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Baltes, M., Die Weltentstehung des platonischen Timaios nach den Antiken Interpreten, I. Leiden, Brill, 1976.
Baltes, M., Dörrie, H. (eds.), Die philosophische Lehre des Platonismus: Text, Übersetzung, Kommentar, Band IV, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, Frommann Holzboog, 1996 (Baltes 1996b).
Bryan, J., Likeness and Likelihood in the Presocratics and Plato, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2012.
Burnyeat, M., « Εἰκὼς Μῦθος », in Partenie, C. (ed.), Plato’s Myths, Cambridge, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2009, p. 167-186.
Couissin, P., « Le Stoicisme de la Nouvelle Academie », Revue d'Histoire de la Philosophie 3, 1929, p. 241-276.
Dal Pra, M., Lo Scetticismo Greco, 2 vols., Bari, 1975.
Dillon, J., The Middle Platonists: A Study of Platonism, 80 B.C. to A.D. 220, London, Duckworth, 1977.
Donini, P., « Il Timeo : Unità del Dialogo, Verosimiglianza del Discorso », Elenchos 9, 1988, p. 5-52.
Dutton, P.E., « Medieval Approaches to Calcidius », in Reydams-Schils, G. (ed.), Plato’s Timaeus as a Cultural Icon, Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 2003, p. 183-205.
Fortenbaugh, W.W., Steinmetz, P., Cicero’s Knowledge of the Peripatos, New Brunswick, N.J., USA, Transaction Publishers, 1989.
Fuhrer, T., « Der Begriff von veri simile bei Cicero and Augustin », Museum Helveticum 50, 1993, p. 107-124.
Gersh, S., Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism: the Latin Tradition, Notre Dame, Ind., University of Notre Dame Press, 1986.
Glucker, J., « Probabile, Veri Simile and Related Terms », in Powell, J.G.F. (ed.), Cicero the Philosopher, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995, p. 115-143.
Görler, W., « Ein sprachlicher Zufall und seine Folgen. Wahrscheinliches bei Karneades und bei Cicero », in Müller, C., Sier, K., Werner (eds.), Zum Umgang mit fremden Sprachen in der griechisch-römischen Antike: Kolloquium der Fachrichtungen Klassische Philologie der Universitäten Leipzig und Saarbrückenam 21. und 22. November 1989 in Saarbrücken, Stuttgart, Steiner, 1992, p. 159-171.
Görler, W., « Karneades », in Flashar, H. (ed.), Die Philosophie der Antike, Band 4: Die Hellenistische Philosophie, 1994, p. 849-897.
Grimaldi, W.M.A., « A Note on the πίστεις in Aristotle's Rhetoric 1354-135 », The American Journal of Philology 78, 1957, p. 188-192.
Hadot, P., « Die Einteilung der Philosophie im Altertum », Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung 36, 1982, p. 422-444.
Howald, E., « Eikos logos », Hermes 57, 1922, p. 63-79.
Johansen, T.K., Plato's Natural Philosophy: a Study of the Timaeus-Critias, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Lienhard, J.T., « A Note on the Meaning of ΠΙΣΤΙΣ’ », The American Journal of Philology 87/4, 1966), p. 446-454.
Long, A.A., Sedley, D., The Hellenistic Philosophers. vol. 1: Translation of the Principal Sources with Philosophical Commentary; vol. 2: Greek and Latin Texts with Notes and Bibliography, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Meyer-Abich, K.M., « Eikos Logos. Platons Theorie der Naturwissenschaft », in Scheibe, E., Süßmann, G. (eds.), Einheit und Vielheit. Festschrift für C.-F. von Weizsäcker, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1973, p. 22-44.
Peetz, S., « Ciceros Konzept des „probabile“ », Philosophisches Jahrbuch 112/1, 2005, p. 99-133.
Powell, J.G.F., « Cicero’s Translations from the Greek », in Powell, J.G.F. (ed.), Cicero the Philosopher, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995, p. 273-300.
Reinhardt, Tobias, « Rhetoric in the Fourth Academy », Classical Quarterly 50/2, 2000, p. 531-547.
Reydams-Schils, G., Demiurge and Providence: Stoic and Platonist Readings of Plato’s Timaeus, Turnhout, 1999.
Reydams-Schils, G., « Meta-discourse: Plato's Timaeus according to Calcidius », Phronesis 52, 2007, p. 301-27.
Rowe, C., « The Status of the 'Myth' in Plato's Timaeus », in Natali, C., Maso, S. (eds.), Plato Physicus. Cosmologia e Antropologia nel Timeo, Amsterdam, Adolf Hakkert, 2003, p. 21-31.
Sedley, D., « Cicero on the Timaeus », in Schofield, M. (ed.), Aristotle, Plato and Pythagoreanism in the First Century BC, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2013, p. 187-205.
Striker, G., « Skeptical Strategies », in Schofield, M., Burnyeat, M., Barnes, J. (eds.), Doubt and Dogmatism. Studies in Hellenistic Epistemology, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1980, p. 54-83.
Taylor, A. E., A Commentary on Plato's Timaeus, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1928.
Vlastos, G., « The Disorderly Motion in the Timaeus », Classical Quarterly 33, 1939, p. 71-83. Reprinted in Allen, R.E., Studies in Plato's Metaphysics, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1965, p. 379-421.
Waszink, J.H., Jensen, P.J. (eds.), Plato. Timaeus a Calcidio translatus commentarioque instructus, Leiden, Brill/ Warburg Institute, 1962.
Wikramanayake, G.H., « A Note on the in πίστεις Aristotle's Rhetoric », The American Journal of Philology 82, 1961, p. 193-196.
I shall not at present deal with further details of the arguably most famous controversy of the dialogue, the question whether Plato had intended for his readers to take literally the (problematic) chronological succession of events unfolding in Timaeus’ narrative which culminates in the creation of the cosmos, or whether the dialogue is intended to depict in metaphorical fashion the driving forces and mechanical processes at work in our universe. The classic study of this topic (excluding the Christian tradition) is Baltes’ Die Weltentstehung des platonischen Timaios nach den Antiken Interpreten (1976). The efforts undertaken to bolster a non-temporal reading of the term γέγονεν are famously summarized by the second century Middle Platonist Calvenus Taurus; cf. Philop. Aet. 145,7-147,13 (ed. Rabe).
At Tim. 41a−b, we learn that the sempiternal existence of the cosmos, despite its having come-to-be, is in fact warranted by the will of its creator.
The Greek text of Plato’s Timaeus is cited according to Burnet, Platonis Opera, vol. IV. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1902 (repr. 1968). The English translation is cited according to Bury, Plato. Timaeus; Critias; Cleitophon; Menexenus; Epistles. London, Heinemann, 1929, with minor alterations. The division of the texts into individual paragraphs is my own.
Reference to the εἰκὼς λόγος or εἰκὼς μῦθος occurs again at Tim. 30b7, 44d1, 48c1, 48d2, 49b6, 53d5-6, 55d1, 56a1, 56d1, 57d6, 59c6, 68d2, 72d7, 90e8.
For instance, Baltes, op. cit., Bryan (2012), Burnyeat (2009), Donini (1988), Howald (1922) and Meyer-Abich (1973).
Plato plays on this similarity also at Rep. 517d1 and Soph. 236a8.
Bryan, op. cit. p. 114-160 and especially p. 139-160, emphasizes such a meaning of εἰκώς which, she argues further, expresses a positive relation between model and likeness. She rejects the notion that Timaeus’ εἰκὼς λόγος should be considered ‘deficient’ when compared to accounts that treat of the intelligible realm. Burnyeat, op. cit., 179f., suggests ‘reasonable’ for εἰκώς at Tim. 29c2 instead of the commonly accepted ‘likely’ as an initial interpretation of the text, and ‘probable’ as the second reading, an inference based on the fact that the most reasonable (in the sense of: ‘disclosing the workings of reason in the cosmos’) account coincides with that which is most probable. εἰκώς is to be regarded as an ‘aspiration’ for Timaeus whose task it is to provide a μῦθος that is appropriate to its subject matter (ibid. p. 178).
See, for instance, Taylor (1928), p. 59.
Apart from its appearance at 29d2, see 59c6 and 69b1.
A viewpoint that rejects the position of Vlastos (1939), 380-3 and, more recently, Rowe (2003).
Johansen, op. cit., p. 63, argues that λόγος must be understood as describing the genus of accounts in general as well as describing a particular type of account within the genus λόγος which possesses a higher rationality than another type of account within the same genus: the μῦθος (63). Burnyeat, op. cit., 168f., defines as the most important characteristic mark of a μῦθος, which he interprets in the strong sense of the word – ‘myth’ as opposed to ‘story’, ‘tale’ – to be its reference to the divine. The dialogue is a myth inasmuch as it is a theogony describing the coming-to-be of the created god, the sensible universe. An εἰκὼς μῦθος becomes an εἰκὼς λόγος, being a rational (i.e. ‘describing the creator’s rational reasoning’) account of natural philosophy and, at the same time, a myth.
As we learn also from Cicero’s preface to the translation, in which Nigidius is described as acer investigator et diligens earum rerum quae a natura involutae videntur. He is credited by Cicero with reinvigorating Pythagorean philosophy: sic iudico … hunc extitisse qui illam [disciplinam] renovaret.
Cicero’s Latin text is cited according to Giomini, M. Tulli Ciceronis scripta quae manserunt omnia. De divinatione, De fato, Timaeus. Leipzig, Teubner, 1975, with minor alterations. All translations are my own unless stated otherwise.
Cf. Peetz (2005), p. 119-121, n.47. Glucker (1995), whose study has been a most valuable source for my following discussion, cites amongst other evidence Aristotle’s Rhet. 1400a8,12, but warns that this use of πιθανόν was at no time universally consistent (see esp. p. 123-126).
Ibid., 1355b, 26.
E.g., Ar. Rhet. I,2,1357a31ff.
Rhet. II,20,1394a10: ‘If we have no enthymemes, we must employ examples (παραδείγμασι) as demonstrative proofs, for convincingness (πίστις) is produced by these.’ For a more comprehensive discussion of πίστις in Aristotle’s Rhetoric, see Lienhard, (1966), against Wikramanayake, (1961); cf. Grimaldi (1957).
See Glucker, op. cit., 128f.
On Cicero’s knowledge of Aristotle’s rhetorical works, cf. Fortenbaugh (1989), p. 39-60.
Cf. also Burnyeat, op. cit., p. 169.
Cic. Part. Or. 40. Exemplum translates Aristotle’s παράδειγμα, a further possible component of rhetorical proof alongside εἰκότα, τεκμήρια and σημεῖα. Cf. Ar. Rhet. I,2,1357a31ff.
Cf. Or. 46; De Orat. III, 80.
I understand this phrasing to be synonymous with veri simile.
Translating quasi. Fuhrer (1995) suggests that Cicero’s use of quasi in this context indicates his awareness of the fact that veri simile was not part of the sceptics’ epistemological vocabulary. Cf. infra, n.30.
Carneades’ predecessor Arcesilaos is credited with establishing the εὔλογον, a term taken from Stoic ethical theory and modeled after the κατόρθωμα, as a criterium of action and decision-making. Cicero translates the εὔλογον likewise with probabile. Cf. Sextus, Adv. log. I, 156; see also Long/Sedley, thereafter ‘LS’, (1987), p. 457.
Cf. Couissin (1929), 55. Görler (1992) and Peetz, op. cit., esp. p. 116-118, credit Cicero, not Philo, with the innovation of the concept of the probabile (for πιθανόν) as a development of the Carneadean πιθανὴ φαντασία ; cf. Glucker’s discussion, op. cit., p.133-135. Cf. Görler (1994), p. 876.
Ac. II,33; 99; cf. Glucker, op. cit., p. 117, 135.
The Academic πιθανὴ φαντασία as a hypothetical alternative criterion is thought to have been a response to the charge of ἀπραξία, the inability to make decisions and to act on them, which, so the Stoics argued, was a necessary consequence of a suspension of judgement (ἐποχή) resulting from the sceptic denial of cognitive certainty. Cf. Plut., Col. 1122A; S.E. M, XI, 162; see further, Striker (1980), 63-9. It is confirmed by Carneades’ student Clitomachus, in Cicero’s testimony (Ac. II, 78; 108; 139 ; cf. Fin. V, 20) that his master, following his predecessor Arcesilaus, had designed the concept of the πιθανὴ φαντασία merely as a dialectical device tailored to rival the Stoic καταληπτικὴ φαντασία, and thus advanced it as a theoretical point of reference, albeit a fallible one, in the evaluation of sense-impressions. As such, it should not be understood to carry any epistemological significance, but to have taken the role merely of an ad hominem argument. Cf. also LS (vol. I), 459f; Dal Pra (1975), 270-81, Couissin, op. cit., p. 241-276.
Further instances of an ‘epistemological’ use of veri simile are Tusc. II, 9 and Fin. II, 43.
Görler (1992) argues that, based on his use of probabile, Cicero must be credited with the original, although ‘accidental’ development of contemporary Academic philosophy towards a more positive, constructive form of scepticism that had as its aim the probabile as a criterion for one’s conduct of life. Görler believes further that, whilst initially presenting both probabile and veri simile to translate πιθανόν, Cicero began to consider the latter as less suitable and therefore abandoned it gradually in favour of probabile. John Glucker, op. cit., after an extensive review of Cicero’s use of probabile, veri simile and their cognate forms, concludes that Cicero used the terms inconsistently. Fuhrer, op. cit., esp. 113f., holds that Cicero (or his teacher Philo?) must accept the charge of incorrectly employing the rhetorical veri simile in an epistemological context. Peetz, op. cit., building on Görler, goes as far as crediting Cicero alone with advancing the newly-devised concept of the probabile as an independent development of the Carneadean πιθανὴ φαντασία, by combining in his probabile the Aristotle’s rhetorical πιθανόν with what he terms the ‘metaphysical’ εἰκώς of Plato’s Timaeus, translated as veri simile. On the whole, I am hesitant to subscribe to such a positive evaluation of Cicero’s philosophical originality. Generally speaking, however, I owe to Peetz and the other contributions many illuminating insights which I am unable to acknowledge in full at the present moment.
Cicero reports that Philo taught rhetoric in the Academy at Tusc.II, 9; De Orat. III, 110.
Regarding the development of the rhetorical-philosophical method, Reinhardt’s (2000) insightful study, especially p. 533-539, has been a most helpful source for the present chapter.
My discussion of Cicero’s vocabulary in the present passage supports the conclusions drawn by David Sedley in his article ‘Cicero on the Timaeus’ in Plato, Aristotle and Pythagoras in the First Century BC (ed. Malcolm Schofield, forthcoming), in which he offers an illuminative discussion of the contents and purpose Cicero’s translation − which he identifies as a disputatio in utramque partem − might have conveyed in its completed form.
It appears that Cicero saw no significance in Timaeus’ alternate use of λόγος on the one hand, and μῦθος on the other.
I hope to elaborate elsewhere that Cicero incorporated a further element of rhetorical invention, the so-called status coniecturalis, into his translation. My view is based – mainly but not exclusively – on his use of the term coniectura, at Tim. 29b7, as the third Latin equivalent after probabile and veri simile to translate the Timaean εἰκὼς λόγος.
Significant in this respect are the findings of Peetz, op. cit., p. 118–126, who argues that the Stoics, within their epistemology, grounded their belief in cognitive perceptions on the notions of ‘proof’ as familiar from Aristotle’s theory of enthymemes.
Cicero may have had in mind the Divided Line of Plato’s Republic, in which πίστις and εἰκασία are subdivisions of δόξα.
Cf. Powell (1995), p. 280-281.
Cic. Fat.1: ‘The method I followed in those other books concerning the nature of the gods (qui sunt de natura deorum) … was that of unfolding a continuous discourse both for and against (feci ut in utramque partem perpetua explicaretur oratio), with the aim that each [reader] can more easily adopt the view that seems to him most probable (quod cuique maxime probabile videretur).’
Cf. Cic. Ac. I, 46: hanc Academiam novam appellant, quae mihi vetus videtur, si quidem Platonem ex illa vetere numeramus, cuius in libris nihil affirmatur et in utramque partem multa disseruntur, de omnibus quaeritur nihil certi dicitur...
See, e.g. Tusc. I, 4: hanc enim perfectam philosophiam semper iudicavi, quae de maximis quaestionibus copiose posset ornateque dicere... At De Orat. III, 159, Cicero charges Socrates with the severing of both disciplines.
Noteworthy are a number of remarks in which Cicero emphasises Plato’s talent, not as a philosopher, but as a – potential – orator: at De Orat. I,47, he comments on the irony of Plato’s contempt, displayed most notably in the Gorgias, for rhetoric, in view of his abilities: ‘What I admired the most about Plato in this book [Gorgias] was that he himself, when laughing at orators, seemed to me to be the most accomplished orator’. In his De Officiis, Cicero envisages Plato as exceptional even in the field in forensic oratory, had the philosopher deigned to commit himself to such profane topics: ‘I certainly believe that Plato, had he wished to take up forensic speech, would have been able to speak with great force and eloquence.’ Cicero described the disputatio in utramque partem as a skill to be learned by the ‘ideal orator’ at De Orat. I, 153, 263; III, 80, 107.
We find no reference to his work in any other writer of antiquity, cf. Waszink’s introduction to his edition (1962), ix.
Gersh (1986) summarises the various contending views on Calcidius’ date at 421ff.
See, however, Dillon (1977), 403f.
Apart from Waszink, op. cit., Gersh, op. cit., and Dillon, op. cit., cf. Reydams-Schils (1999; 2007, 311-14) and Bakhouche (2011), a work I have not yet had the chance to consult.
Mention of the dogma Platonis occurs in the commentary, for instance, in ch. 119, p. 164, l.5 of his commentary, and at 142,181,16 (all citations according to Waszink’s 1962 edition).
Gersh, op. cit., 425f., with n. 21, provides a list of Calcidius’ quotations from these works.
Cal., Comm. in Tim. 6, 6-9.
This sentiment is repeated in the preface to the commentary (4,58, 19-22) where Calcidius explains in similar terms: sola translatione contentus non fui ratus obscuri minimeque illustris exempli simulacrum sine interpretatione translatum in eiusdem aut etiam maioris obscuritatis vitio futurum... Cf. also Dutton (2003), 189.
Cf. the conclusions drawn by Reydams-Schils (2007), p. 313, who stresses the contrast between Calcidius’ assertive authorial identity and the habit commonly displayed by Neoplatonic commentators of pledging allegiance to their masters and predecessors within the Platonist tradition.
Presumably rendering ἀρχήν.
Cal., Comm. in Tim., 58,1f.
On the particular meaning ‘suitable’ of εἰκώς, see Burnyeat’s illuminating discussion, op. cit., 170f.
Calcidius’ use of the term sublimis, at first sight, appears odd in view of the fact that only shortly before, he modifies the Greek by identifying the subject matter as the natura universae rei only (§4) and omits any mention of the θεῶν. In other words, the exclusions of the gods from his discussion appears to be counteracted by the fact that Calcidius re-introduces the subject of theology into his translation only shortly after by using the term sublimis. I am grateful to Gerard Boter for this observation. I believe this apparent contradiction can be solved if we understand Calcidius’ expression res sublimes here to refer also to the natura universae rei: the universe is immediately linked to the subject of theology since it is a work of god. As such, its origin is beyond human comprehension, cf. Ch. 23 of the commentary: dei operum origo et initium incomprehensibile… Thus, while Calcidius does omit the mention of the gods in §4 (very likely with the intention of ‘smoothing over’ the portrayal of a multitude of gods he may have considered problematic in view of the Christian affiliations of his dedicatee Osius) his account, overall, still contains elements of theology which, however, cannot be adequately explained by his mediocris explanatio.
περὶ δὲ τῶν ἄλλων δαιμόνων εἰπεῖν καὶ γνῶναι τὴν γένεσιν μεῖζον ἢ καθ’ ἡμᾶς .
Cal. Comm. in Tim., 127, 170, 6-12.
On the structure of the Platonic curriculum and reflections thereof in the Timaeus, see Reydams-Schils, op. cit., esp. p. 314-319, where she discusses the same passages of the commentary.
An initial distinction between theoretical and practical philosophy is ascribed to Xenocrates (Fr.6, Heinze) and sometimes also associated with Plato (see also Plato, Plt. 258d4-6: Ἆρ’ οὖν οὐκ ἀριθμητικὴ μὲν καί τινες ἕτεραι ταύτῃ συγγενεῖς τέχναι ψιλαὶ τῶν πράξεών εἰσι, τὸ δὲ γνῶναι παρέσχοντο μόνον;). See further Ar. Met. VI.1, 1026a, 18-20. Aristotle, however, places mathematics higher than physics whereas Alcinous and Calcidius place mathematics at the lowest position. Cf. Dillon’s (1993) commentary on Alcinous, Chapter Seven, ad loc.
A thorough exposition of the various types of divisions of philosophical disciplines is P. Hadot’s ‘Die Einteilung der Philosophie im Altertum’ (1982).
Comm. in Tim. 264, 270, 6-7: dividitur porro haec (i.e. the consideratio or theoretical philosophy, as opposed to practical philosophy, actus) trifariam, in theologiam et item naturae sciscitationem praestandaeque etiam rationis scientiam.
Cf. Hadot, op. cit., 441. The order of reading varied, as is reported for instance by Diogenes Laertius III.62. In Chapter 5 of his Introductio in Platonem Alcinous explains that the order in which the dialogues were read could depend on very particular circumstances, such as the intellect and the age of the student, his motivation and the timeframe available to him.
Hadot, op. cit. 436. To my knowledge, Calcidius is the only Latin writer to have used the term epoptica, transliterated from the Greek. It is likely to have been inspired by the mention of such rites by Diotima in Plato’s Symp. 210a1: τὰ δὲ τέλεα καὶ ἐποπτικά … Plutarch reports at De Iside 382d that Plato and Aristotle established the study of epoptical subject matter to follow upon physics: διὸ καὶ Πλάτων καὶ Ἀριστοτέλης ἐποπτικὸν τοῦτο τὸ μέρος τῆς φιλοσοφίας καλοῦσιν, ὡς οἱ τὰ δοξαστὰ καὶ μικτὰ καὶ παντοδαπὰ ταῦτα παραμειψάμενοι τῷ λόγῳ πρὸς τὸ πρῶτον ἐκεῖνο καὶ ἁπλοῦν καὶ ἄυλον ἐξάλλονται, καὶ θιγόντες ὅλως τῆς περὶ αὐτὸ καθαρᾶς ἀληθείας οἷον ἐν τελετῇ τέλος ἕχειν φιλοσοφίας νομίζουσι. The use of imagery from the Eleusinian mysteries appears, moreover, in Theon of Smyrna (rer. math. 14, ed. Hiller, see esp. 14,18-15,1); Origen, Comm. in Cant. Cant. prologue. Cf. Hadot, op. cit. p. 439; Dörrie/ Baltes (1996), p. 228-231.
Reydams-Schils (2007), esp. 314-19, suggests dividing Calcidius’ work into three parts: mathematics (Chapters 8-118), physics (119-267) and theology (268-355). This division corresponds to the didactic arrangement of the Platonist curriculum, in which the ascent to theology begins with mathematics, physics taking the intermediate position. The Timaeus, moreover, is considered by Calcidius as treating of a iustitia naturalis, as opposed to justice in rebus humanis that is established in the Republic, which is presented as the prequel to the Timaeus (described in Chapter 6 of the commentary).
Perfunctorius occurs in Calcidius in the senses of “cursory”, “fleeting” (142,181,15; 253,262,18; 330,325,11), “superficial” (in contrast to “thorough”, 142,181,15) as well as “uncertain” (249,259,19f).
I hope to have shown that Burnyeat’s evaluation of Calcidius’ term explanatio for μῦθος as ‘dreary’ (2009, 168 n.3), is perhaps a somewhat too hasty judgment that fails to take into account the underlying reasons which motivated this specific rendering.Haut de page