Aspekte der platonischen Kosmologie: Untersuchungen zum Dialog "Timaios" [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 35 (3):631-631 (1982)
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This University of Münster dissertation deals with the problem of how to interpret the coming-into-being of the world as described in the Timaeus: does Plato really mean that the world was generated or is his account merely a mythical expression of the composition of a world which is eternal? Scheffel shows how this issue has divided both ancient and modern interpreters: Aristotle, Vlastos, and Hackforth, for example, taking the former view; Xenocrates and the Academy, A. E. Taylor, Cherniss, and Cornford taking the latter. In this book Scheffel argues for the "Aristotelian" view and develops the positions of Vlastos and Hackforth. In a preparatory section he briefly presents two ancient proponents of his position, Aristotle and Plutarch, noting that Plato's Laws does not support Plutarch's conception of an evil soul animating the unordered chaos of the Timaeus. In the main part of the book Scheffel comments on the text of the Timaeus, organizing his exposition into chapters on "The Exposition of the Cosmogony," "The Concept of Space in the Timaeus," "The Doctrine of Movement in the Timaeus," "The Concept of Soul in the Timaeus," "The Platonic Distinction between First and Second Causes." Some subordinate issues are also discussed, in particular that of the possible contradiction between the eternal soul of the Phaedrus and the generated soul of the Timaeus. Scheffel's final position on the main issue is that Plato in the Timaeus means that the world is generated, not in time, but in an "einmalige überzeitliche Formungsakt" by the demiurge. This is perhaps not all that distant from the old position which concluded that to be generated outside time is to be causally dependent in some non-temporal way on the eternal. Scheffel does not appear, however, to have thought out what an "einmalige überzeitliche Formungsakt" might turn out to be. His argument is not always very convincing and this is unlikely to be the last word on an interesting and important problem.--D.O.



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