R.G. Bury. Timaeus: The Loeb Classical Library, Vol. IX. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1989.
Plato’s Timaeus was written in an attempt to make sense of the beginnings of time, of the world, as we know it. It is an attempt to describe how the world came into being. It is important to note that even Plato states that this is only a "likely account"(53). Nonetheless, it is an excellent summary of Platonic philosophy and was extremely influential in later years over the ancient and mediaeval world. To the modern reader, such as a college student, it proves to be quite obscure and repulsive, but interesting just the same.
Plato first argues that since the sensible world "is that which is becoming always and never existent"(49) it must have come to be. Therefore, the world must have some for of cause, a cause to be. He refers to the cause as "the maker and father of the universe"(51) as well as the "Mind"(109) and "God"(127) later in the work. It is very common to hear Plato’s god referred to as the Demiurge, which literally means craftsman.
Now then, since the Demiurge was depicted as good, he desired "that, so far as possible, all things should be good and nothing evil"(55). This is where Plato begins to describe the qualities of the universe that the Demiurge is creating. The deductions that Plato makes involving the forming of the universe shows his optimism concerning humankind. He views humankind as formed for the greater good of the universe. The world created by the Demiurge is alive, intelligent, eternal, and good, and therefore it is a "blessed god"(65). It just so happens that along with the influence of the Demiurge there was another factor at work. Plato refers to this as "the Errant Cause"(111). It is apparent that this other principle could be likened to the mother of the cosmos, sense the Demiurge was the father. Plato affirms that there must be forms, because mind or reason and true belief are different and thus, must have different objects. The things of significant importance that exist according to Plato are the forms, which are perceived by the mind alone. Also, sensible objects, which are the images that the forms have created. Lastly, the receptacle, which is actually space that has no mind of its own and is apprehended "by a kind of bastard reasoning by the aid of non-sensation, barely an object of belief"(123).
Plato’s Timaeus is quite possibly the hardest book that I have had to read sense I took Philosophy at the University of South Carolina. Its language is very difficult to get accustomed to. Although, after settling in with this artistic type of language that has apparently vanished from this present world that we find ourselves in, the work proves to a most interesting read. To read any of the classics from this time period (Critias, Phaedo, Parmenides, the Sophist, the Republic) is to step back into the minds of the early thinkers, the rogues of higher knowledge. Being that I am very much a Christian and hence a creationist, I obviously cannot agree with this particular creation story. However, I can marvel at the literary wonder of Plato’s style of writing. It is important that I point out the significance of this work to the psychologist. Plato contemplates the mind-body problem in this work. This problem has plagued the psychologist sense the very beginning. As we can see from Plato’s writings, this problem bother people even before the first psychologist emerged.