Review: Timaeus by Plato

Creation of the Universe 2

The narrative of the Myth of the Creation of the universe by Plato represents one of the greatest achievements of his philosophical mind. I’ll make an analysis of this dialogue by using the works of Proclus and Giovanni Reale to help me write this review.

Plato created a narrative of Creation that explains the causes of nature, the soul and the material form. The Good is anterior to all the things of the Universe. After this comes the Intelligible Paradigm. Next to it is the Artificer, called by Plato as the Demiurge. According to Proclus, “Plato however, following the Pythagoreans, delivers indeed, as the causes of natural things, a universal recipient, and material form, which are subservient to causes properly so called, in the generation of things. But prior to these, he investigates the principal causes, the producing causes, the paradigm and the final cause. Hence also, he places a demiurgic intellect over the universe, and an intelligible cause in which the universe primarily subsists, and The Good, which is established prior to the producing cause, in the order of the desirable.”

In the Timaeus dialogue, Plato elaborates a myth of the creation of the Universe. Narrated by the Pythagorean Timaeus, the narrative describes how the Demiurge had created the cosmos as an image of the Idea. Timaeus open his discourse with these words: “ all that generates is necessarily generated by something. In fact, it’s impossible that something is generated without a cause.”

The Demiurge put his eyes on the immutable , in which he uses as an archetype, when he creates the form and the proprieties of the things. If the Demiurge puts his eyes on the things that are contingent, his work of creation would not be beautiful. Giovanni Reale says that “is in this framework of copy that is established the possibility of knowing something of this contingent world.” Reale continues: ” man can contemplate the order of Creation and try to imitate in this world images of the Idea through technique and art.” But Proclus tried to differentiate “creation” from “energize”. He wrote about these themes:

“For the former ( fabricate paradigmatically) is to energize essentially; but the latter ( be a paradigm demiurgically) is to impart essence energetically. And the former is to perceive intellectually, intelligibly; but the latter is to be intelligible intellectually. For the peculiarity of the paradigm is to make by its very
being; but of the Demiurgus, to make by energizing. For it is not the same
thing to make by existing, and to know and energize through
knowledge; since soul also produces life by existing, but makes artificially
through knowledge.”

Proclus says about the Demiurge as a Paradigm with these words:

“Plato therefore, indicating these

things, and through these latently assisting the position that the

paradigm of the universe does not rank among the multitude of eternal

natures, but is the most eternal of all of them, and primarily eternal,

calls the world indeed most beautiful, but the Demiurge most excellent.

For that which is most beautiful was generated according to the most

divine paradigm, and that which is most excellent necessarily looks to

that which is supreme.”

Proclus continues:

“Plato has shown that the Demiurge indeed

looked to a paradigm, and that being most excellent he looked to the

most divine paradigm, from what he said respecting the universe being

fabricated conformably to the intelligible. But that the universe also is

vanquished by form, and truly* imitates its paradigm, he manifests from

what is now said. For if the world is an image, the universe is

assimilated to the intelligible. For that which is not dissimilar but

similar and consentaneous, is an image. You have therefore, the sensible

universe, the most beautiful of images, the intellectual universe, the best

of causes, and the intelligible universe, the most divine of paradigms.”

The order of the cosmos, which reveals itself to the senses, can only be reproduced by a narrated  history. To pass from the non-being to being is the first act of goodness of God. This same God is not envious, because he wanted that all things to be equal to Him. The Universe is beautiful and without any imperfection and equal to the Artificer. The soul was created before the body and it’s more important than the former.

The Demiurge then, began the organization of the Universe. It’s important to remember that was The Good that created matter. The elements of the Universe were in the state of chaos, because God was absent. The work of the Demiurge was to take this shapeless mass from disorder to order. The corporeal world comes to life trough the combination of necessity and intelligence. The Demiurge created the world inspired by the eternal Ideal model. Plato so established the elements that constitute the universe as the water, fire, air and earth, and associated them with geometrical elements as the tetrahedron ( fire), the hexahedron ( earth), the octahedron ( air), the dodecahedron ( the model of the cosmos) and the icosahedron ( water) .

In the Republic, Plato will write that the philosopher would have to teach  the  people that they have to study the things that are in the high first. Geometry will be part of the Paideia that the people will learn at the Polis. True Education will have to promote the contemplation and to make the soul to look at the supreme Being and the invisible, because without  it, education has no sense.

The philosopher will contemplate the son of The Good with his eyes, because vision is the most noble of the senses. The son of The Good is the sun. The light is generated trough the sun. Then the human soul becomes illuminated by this light and by this same light the soul would learn the trueness of Being. Proclus wrote about this with these words:”For being very near, as Damascius admirably observes, to the immense principle, if it be lawful so to speak, it dwells as it were in the adytum of that truly mystic silence.”

In the Timaeus, Plato taught  that the gods are good. The Good ( God) is regarded good ( agathos), without envy( Peri oudenos oudepote phthonos), the best of causes (o d`aristos tôn aitiôn) and produces the most beautiful ( to kalliston). Proclus, in his commentary on the Timaeus, defined man as the most beautiful of the intelligible. Plato always thought that the people needed a true theology, because without this, the soul would be in error.

This review was written by the brazilian professor of philosophy Felipe Pimenta.


Proclus. Commentary on the Timaeus of Plato. Kessinger pub, 1997.

Reale, Giovanni. Toward a New Interpretation of Plato ( Para uma Nova Interpretação de Platão). São Paulo, 2004.

Plato. Timaeus (Timeu)  1Ed. Coimbra/ Portugal: Centro de Estudos Clássicos e Humanísticos, 2011.

Keywords: Plato. Proclus. Timaeus. Review.


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