rather left the appropriate conclusions to the knowledgeable reader. It is controversial in research whether he was interested in music theory in the narrower sense or whether he was only interested in the connection of musical laws and phenomena with the general structure of beings.

The individual steps in the formation of the world soul are controversial in research, since the traditional wording of the text passage is problematic and its correctness is doubted. There are several serious text problems. A change to the allegedly incorrectly transmitted text has been proposed and discussed. There are ambiguities in the punctuation, which have consequences for the content. The coincidence of textual and content-related difficulties is a major obstacle to interpretation. A mutually satisfactory solution has not yet been found. Because of the resulting uncertainty, the job will be translated differently, depending on which solution the translator favors.

The problem of the temporal origin of the cosmos

The question, which was already controversially discussed in antiquity, whether the account of the creation of space in time should be understood literally, also occupies modern interpreters. As with the ancient Platonists, the majority opinion in research is that Plato kept the cosmos forever. Only for didactic reasons did he fictitiously project the timeless onto a temporal level in order to make it easier to grasp for time-bound human thinking. According to a direction of interpretation based on the eternity of the world, creation is not a one-time act, but an eternal process. Another hypothesis assumes that the world came into being, but understands this as a “timeless act” through which time was constituted by being measurable. In the sense of a timeless act, there is also talk of a “timeless emergence”, a “stepping into being without time”. In the dialogue, Plato's Timaeus repeatedly and emphatically points out the difficulty of the task of presenting his subject appropriately. The background for these warnings against excessive trust in the correctness of one's own opinion is probably the fact that the question of the origin of the world in Plato's school, the academy , was heavily contested.

An important argument against a literal interpretation is the fact that the soul in the Phaedrus dialogue is described as not having come into being, while the Timaeus describes the creation of the world soul, the individual souls and the cosmos. If one takes the representation in the Timaeus literally, a contradiction arises that is difficult to explain if one does not want to accept a vacillation or a change of opinion of Plato or take the “creation” of the world soul metaphorically .

The question of whether Plato assigned a time to the pre-cosmic world and how he possibly imagined it is controversial. According to a research hypothesis, the pre-cosmic state is characterized by the lack of an earlier-later relation, an " arrow of time ". According to another interpretation, there was already irreversible time, but it was not yet measurable. But the assumption of a pre-cosmic time has also met with sharp, fundamental rejection.

Serious and joking

With some statements of the Timaeus it is controversial whether they are meant seriously or as a joke. In particular, the passage about different types of animal incarnations of the soul is viewed by some interpreters as a humorous contribution. However, the fundamentals of the transmigration theory correspond to a real conviction of Plato. The remark by Timaeus that the gods gave man long intestines so that digestion would take a long time and insatiability would be reduced is also considered joking.

The political aspect

The political issue dealt with at the beginning of the dialogue is quantitatively much less than that of natural philosophy. Nevertheless, as Lothar Schäfer in particular has pointed out, a political issue not only forms the starting point of the conversation, but also the background to the entire text. The considerations of natural philosophy are not made for their own sake, but are aimed at a useful application that affects the conduct of life and social organization. Plato's large-scale project aims to support ethical and political demands through the representation of a cosmic order, which is to provide the model for a correspondingly ordered human existence. Since the universe is optimally set up as a divine product, what is valid in nature, natural “ justice ”, can be determined as absolutely natural and equated with what is right. The right thing recognized in this way can then be transferred to human conditions and made a binding norm of action. The absolute immutability of the cosmic order should be reflected in the relative stability of a state that is as best as possible.

The story of Atlantis, which is only sketched in the Timaeus , and which should be presented in greater detail in the unfinished Critias, stands entirely in the service of the author's political goals . According to current research, the story is a free invention of Plato; there is no evidence of an earlier existence of the substance. The research discussion revolves around the question of whether Plato assumed that his readers would easily see through the fictional character of the narrative. This is supported by the striking analogy between the role of the mythical original Athenians in the defensive struggle against Atlantis and that of the historical Athenians in the Persian Wars . In addition, Plato signals the fictionality with various references.

Bust of Plato (Roman copy of the Greek Plato portrait of Silanion , Glyptothek Munich )


Today there is agreement that the Timaeus is one of the late dialogues. The language statistic findings speak for the late dating. Avoiding the hiat is a weighty stylistic argument . Mostly it is assumed that it is one of the last works of the philosopher and that it was written after 360 BC. Took place. From a content point of view, however, this classification does not fit with the “revisionist” interpretation of the development of Plato's ontology advocated by numerous historians of philosophy. The revisionists believe that in his last creative phase, Plato gave up the idea that ideas should be understood as archetypal patterns of sense objects. In the Timaeus , however, such an understanding of the ideas is presupposed, which in terms of content seems to bring the dialogue close to the works of the middle period. This has led some researchers to date it relatively early. In their opinion, the Timaeus is the last work to be written in the middle ages. This view, which is mainly represented by Gwilym EL Owen and also substantiated with further arguments in terms of content and style, is refuted according to the prevailing doctrine of today. A substantively substantiated early dating of the Timaeus - before the final version of Parmenides - was defended in 2005 by Kenneth M. Sayre.


No other work by Plato had a greater impact in European intellectual history than that of Timaeus . The thought that man is constructed analogously to the cosmos and reflects this as a microcosm proved to be particularly powerful.


Even in antiquity, the Timaeus was considered dark and difficult to understand. It has been eagerly studied and commented on and is often quoted. The ancient interpreters were particularly concerned with the question of whether the story of creation should be understood literally in the sense of a world originating in time or should only illustrate the timeless order of an eternal world with narrative means. Many rejected the literal interpretation. The answer to the question of a temporal beginning of the world was seen as an existential problem because it had far-reaching philosophical and religious consequences. Therefore the philosophers conducted the discussion with extraordinary intensity. The historicity of the Atlantis story was also controversial.

In the tetralogical order of the works of Plato, which apparently in the 1st century BC The Timaeus belongs to the eighth tetralogy. An alternative title was About Nature .

From the 4th to the 1st century BC Chr.

In Plato's philosophy school, the academy , soon after the founder's death, the view that the description of the origin of the world could not mean a beginning in time apparently dominated. The school principals Speusippus and Xenocrates were of this opinion . They said that Plato chose a temporal representation only for didactic considerations; in reality he had considered the world soul to be timeless and therefore also the world to be beginningless.

Plato's pupil Aristotle quoted the Timaeus more often than any other dialogue of his teacher, whereby he took a very critical position on the content. He assumed that the world began in time and tried to refute this view. According to his cosmology, the universe is not arose and immortal; In principle, what has arisen cannot be immortal. He also fought against the teaching of Timaeus ; He was particularly offended by the idea that the soul is an extended quantity and must be determined as a principle of movement and that its spatial movement is a movement of thought. Aristotle also rejected the Platonic theory of the elements, the concept of space and the pre-cosmic movement. Aristotle's students Theophrast and Clearchus von Soloi also studied the Timaeus . Theophrast thought Atlantis was historical. In his treatise on sensory perception (De sensibus) , he dealt critically with individual statements in the Timaeus relating to this topic . Klearchus interpreted the report on the origin of the world soul.

The first, only fragmentarily preserved Timaeus commentary - or perhaps just an interpretation of selected passages of the dialogue - was written by Krantor von Soloi († 276/275 BC), a student of Xenocrates. From an indirectly transmitted fragment of the commentary it appears that Krantor considered the Atlantis myth to be a historical fact. This passage is considered evidence of an early discussion about the historicity of the Atlantis story. The interpretation of the passage is, however, controversial; possibly it is not a matter of Krantor's own expression of opinion, but only a reproduction of a statement in the Timaeus . Krantor was of the opinion that the account of creation should not be understood in a temporal sense.

Epicurus († 271/270 BC) criticized Timaeus' theory of geometric elements in his book On Nature . He called them ridiculous. His argumentation has only survived in fragments.

Cicero translated in 45 BC BC or soon afterwards part of the Timaeus - about a quarter of Plato's text - into Latin. He omitted the introductory part and the lecture of Critias as well as the last part of Timaeus' lecture; his text begins with the explanations of Timaeus on the philosophical presuppositions of cosmology. Cicero's translation has been preserved, albeit incomplete.

The early Middle Platonist Eudorus of Alexandria , who probably lived around the middle and in the second half of the 1st century BC. Was active, wrote a now lost script, which was either a commentary on the entire Timaeus or an explanation of Plato's remarks on the world soul. He thought the world had not come into being and took the account of creation metaphorically.

From the 1st to the 3rd century

In the first three centuries of the Christian era, the Timaeus was Plato's most famous work, as a wealth of quotations shows. He was not only studied in philosophical circles, but was also familiar to a broad, educated public; one could assume that every educated person had read it.

The Jewish philosopher and theologian Philo of Alexandria used the ideas of Timaeus in his interpretation of Genesis . He was deeply impressed by the parallels between the two accounts of creation.

The historian and philosopher Plutarch wrote a treatise on the creation of the world soul according to Timaeus and another - lost today - on the origin of the cosmos. He strongly advocated the temporal interpretation of the creation account. In addition, in his Platonic Questions (Quaestiones Platonicae) he dealt with individual problems and points in the dialogue.

Christian authors claimed that Plato had used theological knowledge in Timaeus that he did not gain through his own knowledge, but rather took from the writings of Moses . Justin the Martyr (2nd century), Clemens of Alexandria (2nd / 3rd century) and the unknown author of the Cohortatio ad Graecos (pseudo-Justin) subordinate him to dependence on the teaching of Moses .

The Middle Platonists who wrote commentaries on Timaeus in the 2nd and 3rd centuries included Severos , Lukios Kalbenos Tauros , Attikos , Harpokration von Argos (as part of a comprehensive Plato commentary) and Longinos . These comments, lost today, are known only from mentions and quotations in later ancient literature. In his apparently extensive work, Attikos spoke out in favor of a literal interpretation of Plato's statements about the origin of the world and the world soul, with which he agreed with Plutarch's opinion - a minority position among the Platonists. From the Middle Platonists Ailianos and Demokritos , statements on individual questions have come down to us, either from comments on the entire Timaeus or from special studies on certain aspects of the dialogue. The surviving information about the Timaeus interpretation of the Platonic Origen is probably based on notes made by a student from a course given by this scholar.

The Middle Platonist Numenios , who lived around the middle of the 2nd century, was strongly influenced by the Timaeus . He considered the Atlantean myth to be pure fiction with no historical background and interpreted it allegorically in the context of his version of the Platonic theory of the soul. He is convinced that there is a second soul in the cosmos in addition to the good world soul, which is also immortal, but is naturally evil. He considered the evil soul to be the cause of the self-movement of matter. He also held them responsible for the creation of everything bad in people. He regarded the descent of the individual souls into the physical world, their entry into the human body, as a fundamental misfortune. According to his interpretation, the struggle of the original Athenians against the armed forces of Atlantis symbolizes the conflict between the host of better souls under the direction of the goddess Athena , the representative of reason, and the numerically superior group of the worse souls who are subordinate to the sea god Poseidon .

The Timaeus commentary by the Peripatetic Adrastos of Aphrodisias was written in the 2nd century and later served scholars as a valuable manual, but today it is lost, except for fragments. It was probably primarily or exclusively an explanation of technical details. Adrastos went into detail on the theory of numbers and their role in cosmology and music theory. The Peripatetic Alexander of Aphrodisias defended the Aristotelian point of view on the question of the eternity of the world.

The famous doctor Galen wrote a commentary on the Timaeus , some of which are extensive fragments. He not only offered explanations, but also commented on the content. He also prepared a summary of the content of the dialogue, which is only available in partial Arabic translation today. He was particularly interested in psychosomatic relationships. Based on his experience, he was convinced that physical factors cause mental illness, and he also referred to the Timaeus for this .

With Plotinus († 270), the founder of Neoplatonism , a new era of Timaeus reception began. The Neoplatonists interpreted the dialogue in terms of their worldview. They argued vehemently for the imperfection of the cosmos, which was one of their basic convictions. Plotin's pupil Porphyrios († 301/305) wrote a commentary on Timaeus that was very influential in the following years. His thoroughly elaborated, only fragmentarily preserved work became the basis for the later ancient commentary on the dialogue.

Late antiquity

In late antiquity , the investigation and commentary on Timaeus was in the hands of the Neoplatonists. Iamblichos († around 320/325), who founded a very influential Neoplatonic school, wrote an extensive commentary, 90 fragments of which have been preserved. In it he dealt critically with Porphyry's point of view. The later Neoplatonists, like Iamblichus, saw in Parmenides and Timaeus the two fundamental writings of classical philosophy, one of which expounded metaphysics, the other the theory of nature. The study of these two dialogues formed the culmination of the philosophical education in the course of the late antique philosophy schools.

In the 4th century the poet Tiberianus wrote a Latin hymn in 32 hexameters , in which he asked the supreme deity to know about creation and the laws, causes and forces at work in the cosmos. In doing so, he was guided by the central themes of the Timaeus .

In the 4th or 5th century, the scholar Calcidius translated the opening part of the Timaeus - a little less than half of the work - into Latin and wrote a Latin commentary in which he treated the translated text only selectively, but on the issues that he considered essential received in detail. He self-confidently asserted his point of view and critically distanced himself from the tradition of Timaeus commentary. He interpreted the creation account in the sense of a non-temporal creation of the world. As the main theme of the dialogue, he described "natural justice", which, as a divine institution, is the basis of the positive law discussed in the Politeia .

The Timaeus was thoroughly studied in the Neoplatonic school of philosophy in Athens, which followed on from the tradition of the Platonic academy . Proklos († 485), a very respected scholarch (head) of this school, wrote the most important late antique commentary on the dialogue. Much of his work has been preserved. Since Proklos dealt in detail with the older specialist literature and also cited numerous interpretations of his teacher Syrianos , his commentary is a valuable source for the earlier history of the Timaeus reception. Proclus viewed the Atlantis story as an allegorical representation of the cosmic conflict between the regulating divine power and the matter resisting it. He turned against the view of Aristotle, according to which Plato described the world soul as both a faculty of thought and an extended magnitude and equated the thinking of the soul with the circular motion of the universe. According to Proclus' understanding, Plato's world soul is expansionless and the movement of the universe is only a physical image of mental thought. With this, Proclus turned against the literal interpretation, which for Aristotle formed the basis of his criticism of Timaeus .

Lost the comments from Proclus' Students today are Asclepiodotus of Alexandria and died after 538 Damascius , the last school inspectors of the Athenian school of philosophy. Damascius dealt critically with the Timaeus interpretation of Proclus.

The philosopher Boethius († 524/526) placed in the middle of his main work Consolatio philosophiae (The Consolation of Philosophy) the poem that later became famous and began with the words O qui perpetua , in which he summarized the core ideas of the part of the Timaeus translated by Calcidius . In his textbook De institutione musica (Introduction to Music) , Boethius described the musical consequences of the mathematical world order presented in the Timaeus .

The legend of plagiarism

Even in the epoch of Hellenism there was a rumor that the Timaeus was a plagiarism . It was alleged that Plato bought a Pythagorean book for a lot of money, from which he had taken the teachings of natural philosophy presented in the Timaeus . In the 3rd century BC The philosopher Timon von Phleius wrote in satirical verses that Plato had got to work after buying this book. Hermippos , a younger contemporary of Timon, reported various versions of the rumor that it was a work by the Pythagorean Philolaos that Plato had acquired in Italy. The allegation of plagiarism, which is unanimously held to be absurd in modern research, continued to have a strong effect until late antiquity . A book entitled On the Nature of the Cosmos and the Soul , which has been handed down in more than fifty manuscripts, was considered an authentic work by Timaeus of Lokroi. It was believed that Plato used this script as a template for Timaeus' recitation in his dialogue. In fact, its structure largely corresponds to Plato's text and contains a summary of the explanations of the dialogue figure Timaeus. Even Platonists like Proclus assumed that Plato relied on the supposed work of the Pythagorean Timaios of Lokroi. Only modern philological research has shown that the treatise on the nature of the cosmos and the soul from the late 1st century BC Or from the 1st century AD and is based on Plato's Timaeus .

middle Ages

The oldest surviving medieval manuscript of the original Greek text was made in the 9th century in the Byzantine Empire . The original text was not accessible in Western and Central Europe, where scholars were dependent on the ancient Latin partial translations by Calcidius and Cicero. Due to the incompleteness of both translations, a considerable part of the dialogue was unknown. Calcidius' translation and commentary were extraordinarily common and influential. Medieval readers often did not differentiate between the views of Plato and those of Calcidius, but rather viewed the dialogue and the commentary as a whole.

In addition, the ideas of Timaeus reached the Middle Ages indirectly via works by authors from late antiquity. Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy and his music theory textbook, which were groundbreaking for medieval music theory , had a particularly strong impact .

From the beginning of the early Middle Ages to the 11th century

Medieval manuscript of the Timaeus - Commentary by Calcidius (Vatican, Codex Reginensis Latinus 1308, 11th century)

Copies of Calcidius' translation and commentary were available in Gaul as early as the 6th century, in Hispania by the 7th century at the latest. In the 9th century the philosopher Johannes Scottus Eriugena took essential suggestions from the work of Calcidius; he was convinced of the liveliness of the cosmos. Two important early medieval scholars, Abbo von Fleury († 1004) and Gerbert von Aurillac († 1003), studied both the Timaeus and the commentary. Interest in Timaeus increased considerably in the 11th century . The increasing glossiness of the manuscripts of dialogue and commentary testifies to the growing intensity of the examination of the content. The stronger reception also provoked criticism; As the spokesman for strictly ecclesiastical circles, Manegold von Lautenbach polemicized against the appreciation and Christianization of the Platonic natural philosophy.

12th Century

The mediaeval reception of dialogue reached its greatest intensity in the 12th century. Many copies were made. In the Chartres school , which was strongly influenced by Platonism and one of the determining spiritual forces of its time, the cosmogony and cosmology of Timaeus formed a thematic focus.

Bernhard of Chartres († after 1124), the first formative figure of the School of Chartres, wrote a Timaeus commentary in glossy form. The work, which was conceived for the classroom, shows the author's efforts to understand the text precisely and his intensive, independent examination of the content. He did not try to Christianize the Timaeus . Bernhard placed particular emphasis on the concept of "natural justice" ( naturalis iustitia ) already emphasized by Calcidius , which he considered to be the actual topic of the dialogue.

Wilhelm von Conches († after 1154), a well-known representative of the School of Chartres, also commented on the Timaeus . His interpretation of the dialogue evoked a strong, albeit partially negative, response. As a Platonist, he tried to reconcile the creation story of the Bible with a metaphorical interpretation of the creation of the world in Timaeus . In doing so, he carefully brought the Platonic world soul into contact with the Holy Spirit . Other 12th century scholars, Abelard and Thierry von Chartres , also saw the world soul as the Platonic counterpart to the Holy Spirit. However, this was very problematic theologically, since with Plato the world soul is something “that has become”, a part of creation, while the Holy Spirit according to the Christian faith is a person of the divine trinity and as such is uncreated. That is why Wilhelm von Conches formulated his opinion as a mere hypothesis, and Abelard emphasized that the Platonic doctrine of the world soul is not concrete, but only meant as a simile. Nevertheless, the influential theologians Bernhard von Clairvaux and Wilhelm von Saint-Thierry saw heresy in the Christianization of the world soul and vehemently opposed it.

Wilhelm von Conches said that “natural justice” can be seen in the regular structure of the cosmos and the harmony of natural movements. It shows itself in the course of the heavenly bodies as well as in the harmonious connection of the elements or in parental love. The Timaeus convey this understanding to the reader. Plato's writing shows that divine power, wisdom and goodness can be recognized in the visible cosmos. Exploring nature encourages one not only to worship and love God, but also to imitate God. With such considerations Wilhelm founded his natural history research program. By defining the legitimized observation of nature as a human task, he upgraded natural science in a way that was revolutionary for the circumstances.

Interesting from the theological point of view was the claim, derived from considerations in Timaeus , that the world had to be created as it is, because the Creator could not deviate from his own nature, which mandated a certain course of action - the optimal one in each case. So there was no way God could have made a better world, because if he could, he would have necessarily done it. This claim, which restricts God's omnipotence and is therefore theologically problematic, was represented by Petrus Abelardus in his work Theologia "scholarium" . He referred to the Timaeus , where Plato had proven the correctness of the thesis. In 1141 the thesis was condemned as heretical at the Synod of Sens.

The philosopher and poet Bernardus Silvestris created the Prosimetrum Cosmographia , a mythical representation of the creation of the world , in the 1140s . In doing so he took essential suggestions from the Timaeus .

In the second half of the 12th century, enthusiasm for Platonic natural philosophy declined significantly. A more skeptical attitude towards the authority of the ancient philosopher prevailed in theological discourse as well as among scientific authors.

Late Middle Ages

Albert the Great († 1280), one of the most respected scholars of his era, dealt intensively with Plato's natural philosophical writing. Otherwise, however, theologians and philosophers' interest in Timaeus declined sharply in the course of the 13th century. In the sciences, Platonism was pushed back, and under the influence of new Latin translations of Aristotle, a turn to Aristotelian ideas began. Few copies of the Timaeus were made in the 14th and early 15th centuries . In the 15th century, engagement with dialogue intensified again significantly. In the late Middle Ages, new comments were occasionally made.

In his Divina commedia, in the fourth song of Paradiso, Dante went into detail on the teachings of the soul of Timaeus . On his journey through heaven, described in Paradiso , the doubting Dante is instructed by his guide Beatrice . She distinguishes between a literal and a figurative interpretation of what Timaeus claims in the dialogue about the return of souls to their home stars. The literal interpretation does not correspond to the facts, but if one understands the words of the Timaeus allegorically, truth can be found in them.

Arabic speaking area

In the Arabic-speaking world, the Timaeus was one of the most famous dialogues of Plato in the Middle Ages, as numerous references in Arabic literature show. It was translated into Arabic in the 9th century by the scholar Yaḥyā ibn al-Biṭrīq, who belonged to the circle of the philosopher al-Kindī . This translation was later revised by Ḥunain ibn Isḥāq and / or Yaḥyā ibn ʿAdī. Galen's summary of the dialogue was also partially accessible to Arabic-speaking scholars; it was available to them in a partial translation from Ḥunain ibn Isḥāq.

Early modern age

Beginning of the Latin Timaeus translation Ficinos, printed in Venice 1491

The Latin Timaeus and the Commentary by Calcidius were among the ancient works that were familiar to the humanists of the early Renaissance. The rediscovery of the complete original Greek text brought a new impetus. The humanist Marsilio Ficino made a Latin translation of the entire dialogue. He published it in Florence in 1484 in the complete edition of his Plato translations. In doing so, he made the entire text accessible to a broader reading public for the first time. He also wrote a commentary on the dialogue, the Compendium in Timaeum , the definitive version of which was printed in 1496.

Plato (left), holding Timaeus , and Aristotle; Detail from Raphael's The School of Athens (probably 1510/1511), Stanza della Segnatura, Vatican

The outstanding role of Timaeus in the Platonic tradition and in occidental intellectual history found an artistic appreciation in Raphael's famous fresco The School of Athens , probably created in 1510/1511 , where Plato is represented with this work in hand. With his right hand, Plato points to the visible heaven, that is to say to its unchangeable, absolutely exemplary order, the model by which according to the Timaeus man should orient his life.

The first edition of the original text was published by Aldo Manuzio in Venice in September 1513 as part of the first complete Greek edition of Plato's works. The editor was Markos Musuros . Four new commentaries were published in the sixteenth century and numerous scholars referred to Plato's work in their writings.

The beginning of Timaeus in the first edition, Venice 1513

Johannes Kepler thought the Timaeus was a Pythagorean version of the biblical account of creation. He shared the fundamental convictions of Plato and used ideas of dialogue for his major cosmological works Mysterium cosmographicum (1596) and Harmonices mundi libri V (1619), but he rejected the theory of matter presented in Timaeus .

Voltaire published his story Songe de Platon (Plato's Dream) in 1756 , a satirical adaptation of the Timaeus material.

In 1794 Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling wrote the essay Timaeus , a youth work in which he discussed selected parts of the dialogue. He was primarily interested in the absorbing principle, for which he used the term "matter". What was meant was not matter in the physical sense, but Plato's formless, pre-cosmic proto-matter, which later became a central theme of Schelling's natural philosophy. He was concerned with the “construction” of matter, with the question of how the creation of a visible body world can be conceived when everything that is “form” in it is assigned to pure reason. He understood the ideas in the sense of Kant's terminology as the concepts of pure reason and pure understanding. Later, however, Schelling turned away from the cosmological model of Timaeus by rejecting the idea of ​​an independent material principle. He carried out this break so consistently that in 1804 he even denied that Plato was the author of Timaeus . Nevertheless, he held on to the fact that the Timaeus was the earliest forerunner of his "positive philosophy".


Classical research

As with other dialogues, the question of the extent to which the text allows conclusions to be drawn about Plato's own position has been discussed controversially. In 1928 the Plato researcher Alfred Edward Taylor published a Timaeus commentary in which he denied that the teaching of Timaeus corresponds to Plato's opinion. Taylor said that Plato had the main character of the dialogue present a Pythagorean view that he himself did not share. Francis Macdonald Cornford justified the opposite position in his extensive Timaeus commentary published in 1937 , which subsequently became the standard representation. Cornford's interpretation, according to which it is about Plato's own cosmology, prevailed in the following years, but is not entirely undisputed even in the 21st century. In 2003 Rainer Enskat put forward the hypothesis that Socrates refrained from a critical examination of Timaeus' thesis about the relationship between time and eternity just as a courtesy because of his status as a guest, although this thesis is problematic from a Socratic point of view.

In the second half of the 20th century, the question of the content and chronological classification of the Timaeus in the author's entire work was the subject of numerous studies. The main focus was on the problem of how ideas function as patterns. Since this concept of Plato's Timaeus did not seem to fit a later work by the philosopher, which was written after the dialogue Parmenides , various proposed solutions were presented and discussed.

Philosophical Aspects

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel dealt with the Timaeus in the 1820s . He considered the details of natural philosophy to be insignificant. He criticized the mixing of imagination and conceptual philosophy and judged that Plato was not yet conscious of "the philosophical nature of the matter itself". For Hegel, there was a fundamental flaw in the fact that Plato did not take into account that nature is also spirit. On the other hand, Hegel praised the idea that God was envious and strongly opposed the idea of ​​an absent, inaccessible God; God must be envious and therefore recognizable. Hegel considered the creating Demiugen to be an empty concept, but he believed that Plato's concept of a created God led beyond this emptiness; only the generated God is "the truthful". Hegel placed great emphasis on the theory of proportions and the theory of the soul in Timaeus , which he interpreted in the sense of his own way of thinking. He found the idea of ​​the unity of opposites expressed in the description of the composition of the world soul; this is one of the most famous, deepest passages of Plato. In the mixture of souls he saw the union of unity and multiplicity, identity and difference in absolute identity that contained differences in itself.

In 1903, the Neo-Kantian Paul Natorp expressed the view that the demiurge should not be understood as a concrete substance separate from the principle of determination. Rather, Plato mean with the creator of the cosmos “the idea of ​​the idea, the law of legality in general”. This idea is realized and thus brings about the becoming and concrete being according to the measure of the ideas, that is to say the particular determinations. In Timaeus' theory of creation, too, Plato held fast to the legal meaning of the idea, the validity of which was that of the logical per se. Under the archetypes the predicates of scientific judgments are to be understood, under the images "the specific predications of this and this". The “third of the two” - Plato's “space” - is the scientific judgment “x is A”.

In a study published in 1909, the Neo-Kantian Nicolai Hartmann dealt with the “receiving” in the Timaeus , “in which the becoming takes place”. He stressed that it was difficult to grasp because there was no adequate term in which to “calm down”. Plato determined what is receiving as what is spatial; one should not look for a material substrate in it. The assumption of a primordial substance should not be assumed by Plato, but rather he rejected it directly and gave matter no independent existence as a second primordial principle. For him, structure alone constitutes the whole essence of the body; only the spatial constitutes the body in what is becoming. Becoming, in which the whole series of ideas are involved, and space are the two factors whose interaction makes what we call “the material, corporeal” appear, and this “appearing” is existence. Body is nothing other than geometrically limited space. That is Plato's solution to the problem of matter. Although it is inadequate, it is only on the basis of modern natural science that a progress in knowledge has become possible.

Bertrand Russell passed a damning verdict in 1945. He found that the Timaeus was philosophically insignificant and that his strong influence on intellectual history was strange, because it contained "definitely more absolutely foolish things" than in Plato's other writings.

The natural philosopher Klaus Michael Meyer-Abich commented in 1973 on the importance of the eikos myth in the Timaeus . According to his understanding, it is about the conditions under which physics can be given as truth. For Meyer-Abich, Plato's “myth” is a qualitative natural history that is practiced because there is no point in going into quantitative relationships as long as they cannot be justified by a realistic logos - a mathematical description of nature. In the Timaeus, Plato criticized the mathematics and natural science of his time because they did not question their assumptions. Meyer-Abich recalled Heidegger's statement "Science does not think". However, he also stated that Plato's investigation of the prerequisites led to something that must appear as a myth in the context of a realistic logos. It is possible that the truth of any logo is ultimately only given as a myth.

In 1974, Hans-Georg Gadamer presented his interpretation of the dialogue. He set himself the task of integrating the mythical narrative into the actual dialectic. Plato does not switch carelessly between mythical and theoretical elements of the text, but rather composes consciously. Gadamer emphasized that the demiurge was not involved in the geometrical constitution of the elements, but took over the elements that preceded the necessity. He does not create, but only creates order.

In 1987 Jacques Derrida dedicated an essay to the chora , the absorbing principle in Timaeus , in which he drew discourse theoretical conclusions from Plato's introduction of the “third genre”. He believed that what Plato called chora challenged the logic of binary, yes or no. Thus the chora may be subject to a different logic. It does not fluctuate between two poles, but between two types of fluctuation: double exclusion (“neither / nor”) and participation (“simultaneously”). The logic or meta-logic of this “fluctuating over” could be shifted from the genres of being to the genres of discourse. The discourse on chora plays a role for philosophy analogous to that which chora plays for the subject of the discourse, the cosmos. Philosophy is not in a position to speak directly, “in the mode of vigilance”, of the person to whom it is approaching.

Aspects of natural science history

In the 20th century the Timaeus was judged controversially as a factor in the history of science. Some historians of science assumed that Plato had an unfavorable influence on the development of natural science and saw it as an accident. They pointed to his disdain for empirical research , which is a counter-position to the basis of experimental science. It was also asserted that the Timaeus was an overall failure in terms of its scientific hypotheses. Furthermore, the originality of the natural history explanations of Plato's Timaeus was disputed; these are only the result of a mixture of theories already known at the time. Another argument was that Plato, as a metaphysician and “mystic”, should not be taken seriously from a scientific point of view. The opposing position was represented by a number of philosophers and ancient scholars, including Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff , Alfred North Whitehead , Paul Shorey and Paul Friedländer . To justify a positive assessment, it was argued, among other things, that Plato's mathematization of natural research should be valued as a forward-looking progress, his assumption of a mathematical structure of nature made him a forerunner of modern scientific thought. Wilamowitz and Whitehead argued that Plato was in some ways closer to modern scientific thinking than Aristotle.

The positive assessment, for the initial formulation and justification of which Whitehead made a significant contribution, has been the predominant one since the second half of the 20th century. Werner Heisenberg pointed out in 1958 that the elementary particles in the Timaeus are "ultimately not matter, but mathematical form". In this regard, there is agreement with quantum theory . Karl Popper found in 1962 that Plato had presented a specifically geometric version of the previously purely arithmetic atomic theory. By setting the course, geometry and not arithmetic had become the fundamental instrument of all physical explanations and descriptions, both in the theory of matter and in cosmology. In doing so, Plato turned the plight of Greek atomism into a major achievement. Geometric cosmology is his greatest achievement. In 1968, Geoffrey Lloyd judged that the Timaeus marked a new stage in the discussion of numerous typical problems of early Greek natural philosophy. In physics, his geometric atomism is an original solution to the central question of the smallest building blocks of material objects. In 1978 Karin Alt pointed out the difference between an older and a newer perspective: In the context of the older ideas shaped by the way of thinking of the 19th century, Plato's conception of the material seems absurd and naive, but based on the requirements of modern physics it is accessible and fascinating. His conception of the physical-spatial is determined by the structure and can in this respect “be called modern to an exciting degree”. However, in its implementation and application of the concept, some things seem unclear, contradictory and peculiar. In 1992 Hans Günter Zekl described the theory of matter and space of Timaeus as a productive transformation of the theorems of the then modern atomistics and an alternative model to them. The lecture of Timaeus offers a great synthesis of all previous natural research, which raises the recorded material to a higher level of reflection.

In 1970 Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker gave a lecture on the history of platonic science. He stated that modern physics went through, as it were, recapitulating the various ideas outlined by Plato, albeit with a different conception of time. In the Timaeus , Plato designed a derivation system with which he traced back what constitutes the essence of an element via the triangles and the line to the number. With this he had made an attempt at deductive natural science. Behind this is the idea of ​​the unity of nature, as in modern physics, the development of which is heading towards the discovery of a unity as a basic principle. A perfection of physics, "as it seems to be on the horizon today as possible," requires, in Weizsäcker's assessment, a philosophical reflection that "would be a partner to Platonic".

In 2010, Nobel laureate in physics, Anthony James Leggett, published an essay in which he addressed the questions discussed in Timaeus from the perspective of modern physics and cosmology .

Physical aspects have always been in the foreground of interest, but research in the history of natural sciences also points out that Plato's Timaeus' explanations of the properties and reactions of substances contain chemical considerations. In this sense, Klaus Ruthenberg speaks of a platonic chemistry. Ruthenberg states that it is the earliest written approach to theoretical chemistry.

Psychological interpretation

In the context of his psychological interpretation of the dogma of the Trinity, Carl Gustav Jung also dealt with pre-Christian parallels to the idea of ​​a divine Trinity and examined the numerology of Timaeus from this point of view . Plato's Timaeus states that the connection of a pair of opposites by a “middle” can only be a union of two-dimensional structures. The union of three-dimensional structures requires two middle ones. According to Timaeus, an element (fire) is related to the first middle element (air) like this element to the second middle element (water) and like the second middle element to the fourth element (earth). Through this common proportion they are firmly linked. According to the theory of the elements of Timaeus, the union of the extremes fire and earth through the two middle links results in a quaternary, and this creates corporeality. According to Jung's psychological interpretation, this is about the dilemma of mere thought (two-dimensionality and threefoldness) and physical reality or realization (three-dimensionality and fourness, "quaternio"), which is a problem of the first order for the philosopher. Plato remained in the trinity of the world of thought, he had to be content with the "harmony of a weightless thought-painting". The "step from three to four", which encounters "the thought strange and unexpected gravity, indolence and limitation", he claimed in the theory of the elements, but did not take it in the theory of the soul; otherwise he would have understood the world soul not as a trinity but as a tetrad. He had not mastered the "stubbornness of the fourth".

Editions and translations

Editions with translation

  • Gunther Eigler (Ed.): Platon: Works in eight volumes , Vol. 7, 4th edition, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2005, ISBN 3-534-19095-5 , pp. 1-210 (reprint of the critical edition by Albert Rivaud , 4th edition, Paris 1963, with the German translation by Hieronymus Müller , Leipzig 1857)
  • Thomas Paulsen , Rudolf Rehn (ed.): Plato: Timaios . Reclam, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-15-018285-9 (uncritical edition with translation by the publisher)
  • Hans Günter Zekl (ed.): Plato: Timaios . Meiner, Hamburg 1992, ISBN 3-7873-1040-1 (Greek text of the edition by John Burnet , 1902, without the critical apparatus; next to it a translation by Zekl)

German translations

  • Otto Apelt : Plato's dialogues Timaeus and Critias . In: Otto Apelt (Ed.): Platon: Complete Dialogues , Vol. 6, Meiner, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-7873-1156-4 (with introduction and explanations; reprint of the 2nd, revised edition, Leipzig 1922)
  • Rudolf Rufener: Plato: Spätdialoge II (= anniversary edition of all works , vol. 6). Artemis, Zurich / Munich 1974, ISBN 3-7608-3640-2 , pp. 191–306 (with introduction by Olof Gigon pp. XXXII – IL)
  • Franz Susemihl : Timaeus . In: Erich Loewenthal (Ed.): Platon: All works in three volumes , Vol. 3, unchanged reprint of the 8th, revised edition, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2004, ISBN 3-534-17918-8 , pp. 91-191

Ancient Latin translations

  • Karl Bayer , Gertrud Bayer (Eds.): Marcus Tullius Cicero: Timaeus de universitate. Timaeus, Over the Universe . Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf 2006, ISBN 3-7608-1746-7 (Latin text based on the edition by Giomini, slightly changed and without the critical apparatus; also German translation by the editor)
  • Remo Giomini (Ed.): De divinatione. De fato. Timaeus (= M. Tulli Ciceronis scripta quae manserunt omnia , Fasc. 46). Teubner, Leipzig 1975 (critical edition of the translation by Cicero, next to it the Greek text)
  • Claudio Moreschini (Ed.): Calcidio: Commentario al “Timeo” di Platone . Bompiani, Milano 2003, ISBN 88-452-9232-0 (the Latin translation and the commentary of Calcidius with Italian translation; Latin text after the edition by Waszink without the critical apparatus)
  • Jan Hendrik Waszink (Ed.): Timaeus a Calcidio translatus commentarioque instructus (= Plato Latinus , Vol. 4). 2nd edition, The Warburg Institute, London 1975, ISBN 0-85481-052-8 (critical edition of the translation and commentary by Calcidius)


Overview display

General examinations

  • Luc Brisson : Le Même et l'Autre dans la Structure Ontologique du Timée de Platon. A systematic commentary on the time of Plato. 3rd, revised edition, Academia Verlag, Sankt Augustin 1998, ISBN 3-89665-053-X .
  • Anne Freire Ashbaugh: Plato's Theory of Explanation. A Study of the Cosmological Account in the Timaeus. State University of New York Press, Albany 1988, ISBN 0-88706-608-9 .
  • Karen Gloy : Studies on Platonic Natural Philosophy in Timaeus. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 1986, ISBN 3-88479-247-4
  • Thomas Kjeller Johansen: Plato's natural philosophy. A study of the Timaeus-Critias. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2004, ISBN 0-521-79067-0 .
  • Wolfgang Scheffel: Aspects of the Platonic Cosmology. Investigations into the dialogue “Timaeus” (= Philosophia antiqua , vol. 29). Brill, Leiden 1976, ISBN 90-04-04509-0 .

Monographs on individual topics

  • Filip Karfík: The animation of the cosmos. Studies on cosmology, theory of the soul and theology in Plato's Phaedo and Timaeus . Saur, Munich / Leipzig 2004, ISBN 3-598-77811-2 , pp. 85-220 (also examines the movement theory of the Timaeus )
  • Dana R. Miller: The Third Kind in Plato's Timaeus . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2003, ISBN 3-525-25244-7
  • Mischa von Perger: The all-soul in Plato's Timaeus (= contributions to antiquity , vol. 96). Teubner, Stuttgart / Leipzig 1997, ISBN 3-519-07645-4
  • Lothar Schäfer : The paradigm in the sky. Plato on nature and the state . Alber, Freiburg / Munich 2005, ISBN 3-495-48135-4 (deals with the political background of the cosmology of Timaeus )
  • Ernst A. Schmidt : Plato's time theory. Cosmos, soul, number and eternity in Timaeus . Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2012, ISBN 978-3-465-03730-9

Collections of articles

  • Tomás Calvo, Luc Brisson (eds.): Interpreting the Timaeus-Critias. Proceedings of the IV Symposium Platonicum. Selected papers . Academia Verlag, Sankt Augustin 1997, ISBN 3-89665-004-1
  • Richard D. Mohr, Barbara M. Sattler (Eds.): One Book, the Whole Universe. Plato's Timaeus Today . Parmenides Publishing, Las Vegas 2010, ISBN 978-1-930972-32-2
  • Linda M. Napolitano Valditara (Ed.): La sapienza di Timeo. Riflessioni in margine al “Timeo” di Platone . Vita e Pensiero, Milano 2007, ISBN 978-88-343-1393-0
  • Carlo Natali, Stefano Maso (eds.): Plato physicus. Cosmologia e anthropologia nel Timeo . Hakkert, Amsterdam 2003, ISBN 90-256-1173-7


  • Matthias Baltes : The emergence of the world of the Platonic Timaeus according to the ancient interpreters (= Philosophia antiqua , volumes 30 and 35). Parts 1 and 2, Brill, Leiden 1976–1978, ISBN 90-04-04720-4 (part 1) and ISBN 90-04-05799-4 (part 2)
  • Christina Hoenig: Plato's Timaeus and the Latin Tradition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2018, ISBN 978-1-108-41580-4
  • Charlotte Köckert: Christian cosmology and imperial philosophy . Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-16-149831-2 , pp. 7–222 (thorough presentation of the Timaeus interpretation from Plutarch to Porphyrios)
  • Thomas Leinkauf , Carlos Steel (ed.): Plato's Timaeus as the basic text of cosmology in late antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance . Leuven University Press, Leuven 2005, ISBN 90-5867-506-8
  • Ada Neschke-Hentschke (Ed.): Le Timée de Platon. Contributions to the history of the reception - Platos Timaios. Contributions to its reception history . Peeters, Louvain / Paris 2000, ISBN 90-429-0860-2
  • Gretchen Reydams-Schils: Demiurge and Providence. Stoic and Platonist Readings of Plato's Timaeus . Brepols, Turnhout 1999, ISBN 2-503-50656-9
  • Gretchen J. Reydams-Schils (Ed.): Plato's Timaeus as Cultural Icon . University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame 2003, ISBN 0-268-03872-4 (collection of articles)
  • Robert W. Sharples , Anne Sheppard (Ed.): Ancient approaches to Plato's Timaeus . Institute of Classical Studies, London 2003, ISBN 0-900587-89-X

Web links

Original Greek text

  • Timaeus from the edition by John Burnet, 1902

German translations

Latin translation of Calcidius

Latin translation of Cicero



  1. ^ Plato, Timaeus 20c.
  2. ^ Plato, Timaeus 17a – b, 27a – b.
  3. ^ Heinz-Günther Nesselrath : Plato: Kritias , Göttingen 2006, p. 101; Mischa von Perger: Die Allseele in Platon's Timaios , Stuttgart 1997, pp. 45-48.
  4. ^ Plato, Timaeus 17a – c, 19a – 20d.
  5. Michael W. Haslam: A Note on Plato's Unfinished Dialogues . In: American Journal of Philology 97, 1976, pp. 336-339. Cf. Warman Welliver: Character, Plot and Thought in Plato's Timaeus-Critias , Leiden 1977, pp. 58-60.
  6. See on the research hypotheses for the trilogy project Heinz-Günther Nesselrath: Platon: Kritias , Göttingen 2006, pp. 51–54.
  7. ^ Plato, Timaeus 20a, 27a.
  8. ^ Carl Huffman: Plato and the Pythagoreans . In: Gabriele Cornelli et al. (Ed.): On Pythagoreanism , Berlin 2013, pp. 237–270, here: 263–268.
  9. Heinz-Günther Nesselrath provides a summary of the research discussion: Platon: Kritias , Göttingen 2006, pp. 41–43.
  10. Among the researchers who reckon with the possibility that it is a historical person include Walther Kranz : Studies on ancient literature and its continued work , Heidelberg 1967, p. 343; Maria Timpanaro Cardini : Pitagorici. Testimonianze e frammenti , Vol. 2, Firenze 1962, pp. 402-404; Michael Erler: Platon , Basel 2007, pp. 50, 263; Laurence Lampert, Christopher Planeaux: Who's Who in Plato's Timaeus-Critias and Why . In: The Review of Metaphysics , Vol. 52 No. 1, 1998, pp. 87-125, here: 92, 94 f.
  11. ^ Plato, Timaeus 20d – 21d.
  12. ^ John K. Davies: Athenian Property Families, 600-300 BC , Oxford 1971, p. 326; Debra Nails: The People of Plato , Indianapolis 2002, p. 106 f.
  13. ^ For example, Laurence Lampert, Christopher Planeaux: Who's Who in Plato's Timaeus-Critias and Why . In: The Review of Metaphysics , Vol. 52 No. 1, 1998, pp. 87-125, here: 95-100; Debra Nails: The People of Plato , Indianapolis 2002, p. 106; Franz von Kutschera : Plato's Philosophy , Vol. 3, Paderborn 2002, p. 40 f. and note 48. Michael Erler expresses himself cautiously in agreement: Platon , Basel 2007, p. 273 f.
  14. See the research overviews by Heinz-Günther Nesselrath: Platon: Kritias , Göttingen 2006, p. 43 f. and Debra Nails: The People of Plato , Indianapolis 2002, pp. 106-108. Cf. Luc Brisson: Critias . In: Richard Goulet (ed.): Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques , Vol. 2, Paris 1994, pp. 512-520, here: 512-515.
  15. Heinz-Günther Nesselrath: Plato: Kritias , Göttingen 2006, p. 44 f.
  16. For the dating see John K. Davies: Athenian Property Families, 600-300 BC , Oxford 1971, p. 323 f.
  17. For the dating see John K. Davies: Athenian Property Families, 600–300 BC , Oxford 1971, pp. 325–327.
  18. Heinz-Günther Nesselrath: Plato: Kritias , Göttingen 2006, p. 45 f.
  19. ^ Plato, Timaeus 21b.
  20. Heinz-Günther Nesselrath: Plato: Kritias , Göttingen 2006, p. 48.
  21. Debra Nails: The People of Plato , Indianapolis 2002, p. 107; Heinz-Günther Nesselrath: Plato: Kritias , Göttingen 2006, p. 48 f.
  22. Debra Nails: The People of Plato , Indianapolis 2002, pp. 106 f .; Michael Erler: Platon , Basel 2007, p. 273; Jules Labarbe: Quel Critias dans le 'Timée' et le 'Critias' de Platon? In: Sacris erudiri 31, 1989–1990, pp. 239–255, here: 243.
  23. Luc Brisson: Plato: Timée, Critias , 3rd, revised edition, Paris 1996, p. 329 f. Note 29.
  24. Heinz-Günther Nesselrath: Plato: Kritias , Göttingen 2006, p. 49.
  25. Detlev Fehling : The seven wise men and the early Greek chronology , Bern 1985, pp. 109–113; Thomas G. Rosenmeyer : The Family of Critias . In: American Journal of Philology 70, 1949, pp. 404-410, here: 408; Heinz-Günther Nesselrath: Plato: Kritias , Göttingen 2006, p. 47.
  26. Heinz-Günther Nesselrath: Plato: Kritias , Göttingen 2006, p. 49 f.
  27. ^ John K. Davies: Athenian Property Families, 600-300 BC , Oxford 1971, pp. 325 f.
  28. To identify the dialogue figure with the historical figure, see Heinz-Günther Nesselrath: Platon: Kritias , Göttingen 2006, p. 50 f .; on the historical Hermokrates Debra Nails: The People of Plato , Indianapolis 2002, p. 161 f .; Michael Erler: Platon , Basel 2007, p. 263; Laurence Lampert, Christopher Planeaux: Who's Who in Plato's Timaeus-Critias and Why . In: The Review of Metaphysics , Vol. 52 No. 1, 1998, pp. 87-125, here: 100-104.
  29. ^ Plato, Timaeus 21a.
  30. ^ See on the dating suggestions Heinz-Günther Nesselrath: Platon: Kritias , Göttingen 2006, pp. 57–59; Debra Nails: The People of Plato , Indianapolis 2002, pp. 107, 326; Michael Erler: Platon , Basel 2007, pp. 263, 273; Luc Brisson: Platon: Timée, Critias , 3rd, revised edition, Paris 1996, p. 333 f.
  31. ^ Plato, Timaeus 17c.
  32. Heinz-Günther Nesselrath: Plato: Kritias , Göttingen 2006, pp. 55-57.
  33. ^ Plato, Timaeus 17a – 19b.
  34. ^ Plato, Timaeus 19b – 21d, 25d – 26e.
  35. Plato, Timaeus 20c-21a, 26e-27b.
  36. ^ Plato, Timaeus 20d.
  37. ^ Plato, Timaeus 21e – 23c.
  38. ^ Plato, Timaeus 23c – 25d.
  39. ^ Plato, Timaeus 27a-28a.
  40. ^ Plato, Timaeus 27d-29d.
  41. ^ Plato, Timaeus 28a-29d.
  42. ^ Plato, Timaeus 28b-29b.
  43. ^ Plato, Timaeus 29d – 30c. Cf. Mischa von Perger: Die Allseele in Platon's Timaios , Stuttgart 1997, pp. 69–71.
  44. ^ Plato, Timaeus 30c – 31b. See Richard D. Mohr: God and Forms in Plato , Las Vegas 2005, pp. 3-49.
  45. ^ Plato, Timaeus 31b – 34b. See Mitchell Miller: The Timaeus and the "Longer Way" . In: Gretchen J. Reydams-Schils (ed.): Plato's Timaeus as Cultural Icon , Notre Dame 2003, pp. 17–59, here: 33–36.
  46. ^ Plato, Timaeus 34b.
  47. See on the numerical relationships Konrad Gaiser : Platon's unwritten teaching , 3rd edition, Stuttgart 1998, pp. 153–157.
  48. ^ Plato, Timaeus 34b – 37c. Cf. Mischa von Perger: Die Allseele in Platons Timaios , Stuttgart 1997, pp. 86–124.
  49. ^ Plato, Timaeus 37c-38c. Cf. Ernst A. Schmidt: Plato's Time Theory , Frankfurt am Main 2012, pp. 111–124.
  50. ^ Plato, Timaeus 38c-39e. See Elena Cavagnaro: The Timaeus of Plato and the erratic Motion of the Planets . In: Tomás Calvo, Luc Brisson (eds.): Interpreting the Timaeus-Critias , Sankt Augustin 1997, pp. 351–362.
  51. ^ Plato, Timaeus 39e – 41e. For the assignment of souls to stars, which has been interpreted differently in research, see Karel Thein: Le lien intraitable , Paris 2001, pp. 245–257.
  52. ^ Plato, Timaeus 41e – 42e.
  53. ^ Plato, Timaeus 42e – 44c.
  54. ^ Plato, Timaeus 44c – 47e.
  55. Plato, Timaeus 47e-48d.
  56. Plato, Timaeus 48e-49a.
  57. The equation of the receiving entity with the chora is almost unanimously accepted in research; But Maurizio Migliori pleads for distinction: La dialettica nel 'Timeo' . In: Linda M. Napolitano Valditara (ed.): La sapienza di Timeo , Milano 2007, pp. 49-107, here: 69-74.
  58. ^ Plato, Timaeus 49a-53b. See Luc Brisson: Le Même et l'Autre dans la Structure Ontologique du Timée de Platon , 3rd, revised edition, Sankt Augustin 1998, pp. 178–197.
  59. Plato, Timaeus 53b-56c.
  60. Plato, Timaios 55c-d. See Ernesto Paparazzo: Why Five Worlds? Plato's Timaeus 55C-D . In: Apeiron 44, 2011, pp. 147-162.
  61. Plato, Timaeus 56c-69a.
  62. ^ Plato, Timaeus 69a – e.
  63. ^ Plato, Timaeus 69e – 81d. See Carlos Steel: The Moral Purpose of the Human Body. A Reading of Timaeus 69-72 . In: Phronesis 46, 2001, pp. 105-128.
  64. For the interpretation of this statement, which does not exclude small gaps between the atoms, see Andrew Gregory: Plato's Philosophy of Science , London 2000, pp. 217 f.
  65. ^ Plato, Timaeus 80b – c.
  66. ^ Plato, Timaeus 81c – e.
  67. See Erich Schöner: Das Viererschema in der antique Humoralpathologie (= Sudhoffs Archiv . Beihefte , Heft 4), Wiesbaden 1964, pp. 62–65.
  68. Plato, Timaeus 81e-88b. See Peter Lautner: Plato's Account of the Diseases of the Soul in Timaeus 86B1-87B9 . In: Apeiron 44, 2011, pp. 22-39.
  69. ^ Plato, Timaeus 87c – 90d. See Franco Ferrari: World's Order and Soul's Order: The Timaeus and the De-socratisation of Socrates' Ethics . In: Maurizio Migliori et al. (Ed.): Plato Ethicus. Philosophy is Life , Sankt Augustin 2004, pp. 121–132, here: 127–131; Luc Brisson: Looking at the cosmos in order to live properly: Timaeus . In: Theo Kobusch , Burkhard Mojsisch (Ed.): Platon. His dialogues in the view of new research , Darmstadt 1996, pp. 229–248, here: 242–245.
  70. Plato, Timaeus 90e-92c. See Amber D. Carpenter: Embodying Intelligence . In: John Dillon , Marie-Élise Zovko (ed.): Platonism and Forms of Intelligence , Berlin 2008, pp. 39–57, here: 47–56.
  71. ^ Plato, Timaeus 92c.
  72. Michael Erler: Platon , Basel 2007, p. 266; Hermann Steinthal : Certainty and Uncertainty . In: Gymnasium 108, 2001, pp. 407-418, here: 408 f. Cf. Walter Mesch: The Imagery of Platonic Cosmology . In: Markus Janka , Christian Schäfer (Ed.): Platon als Mythologe , 2nd, revised edition, Darmstadt 2014, pp. 303–322; Thomas Kjeller Johansen: Plato's natural philosophy , Cambridge 2004, pp. 48-68.
  73. See for the discussion about the meaning of the term Gernot Böhme : Idea und Kosmos , Frankfurt 1996, pp. 18–29; Elsa Grasso: Myth, Image and Likeness in Plato's Timaeus . In: Catherine Collobert et al. (Ed.): Plato and Myth , Leiden 2012, pp. 343–367, here: 343–357; Luc Brisson: Why Is the Timaeus Called an Eikôs Muthos and an Eikôs Logos? In: Catherine Collobert et al. (Ed.): Plato and Myth , Leiden 2012, pp. 369–391; Myles F. Burnyeat: Eikōs muthos . In: Catalin Partenie (Ed.): Plato's Myths , Cambridge 2009, pp. 167–186. See the relevant articles in Richard D. Mohr, Barbara M. Sattler (eds.): One Book, the Whole Universe , Las Vegas 2010, pp. 213–247.
  74. Michael Erler: Platon , Basel 2007, p. 458 f. (brief overview); Filip Karfík: The soul of the cosmos , Munich 2004, pp. 129–138; Jens Halfwassen : The demiurge: his position in the philosophy of Plato and its interpretation in ancient Platonism . In: Ada Neschke-Hentschke (Ed.): Le Timée de Platon. Contributions à l'histoire de sa réception , Louvain 2000, pp. 39-62; Luc Brisson: Le Même et l'Autre dans la Structure Ontologique du Timée de Platon , 3rd, revised edition, Sankt Augustin 1998, pp. 71–84. Cf. Thomas Kjeller Johansen: Plato's natural philosophy , Cambridge 2004, pp. 79–86.
  75. Karin Alt: The persuasion of the Ananke to explain the visible world in Plato's Timaeus . In: Hermes 106, 1978, pp. 426-466, here: 446 f.
  76. See Elizabeth Jelinek: Pre-Cosmic Necessity in Plato's Timaeus . In: Apeiron 44, 2011, pp. 287-305.
  77. Luc Brisson: Le Même et l'Autre dans la Structure Ontologique du Timée de Platon , 3rd, revised edition, Sankt Augustin 1998, pp. 338, 471–477.
  78. Thomas Kjeller Johansen: Plato's natural philosophy , Cambridge 2004, pp. 92–99.
  79. ^ See on the research discussion Barbara Botter: Il "ricettacolo" di materia e spazio in Timeo 48e – 53b . In: Carlo Natali, Stefano Maso (eds.): Plato physicus , Amsterdam 2003, pp. 165–187; Dana R. Miller: The Third Kind in Plato's Timaeus , Göttingen 2003, pp. 19–36. See Thomas Kjeller Johansen: Plato's natural philosophy , Cambridge 2004, pp. 127-132.
  80. Dana R. Miller: The Third Kind in Plato's Timaeus , Göttingen 2003, pp. 15, 197-220.
  81. Giovanni Reale: To a new interpretation of Plato , 2nd, expanded edition, Paderborn 2000, pp. 445–449, 457–486; Sousanna-Maria Nikolaou: The atomic theory of Democritus and Plato's Timaios , Stuttgart / Leipzig 1998, pp. 175–178.
  82. Michael Erler: Platon , Basel 2007, p. 460.
  83. Sousanna-Maria Nikolaou: The atomic theory of Democritus and Plato's Timaios , Stuttgart / Leipzig 1998, pp. 183-185; Lothar Schäfer: The paradigm in the sky , Freiburg 2005, p. 207; Richard D. Mohr: God and Forms in Plato , Las Vegas 2005, pp. 121-145; Luc Brisson: Le Même et l'Autre dans la Structure Ontologique du Timée de Platon , 3rd, revised edition, Sankt Augustin 1998, pp. 497–504.
  84. ^ Dana R. Miller: The Third Kind in Plato's Timaeus , Göttingen 2003, pp. 173-186.
  85. Sousanna-Maria Nikolaou: Die Atomlehre Demokrits und Platons Timaios , Stuttgart / Leipzig 1998 (summary comparison pp. 194–201) offers an examination of the similarities and differences .
  86. Konrad Gaiser: Plato's unwritten teaching , 3rd edition, Stuttgart 1998, p. 154 and p. 374, note 131; Mischa von Perger: Die Allseele in Platon's Timaios , Stuttgart 1997, pp. 101–114; Lutz Felbick : Lorenz Christoph Mizler de Kolof , Hildesheim 2012, pp. 99-101; Luc Brisson: Looking at the cosmos in order to live properly: Timaeus . In: Theo Kobusch, Burkhard Mojsisch (Ed.): Platon. His dialogues in the view of new research , Darmstadt 1996, pp. 229–248, here: 234 f.
  87. Erwin Sonderegger offers an overview of the problem: The formation of the soul in Plato's Timaios 35a1 – b3 . In: Museum Helveticum 54, 1997, pp. 211-218.
  88. Walter Mesch: The imagery of the Platonic cosmology . In: Markus Janka, Christian Schäfer (Ed.): Platon als Mythologe , 2nd, revised edition, Darmstadt 2014, pp. 303–322, here: 319 f .; Wolfgang Scheffel: Aspects of Platonic Cosmology , Leiden 1976, p. 141 f.
  89. Michael Erler: Platon , Basel 2007, p. 267 f. and 455 f. A detailed description is provided by Matthias Baltes: Dianoemata , Stuttgart 1999, pp. 303-325.
  90. Luc Brisson: Le Même et l'Autre dans la Structure Ontologique du Timée de Platon , 3rd, revised edition, Sankt Augustin 1998, p. 336 f. Filip Karfík provides an overview of the problem: Die Beseelung des Kosmos , Munich 2004, pp. 221–226. Cf. Wolfgang Scheffel: Aspects of Platonic Cosmology , Leiden 1976, p. 91.
  91. Wolfgang Scheffel: Aspects of Platonic Cosmology , Leiden 1976, pp. 48–54, 80 f .; Richard D. Mohr: God and Forms in Plato , Las Vegas 2005, pp. 52-65.
  92. Ernst A. Schmidt: Platon's time theory , Frankfurt am Main 2012, pp. 61 f., 89–95.
  93. Michael Erler: Platon , Basel 2007, p. 264; Paul Friedländer: Platon , Vol. 3, 3rd, reviewed edition, Berlin 1975, p. 354; Lothar Schäfer: The Paradigm in the Sky , Freiburg 2005, pp. 321–327.
  94. ^ Lothar Schäfer: Das Paradigma am Himmel , Freiburg 2005, pp. 15-23.
  95. ^ Sarah Broadie : Theodicy and Pseudo-History in the Timaeus . In: Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 21, 2001, pp. 1–28, here: 3–6; Thomas Kjeller Johansen: Plato's natural philosophy , Cambridge 2004, pp. 42–47.
  96. On the dating discussion see Michael Erler: Platon , Basel 2007, p. 262 f. See Gerard R. Ledger: Recounting Plato , Oxford 1989, pp. 200-202.
  97. Kenneth M. Sayre: Plato's Late Ontology , 2nd, supplemented edition, Las Vegas 2005, pp. 256-267.
  98. A comprehensive presentation of the ancient discussion with a compilation and translation of the relevant sources is provided by Matthias Baltes in: Heinrich Dörrie , Matthias Baltes: Der Platonismus in der Antike , Vol. 5, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1998, pp. 84–180, 373–535 .
  99. Matthias Baltes: The world emergence of the Platonic Timaeus according to the ancient interpreters , part 1, Leiden 1976, pp. 18-22.
  100. For Aristotle's statement, see Matthias Baltes: The World Origin of the Platonic Timaeus According to the Ancient Interpreters , Part 1, Leiden 1976, pp. 5–18.
  101. A detailed presentation and discussion of Aristotle's criticism is provided by Mischa von Perger: Die Allseele in Platons Timaios , Stuttgart 1997, pp. 169–224.
  102. Han Baltussen: Theophrastus against the Presocratics and Plato , Leiden 2000, pp. 95-139.
  103. ^ Alan Cameron : Crantor and Posidonius on Atlantis . In: Classical Quarterly 3, 1983, pp. 81-91; Leonardo Tarán: Proclus on the Old Academy . In: Jean Pépin , Henri Dominique Saffrey (eds.): Proclus lecteur et interprète des anciens , Paris 1987, pp. 269-272. See Harold Tarrant: Atlantis: Myths, Ancient and Modern . In: The European Legacy 12, 2007, pp. 159–172, here: 163 f .; Heinz-Günther Nesselrath: Atlantis on Egyptian steles? The philosopher Krantor as an epigraphist . In: Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 135, 2001, pp. 33–35.
  104. ^ Heinrich Dörrie, Matthias Baltes: The Platonism in the Antike , Vol. 2, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1990, p. 103, 331 f.
  105. See Han Baltussen: Early reactions to Plato's Timaeus: polemic and exegesis in Theophrastus and Epicurus . In: Robert W. Sharples, Anne Sheppard (ed.): Ancient approaches to Plato's Timaeus , London 2003, pp. 49–71, here: 56–58.
  106. See on this translation Carlos Lévy: Cicero and the Timaeus . In: Gretchen J. Reydams-Schils (ed.): Plato's Timaeus as Cultural Icon , Notre Dame 2003, pp. 95–110.
  107. Heinrich Dörrie, Matthias Baltes: The Platonism in antike , Vol. 3, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1993, p. 211 f.
  108. David T. Runia : Philo of Alexandria and the Timaeus of Plato , Leiden 1986, pp. 55-57.
  109. David T. Runia: Philo of Alexandria and the Timaeus of Plato , Leiden 1986, pp. 523-527.
  110. Matthias Baltes: The creation of the world of the Platonic Timaeus according to the ancient interpreters , Part 1, Leiden 1976, pp. 38–45; Charlotte Köckert: Christian cosmology and imperial philosophy , Tübingen 2009, pp. 8–52.
  111. ^ Heinrich Dörrie, Matthias Baltes: The Platonism in the Antike , Vol. 2, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1990, pp. 200–215, 488–498, 500–503.
  112. See the longino commentary in the detailed study by Irmgard Männlein-Robert : Longin. Philologist and philosopher , Munich 2001, pp. 409-535.
  113. Heinrich Dörrie, Matthias Baltes: Platonism in antiquity , Vol. 3, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1993, pp. 214-220.
  114. ^ Matthias Baltes: Numenios of Apamea and the Platonic Timaeus . In: Matthias Baltes: Dianoemata , Stuttgart 1999, pp. 1–32, here: 1–19, 31 f .; Charlotte Köckert: Christian Cosmology and Imperial Philosophy , Tübingen 2009, pp. 84–126.
  115. ^ Paul Moraux : The Aristotelianism among the Greeks , Vol. 2, Berlin 1984, pp. 294-313; Heinrich Dörrie, Matthias Baltes: Platonism in antiquity , Vol. 3, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1993, p. 214.
  116. Gotthard Strohmaier : Plato in the Arab tradition . In: Würzburg Yearbooks for Classical Studies New Series 26, 2002, pp. 185–200, here: 190 f.
  117. For the reasoning see John F. Phillips: Neoplatonic Exegeses of Plato's Cosmogony (Timaeus 27C – 28C) . In: Journal of the History of Philosophy 35, 1997, pp. 173-197.
  118. See Michael Chase: Porphyre de Tyr. Commentaires à Plato et à Aristote . In: Richard Goulet (ed.): Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques , Vol. 5, Part 2 (= V b), Paris 2012, pp. 1349–1376, here: 1371–1373.
  119. The fragments are critically edited, translated into English and commented on by John M. Dillon: Iamblichi Chalcidensis in Platonis dialogos commentariorum fragmenta , Leiden 1973, pp. 106-205, 264-385.
  120. ^ André Jean Festugière : L'ordre de lecture des dialogues de Platon aux Ve / VIe siècles . In: Museum Helveticum 26, 1969, pp. 281-296, here: 283-285, 292 f.
  121. Silvia Mattiacci (ed.): I carmi ei frammenti di Tiberiano , Firenze 1990, p. 58 f. (Text), 157-199 (commentary).
  122. On the role of Calcidius as translator and commentator, see Peter Dronke : The Spell of Calcidius , Firenze 2008, pp. 8–34.
  123. Emilie Kutash provides a detailed investigation: The Ten Gifts of the Demiurge. Proclus' Commentary on Plato's Timaeus , London 2011 (on Ur-Athen and Atlantis, pp. 43–63).
  124. See also Mischa von Perger: Die Allseele in Platons Timaios , Stuttgart 1997, pp. 33–35.
  125. Heinrich Dörrie, Matthias Baltes: Platonism in antiquity , Vol. 3, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1993, p. 223 f.
  126. See also Peter Dronke: The Spell of Calcidius , Firenze 2008, pp. 35–48.
  127. ^ Carl Huffman: Philolaus of Croton , Cambridge 1993, p. 12 f.
  128. Richard Harder provides a detailed comparison : Timaios. In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume VI A, 1, Stuttgart 1936, Sp. 1205-1220.
  129. ^ Heinrich Dörrie, Matthias Baltes: The Platonism in the Antike , Vol. 2, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1990, pp. 22-29, 246-260 (detailed investigation of the plagiarism legend); Leendert G. Westerink (Ed.): Prolégomènes à la philosophie de Platon , Paris 1990, pp. 8 f., 53 f.
  130. Parisinus Graecus 1807; see on this manuscript and its date Henri Dominique Saffrey: Retour sur le Parisinus graecus 1807, le manuscrit A de Platon . In: Cristina D'Ancona (Ed.): The Libraries of the Neoplatonists , Leiden 2007, pp. 3–28. For the entire handwritten tradition, see Gijsbert Jonkers: The Manuscript Tradition of Plato's Timaeus and Critias , Amsterdam 1989.
  131. Paul Edward Dutton: Medieval Approaches to Calcidius . In: Gretchen J. Reydams-Schils (ed.): Plato's Timaeus as Cultural Icon , Notre Dame 2003, pp. 183–205, here: 193 f.
  132. On the music theory reception see Brigitte Van Wymeersch: Le Timée de Platon et la philosophie de la musique au Moyen Âge . In: Les Études Classiques 71, 2003, pp. 71–89, here: 81–86, 89.
  133. ^ Michel Huglo: La réception de Calcidius et des Commentarii de Macrobe à l'époque Carolingienne . In: Scriptorium 44, 1990, pp. 3–20, here: 5.
  134. ^ Anna Somfai: The Eleventh-Century Shift in the Reception of Plato's Timaeus and Calcidius's Commentary . In: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 65, 2002, pp. 1-21.
  135. Gangolf Schrimpf: Bernhard von Chartres, the reception of Timaeus and the new view of nature . In: Georg Wieland (Ed.): Aufbruch - Wandel - Erneuerung , Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1995, pp. 181–210.
  136. On the Timaeus interpretation of Wilhelm von Conches see Theo Kobusch: Der Timaeus in Chartres . In: Thomas Leinkauf, Carlos Steel (ed.): Plato's Timaios as a basic text of cosmology in late antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance , Leuven 2005, pp. 235–251, here: 240–251.
  137. See Anne Eusterschulte: Vom δημιουργός zum creator mundi . In: Würzburg Yearbooks for Classical Studies New Series 23, 1999, pp. 189–222, here: 194–199.
  138. Petrus Abelardus, Theologia “scholarium” 3, 27-30.
  139. Peter Dronke (Ed.): Bernardus Silvestris: Cosmographia , Leiden 1978, p. 17.
  140. Thomas Ricklin examines the reasons for this development: Plato in the twelfth century: Some hints about his disappearance . In: Stephen Gersh, Maarten JFM Hoenen (ed.): The Platonic Tradition in the Middle Ages , Berlin 2002, pp. 139–163.
  141. ^ Paul Edward Dutton: Material Remains of the Study of the Timaeus in the Later Middle Ages . In: Claude Lafleur (ed.): L'enseignement de la philosophie au XIII e siècle , Turnhout 1997, pp. 203-230.
  142. Dante, Divina Commedia , Paradiso 4, 22-24 and 4.49-63.
  143. Dimitri Gutas : Plato. Tradition arabe . In: Richard Goulet (ed.): Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques , Vol. 5, Part 1 (= V a), Paris 2012, pp. 845–863, here: 859–861.
  144. On Ficino's interpretation of Timaeus, see Alexandre Etienne: Entre interprétation chrétienne et interprétation neo-platonicienne du Timée: Marsile Ficin . In: Ada Neschke-Hentschke (Ed.): Le Timée de Platon. Contributions à l'histoire de sa réception , Louvain 2000, pp. 173-200.
  145. See for the interpretation of the fresco Lothar Schäfer: Das Paradigma am Himmel , Freiburg 2005, pp. 372–377, for the dating Marcia Hall: Introduction . In: Marcia Hall (ed.): Raphael's “School of Athens” , Cambridge 1997, pp. 1-47, here: 37 f.
  146. James Hankins: Humanism and Platonism in the Italian Renaissance , Vol. 2, Rome 2004, p. 164 f.
  147. ^ Judith Veronica Field: Kepler's Geometrical Cosmology , Chicago 1988, pp. 1-16. See Rhonda Martens: A Commentary on Genesis. Plato's Timaeus and Kepler's Astronomy . In: Gretchen J. Reydams-Schils (ed.): Plato's Timaeus as Cultural Icon , Notre Dame 2003, pp. 251–266.
  148. ^ Hermann Krings : Genesis and Matter . In: Hartmut Buchner (Ed.): FWJ Schelling: “Timaeus” (1794) , Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1994, pp. 115–155, here: 118–139, 148–150. See Michael Franz : Schelling's Tübinger Platon-Studien , Göttingen 1996, pp. 237–282; Harald Seubert : Speculation and Subjectivity , Hamburg 2003, pp. 105–131; Christoph Asmuth : Interpretation - Transformation , Göttingen 2006, pp. 47–87, 116–122.
  149. ^ Alfred Edward Taylor: A Commentary on Plato's Timaeus , Oxford 1928, pp. 10-12.
  150. ^ Francis M. Cornford: Plato's Cosmology. The Timaeus of Plato translated with a running commentary , London 1937, pp. VIII-XI.
  151. Rainer Enskat: Truth without a method? The unsocratic doctrine of time in Plato's Timaeus . In: Gregor Damschen et al. (Ed.): Platon and Aristoteles - sub ratione veritatis , Göttingen 2003, pp. 76-101.
  152. Rafael Ferber : "In this way I now cast my vote" . In: Gymnasium 105, 1998, pp. 419–444.
  153. ^ Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Lectures on the History of Philosophy II (= Works , Vol. 19), Frankfurt 1986, pp. 86-105. See Christoph Asmuth: Interpretation - Transformation , Göttingen 2006, pp. 145–162; Jens Halfwassen: Idea, Dialectics and Transcendence . In: Theo Kobusch, Burkhard Mojsisch (Hrsg.): Platon in der Abendländischen Geistesgeschichte , Darmstadt 1997, pp. 193–209, here: 198–205; Vittorio Hösle : Hegel's 'Natural Philosophy' and Plato's 'Timaios' - a structural comparison. In: Philosophia naturalis . Vol. 21, 1984, pp. 64-100.
  154. ^ Paul Natorp: Plato's theory of ideas , 2nd edition, Hamburg 1994 (first published in 1903), pp. 358 f., 370.
  155. ^ Nicolai Hartmann: Plato's Logic of Being , 2nd edition, Berlin 1965 (first published in 1909), pp. 424–447.
  156. ^ Bertrand Russell: History of Western Philosophy , 2nd edition, London 1979 (first published 1945), p. 157.
  157. Klaus Michael Meyer-Abich: Eikos Logos: Plato's theory of natural science . In: Erhard Scheibe , Georg Süssmann (ed.): Unity and Multiplicity , Göttingen 1973, pp. 20–44.
  158. Hans-Georg Gadamer: Idea and Reality in Plato's 'Timaios' . In: Gadamer: Gesammelte Werke , Vol. 6, Tübingen 1985, pp. 242-270, here: 244, 253, 257-267.
  159. Jacques Derrida: Chōra , 2nd, revised edition, Vienna 2005 (German translation of the original edition from 1987), pp. 12, 14, 70.
  160. Critical statements of this kind are quoted from Geoffrey Lloyd : Plato as a Natural Scientist . In: The Journal of Hellenic Studies 88, 1968, pp. 78–92, here: p. 78 and note 2; Hans Günter Zekl (Ed.): Platon: Timaios , Hamburg 1992, p. LXIX f .; Paul Friedländer: Platon , Vol. 1, 3rd, reviewed edition, Berlin 1964, p. 260.
  161. ^ Geoffrey Lloyd: Plato as a Natural Scientist . In: The Journal of Hellenic Studies 88, 1968, pp. 78–92, here: 78. Cf. Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff: Platon. His life and his works, 5th edition, Berlin 1959 (1st edition Berlin 1919), p. 490; Paul Friedländer: Platon , Vol. 1, 3rd, reviewed edition, Berlin 1964, pp. 260–275.
  162. ^ Werner Heisenberg: Physics and Philosophy . In: Werner Heisenberg: Gesammelte Werke , Vol. 2, Munich 1984 (first published in English 1958), pp. 3–201, here: 56.
  163. ^ Karl R. Popper: Conjectures and Refutations , 3rd edition, London 1969 (first published in 1962), pp. 87-93.
  164. ^ Geoffrey Lloyd: Plato as a Natural Scientist . In: The Journal of Hellenic Studies 88, 1968, pp. 78–92, here: 89.
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