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Εἰκὼς λόγος: Plato in Translation(s)

Christina Hoenig

Résumés

Cette étude examine le rôle de traduction comme médium dans la tradition des interprétations de Platon. L’examen porte sur une partie du Timée de Platon (29b2-d3), traduite par trois interprètes: un premier échantillon de traduction moderne permet tout d’abord de mettre en lumière certains reflets de la recherche platonicienne contemporaine. Deux spécimens plus détaillés de traductions latines, de Cicéron et de Calcidius, datée du IVe siècle, permettent ensuite d’approfondir l’exégèse ancienne du dialogue. L’article s’attache à démontrer que chacun de ces textes témoigne du platonisme contemporain de son traducteur, de sa mentalité philosophique et intellectuelle. Dans le cas de la version cicéronienne, on rencontre des éléments dialectiques de l’académie philonienne, entremêlés avec des nuances rhétoriques aristotéliciennes. La traduction calcidienne, en revanche, nous invite à réfléchir sur la vie philosophique du moyen platonisme. Loin d’être un instrument neutre et mécanique de dissémination textuelle, la traduction se présente comme une interprétation individuelle et une contribution originale à l’exégèse de l’objet qu’elle transmet.

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Introduction

1This paper is an investigation into the role of translation as a medium in the transmission of Platonic thought. My approach is descriptive, not evaluative: I shall not attempt to define a standard or ideal of form, function and scope of translation in this particular field of application. Rather, I shall present individual instances of Plato’s philosophy in translation and draw from them conclusions with regard to the translators’ wider philosophical framework, agenda and methodology. First I shall introduce the text that will be the object of my examination, Plato’s Timaeus 29b2−d3, by drawing attention to some of its key interpretative issues. In Part Two of my investigation, an initial brief look at a modern translation of the passage will highlight the manner in which points of contention at stake in our contemporary Platonic scholarship are reflected in some of the texts available to modern students. I shall then offer a detailed analysis of Cicero’s translation of the passage, composed in the mid-first century BC, followed by the translation of the same text by the commentator and translator Calcidius, who wrote in the latter half of the fourth century AD. In demonstrating that all three versions of Tim. 29b2−d3 are individual witnesses to their authors’ contemporary Platonism, with each text betraying the specific influences of its translator’s philosophical and intellectual mindset, I aim to make a case for translation as a device that must be regarded not as an impartial and merely functional instrument of knowledge transmission, but as a contribution to, and an interpretation, of its own accord, of the body of knowledge it is intended to communicate.

I. The Text: Plato’s Timaeus 29b2−d3

  • 1  I shall not at present deal with further details of the arguably most famous controversy of the di (...)
  • 2  At Tim. 41a−b, we learn that the sempiternal existence of the cosmos, despite its having come-to-b (...)
  • 3  The Greek text of Plato’s Timaeus is cited according to Burnet, Platonis Opera, vol. IV. Oxford: C (...)

2At the centre of Plato’s dialogue is a creation account, placed in the mouth of the astronomer and physicist Timaeus, in which a divine δημιουργός reshapes chaotic pre-cosmic material and creates our universe. At 29b2−d3, Timaeus reflects upon his methodology as narrator. Having previously established a difference between the ontological spheres of being (τὸ ὄν) and becoming (τὸ γιγνόμενον) at 27d5−28a4, he declares further that our universe has not always existed but has come-to-be: γέγονεν1 (28b2−c2). Objects that have come-to-be, he continues, are subject to change, to generation and destruction2.What is more, our cosmos is a copy or an image, εἰκών, that has been fashioned in the likeness of an intelligible model or paradigm located in the sphere of being (28c5−29b2). At 29b2−d3, we learn that both model and copy can be assigned their own type of λόγος, a type of account that shares the inherent characteristics of its subject matter. More precisely, the ontological status of the subject matter in question determines the epistemological status of the λόγος treating thereof3 :

§1: μέγιστον δὴ παντὸς ἄρξασθαι κατὰ φύσιν ἀρχήν. ὧδε οὖν περί τε εἰκόνος καὶ περὶ τοῦ παραδείγματος αὐτῆς διοριστέον, ὡς ἄρα τοὺς λόγους, ὧνπέρ εἰσιν ἐξηγηταί, τούτων αὐτῶν καὶ συγγενεῖς ὄντας•

§2: τοῦ μὲν οὖν μονίμου καὶ βεβαίου καὶ μετὰ νοῦ καταφανοῦς μονίμους καὶ ἀμεταπτώτους - καθ’ ὅσον οἷόν τε καὶ ἀνελέγκτοις προσήκει λόγοις εἶναι καὶ ἀνικήτοις, τούτου δεῖ μηδὲν ἐλλείπειν – τοὺς δὲ τοῦ πρὸς μὲν ἐκεῖνο ἀπεικασθέντος, ὄντος δὲ εἰκόνος, εἰκότας ἀνὰ λόγον τε ἐκείνων ὄντας

§3: ὅτιπερ πρὸς γένεσιν οὐσία, τοῦτο πρὸς πίστιν ἀλήθεια.

§4: ἐὰν οὖν, ὦ Σώκρατες, πολλὰ πολλῶν πέρι θεῶν καὶ τῆς τοῦ παντὸς γενέσεως, μὴ δυνατοὶ γιγνώμεθα πάντῃ πάντως αὐτοὺς ἑαυτοῖς ὁμολογουμένους λόγους καὶ ἀπηκριβωμένους ἀποδοῦναι, μὴ θαυμάσῃς ·

§5: ἀλλ’ ἐὰν ἄρα μηδενὸς ἧττον παρεχώμεθα εἰκότας, ἀγαπᾶν χρή, μεμνημένους ὡς ὁ λέγων ἐγὼ ὑμεῖς τε οἱ κριταὶ φύσιν ἀνθρωπίνην ἔχομεν, ὥστε περὶ τούτων τὸν εἰκότα μῦθον ἀποδεχομένους πρέπει τούτου μηδὲν ἔτι   πέρα ζητεῖν.

§1: Now, in regard to every matter it is most important to begin at the natural beginning. Accordingly, in dealing with a copy and its model, we must affirm that the accounts given will themselves be akin to the diverse objects which they serve to explain;

§2: those which deal with what is abiding and firm and discernible by the aid of thought will be abiding and unshakable; and in so far as it is possible and fitting for statements to be irrefutable and invincible, they must in no wise fall short thereof; whereas the accounts of that which is copied after the likeness of that model, and is itself a likeness, will be analogous thereto and possess likelihood;

§3: for as being is to becoming, so is truth to belief.

§4: Wherefore, Socrates, if in our treatment of a great host of matters regarding the gods and the generation of the universe we prove unable to give accounts that are always in all respects self-consistent and perfectly exact, do not be surprised;

§5: rather we should be content if we can furnish accounts that are inferior to none in likelihood, remembering that both I who speak and you who judge are but human creatures, so that it becomes us to accept the likely account of these matters and forbear to search beyond it.

  • 4   Reference to the εἰκὼς λόγος or εἰκὼς μῦθος occurs again at Tim. 30b7, 44d1, 48c1, 48d2, 49b6, 53 (...)
  • 5  For instance, Baltes, op. cit., Bryan (2012), Burnyeat (2009), Donini (1988), Howald (1922) and Me (...)

3One of the difficulties in this passage is how we are to interpret Timaeus’ εἰκὼς λόγος, or εἰκὼς μῦθος, usually rendered ‘a probable’ or ‘likely account’ or ‘tale’, an expression Timaeus employs on numerous occasions throughout the dialogue. In our passage, he refers to εἰκότας λόγους in general in §2 of the Greek (supply λόγους from §1), while his own account is described as an εἰκὼς μῦθος   in §5. What is clear is that the εἰκὼς λόγος/μῦθος he is presenting, in the treatment of the sensible universe, is correlated to the sphere of becoming, τὸ γιγνόμενον. The fact that Timaeus takes pains to remind his listeners repeatedly4 that he is offering an εἰκὼς λόγος, or εἰκὼς μῦθος, indicates that these expressions carry a programmatic function for his investigation and are crucial for our understanding of the dialogue. But what exactly did Plato wish to express with this characterisation? The scholarship on the topic is extensive5, and I can merely outline some of the most important aspects in the present context.

The word εἰκώς

  • 6  Plato plays on this similarity also at Rep. 517d1 and Soph. 236a8.
  • 7  Bryan, op. cit. p. 114-160 and especially p. 139-160, emphasizes such a meaning of εἰκώς which, sh (...)

4εἰκώς, as it appears in our dialogue, conveys the sense of ‘portraying an image’, inasmuch as an εἰκὼς λόγος is identified by Timaeus as the type of account that deals with an image, an εἰκών, such as our universe. This is reinforced by Plato’s play on words in §2, which illustrates the similarity of both terms, εἰκών and εἰκώς6. The epistemological status of Timaeus’ account is εἰκώς, ‘likely’, due to the ontological status of its subject matter − the universe – a likeness or a copy belonging to the sphere of change7.

  • 8  See, for instance, Taylor (1928), p. 59.
  • 9  Apart from its appearance at 29d2, see 59c6 and 69b1.
  • 10  A viewpoint that rejects the position of Vlastos (1939), 380-3 and, more recently, Rowe (2003).
  • 11  Johansen, op. cit., p. 63, argues that λόγος must be understood as describing the genus of account (...)

5The notion of probability conveyed by the term εἰκώς has sometimes been interpreted as that of scientific hypothesis. On this view, the Timaean εἰκὼς λόγος is understood to be a provisional or approximate estimation, as opposed to accurate scientific knowledge8. Others point towards Timaeus’ occasional use of the word μῦθος9, instead of λόγος, to describe his own narrative, as indicative of the fact that the dialogue should be read as a myth, a fictional story or tale, which stands in contrast to a rational, scientific inquiry. This viewpoint complements the assumption that μῦθος and λόγος should not be understood as synonyms10, but that Plato wished to emphasize, by employing the term μῦθος, the mythical character of the Timaean account. It is possible, finally, to read the Timaeus as a combination of both λόγος and μῦθος, a rationally argued myth centring on the creation of the universe11.

6Regardless of what viewpoint we wish to subscribe to, Timaeus’ reflections upon his own methodology as narrator recommend themselves to the investigation also of the methodology of the dialogue’s translators. It is precisely the obscurity of Timaeus’ language that presents an opportunity for them to display their individual approaches to the methodology of their discourse: before translating the εἰκὼς λόγος, the translator must decide as what kind of text he wishes to understand and to transmit the dialogue. Thus, as a point of reference for our inquiry after their Platonic methodology, we will examine the manner in which Cicero and Calcidius understood the expression εἰκὼς λόγος or εἰκὼς μῦθος as a programmatic term in accordance with their own respective conceptions of Platonism.

II. Plato’s Tim. 29b2−d3 in translation

II.1. A modern translation

7At the outset of this section, let me briefly point to a modern translation of our passage. An association of the εἰκὼς λόγος, or μῦθος, with fictitious mythical narrative − as opposed to rational, scientific inquiry – appears in Susemihl’s translation of 1977, in which Timaeus, at 29b7-c1 (our §2), declares that accounts dealing with subject matter that is abiding and firm and discernible by intellect (τοῦ μὲν οὖν μονίμου καὶ βεβαίου καὶ μετὰ νοῦ καταφανοῦς μονίμους) are likewise abiding and firm, and ‘soweit es überhaupt wissenschaftlichen Erörterungen zukommt, unwiderleglich und unerschütterlich zu sein, darf man es hieran an nichts fehlen lassen’, thus translating ‘as far as it befits scientific discussions to be irrefutable and unshakeable…’ for καθ’ ὅσον οἷόν τε καὶ ἀνελέγκτοις προσήκει λόγοις εἶναι καὶ ἀνικήτοις... At the close of our passage at 29c8−d3 (§5), in turn, Susemihl’s Timaeus warns his listeners that, in the case of those accounts dealing with subject matter pertaining to the sphere of becoming and change, it is fitting ‘[sich] damit zu begnügen, wenn die Dichtung nur die Wahrscheinlichkeit für sich hat und wir nichts darüber hinaus verlangen dürfen’, translating ‘it befits us to be content if the myth merely holds probability…’ for ἀγαπᾶν χρή ὥστε περὶ τούτων τὸν εἰκότα μῦθον ἀποδεχομένους πρέπει τούτου μηδὲν ἔτι πέρα ζητεῖν.

8Susemihl’s translation clearly reflects the framework set up by contemporary Platonic scholarship, in which one of the possible viewpoints advanced interprets Timaeus’ εἰκὼς λόγος as a fictitious myth, as opposed to an account treating of subject matter that is μόνιμος, βέβαιος and μετὰ νοῦ καταφανής, interpreted as a scientific inquiry.

II.2. Cicero’s interpretation of the εἰκὼς λόγος

  • 12  As we learn also from Cicero’s preface to the translation, in which Nigidius is described as acer (...)
  • 13  Cicero’s Latin text is cited according to Giomini, M. Tulli Ciceronis scripta quae manserunt omnia(...)

9From the outset, Cicero’s Latin version is given a distinctively Roman setting: it is not Timaeus who is speaking, but Cicero’s contemporary Nigidius Figulus, a polymath and influential supporter of Neo-Pythagoreanism12. Let us look at some passages of the Latin text13.

§2: [διοριστέον, ὡς ἄρα τοὺς λόγους] τοῦ μὲν οὖν μονίμου καὶ βεβαίου καὶ μετὰ νοῦ καταφανοῦς μονίμους καὶ ἀμεταπτώτους - καθ’ ὅσον οἷόν τε καὶ ἀνελέγκτοις προσήκει λόγοις εἶναι καὶ ἀνικήτοις, τούτου δεῖ μηδὲν ἐλλείπειν – τοὺς δὲ τοῦ πρὸς μὲν ἐκεῖνο ἀπεικασθέντος, ὄντος δὲ εἰκόνος, εἰκότας ἀνὰ λόγον τε ἐκείνων ὄντας

§3: ὅτιπερ πρὸς γένεσιν οὐσία, τοῦτο πρὸς πίστιν ἀλήθεια.

§2: itaque cum de re stabili et inmutabili disputat ratio, talis sit qualis illa: neque redargui neque convinci potest; cum autem ingressa est imitata et efficta simulacra, bene agi putate, si similitudinem veri consequatur :

§3: quantum enim ad id quod ortum est aeternitas valet, tantum ad fidem veritas.

10In §2 Nigidius explains: ‘If the speech has entered upon subjects which are copies or fashioned images…’, cum autem ingressa [supply oratio] est imitata et efficta simulacra, bene agi putate, si similitudinem veri consequatur. Similitudo veri, here translating εἰκότας λόγους, is the best result that can be achieved by accounts dealing with copies or fashioned images. He continues in §3: ‘For, in the same manner as eternity stands to that which becomes, thus truth stands to convincingness (ad fidem).’

11In §4 Nigidius announces the topic he is about to investigate: quocirca si forte de deorum natura ortuque mundi disserentes..., ‘if we happen to discuss the nature of the gods and the coming-to-be of the universe…’:

§4: ἐὰν οὖν, ὦ Σώκρατες, πολλὰ πολλῶν πέρι θεῶν καὶ τῆς τοῦ παντὸς γενέσεως, μὴ δυνατοὶ γιγνώμεθα πάντῃ πάντως αὐτοὺς ἑαυτοῖς ὁμολογουμένους λόγους καὶ ἀπηκριβωμένους ἀποδοῦναι, μὴ θαυμάσῃς•

§4: quocirca si forte de deorum natura ortuque mundi disserentes minus id quod avemus animo consequemur, ut tota dilucide et plane exornata oratio sibi constet et ex omni parte se cum ipsa consentiat, haut sane erit mirum,

12Finally, he concludes in §5 that within the framework of an oratio whose subject matter is the sensible physical realm − our universe − one must be content if what is advanced by the speaker are probabilities, si probabilia dicentur, and should inquire no further. Probabilia translates εἰκότας [λόγους] and τὸν εἰκότα μῦθον:

§5: ἀλλ’ ἐὰν ἄρα μηδενὸς ἧττον παρεχώμεθα εἰκότας, ἀγαπᾶν χρή, μεμνημένους ὡς ὁ λέγων ἐγὼ ὑμεῖς τε οἱ κριταὶ φύσιν ἀνθρωπίνην ἔχομεν, ὥστε περὶ τούτων τὸν εἰκότα μῦθον ἀποδεχομένους πρέπει τούτου μηδὲν ἔτι πέρα ζητεῖν.

§5: contentique esse debebitis, si probabilia dicentur; aequum est enim meminisse et me, qui disseram, hominem esse et vos, qui iudicetis, ut, si probabilia dicentur, ne quid ultra requiratis.

  • 14  Cf. Peetz (2005), p. 119-121, n.47. Glucker (1995), whose study has been a most valuable source fo (...)
  • 15  Ibid., 1355b,  26.
  • 16  E.g., Ar. Rhet. I,2,1357a31ff.
  • 17  Rhet. II,20,1394a10: ‘If we have no enthymemes, we must employ examples (παραδείγμασι) as demonstr (...)
  • 18  See Glucker, op. cit., 128f.
  • 19  On Cicero’s knowledge of Aristotle’s rhetorical works, cf. Fortenbaugh (1989), p. 39-60.
  • 20  Cf. also Burnyeat, op. cit., p. 169.
  • 21  Cic. Part. Or. 40. Exemplum translates Aristotle’s παράδειγμα, a further possible component of rhe (...)

13Initially, we note Cicero’s use of the terms similitudo veri (§2) and probabilia (§5) for the Timaean εἰκὼς λόγος/μῦθος. We frequently encounter both veri simile and probabile, or their cognate forms, in Cicero’s rhetorical treatises as renderings of the Greek technical terms εἰκώς and πιθανόν. Both Greek terms appear in the context of rhetorical theory already in Plato (Phaedr. 266e3; 272d8-e1). What is more, they are familiar from Aristotelian rhetoric14, where τὸ πιθανόν is the desired outcome or quality of an argument15 while the εἰκότα, in turn, belong to the ἔντεχνοι πίστεις, the individual components forming a rhetorical proof or ἐνθύμημα16. Elsewhere, Aristotle employs the term πίστις to denote ‘convincingness’, the desired effect of the ἐνθύμημα or of other types of rhetorical proof 17. A similar – if not always consistent18 – differentiation of terms is discernible also in Cicero, whose rhetorical theory seems to mirror that of Aristotle closely19. At Inv. I,9, the veri similia, like Aristotle’s εἰκότα, are the individual components of a rhetorical argument, whereas probabile (corresponding to πιθανόν) denotes the argument’s desired effect: inventio est excogitatio rerum verarum aut veri similium quae causam probabilem reddant. Probabile, moreover, is employed by Cicero to translate the Aristotelian ἔνδοχον at Inv. I,44-920. On a further note, Cicero uses the term fides in a similar manner to denote the effect achieved by veri similia: ‘With regard to probabilities (veri similia), some of them convey their forcefulness by themselves, while others, even if they appear slight in themselves, nonetheless have an impact when gathered together … the highest convincingness (maximam fidem) is given to a probability (similitudinem veri) first by an example (exemplum) …’21.

  • 22  Cf. Or. 46; De Orat. III, 80.
  • 23  I understand this phrasing to be synonymous with veri simile.

14What is more, we encounter probabile, veri simile and their cognates also in Cicero’s philosophical writings, in the context of sceptical epistemology. Both terms, without any apparent distinction, denote the outcome of sceptical investigative method, in Cicero’s terms: the disputatio in utramque partem. Cicero reports that this method was taught already by Aristotle as an exercise of rhetorical invention, a point to which I shall return later22. More significantly for the present context, however, is the fact that the sceptical Academy had appropriated the disputatio in utramque partem, as Cicero reports at Ac. II,7–8: ‘Our discussions achieve nothing other than, by advancing and listening to arguments for and against (in utramque partem) a topic, to bring out the truth or what is as close to it as possible (quod aut verum sit aut ad id quam proxime accedat)23; and neither does anything separate us from those who believe themselves to know something apart from the fact that these do not doubt that the opinions they defend are true, while we hold many things to be probable (probabilia), which we can easily follow but are hardly able to assent to.’

  • 24  Translating quasi. Fuhrer (1995) suggests that Cicero’s use of quasi in this context indicates his (...)

15The investigative method described by Cicero thus served to establish a viewpoint that was ‘probable’ or ‘convincing’, and that could serve as a guideline for the sceptical philosopher without requiring from him an ultimate commitment to cognitive certainty. This is brought to the point again at Ac. II,32, where the Antiochean Lucullus criticises the sceptics in the following manner: ‘They claim that something is probable (probabile) and, so to speak24, resembles the truth (veri simile), and that they use this as a guideline in their conduct of life, as well as in their investigations and discussions.’

  • 25  Carneades’ predecessor Arcesilaos is credited with establishing the εὔλογον, a term taken from Sto (...)
  • 26  Cf. Couissin (1929), 55. Görler (1992) and Peetz, op. cit., esp. p. 116-118, credit Cicero, not Ph (...)
  • 27 Ac. II,33; 99; cf. Glucker, op. cit., p. 117, 135.
  • 28  The Academic πιθανὴ φαντασία as a hypothetical alternative criterion is thought to have been a res (...)

16It is unclear whether Philo of Larissa, whose milder form of scepticism Cicero affiliated himself with, one of his predecessors25 or Cicero himself was responsible for advancing the concept of the πιθανόν – translated by Cicero as probabile or veri simile – to serve as a criterion for action and decision-making, in a development from the Carneadean πιθανὴ φαντασία 26. Carneades had advanced the concept of the πιθανὴ φαντασία, the ‘convincing’ or ‘plausible impression’ – translated by Cicero as probabilis visio or probabile visum27–as a presumably hypothetical28 alternative to the Stoic criterion of truth, the καταληπτικὴ φαντασία, or ‘cognitive impression’. The πιθανόν, it appears, differed from the πιθανὴ φαντασία in its application to intellectual discourse as opposed to sense-presentations only.

  • 29  Further instances of an ‘epistemological’ use of veri simile are Tusc. II, 9 and Fin. II, 43.

17Bearing in mind the fact that, in the field of rhetoric, Cicero usually  – although not universally – translates veri simile for εἰκώς whilst rendering πιθανόν as probabile, his apparently synonymous use of both Latin terms, in his philosophical works, to translate the sceptic πιθανόν is problematic29. Plato’s specific application of the term εἰκώς – originally a rhetorical term – to epistemological contexts, such as we encounter it in the Timaeus, was not maintained by his school: unlike πιθανόν, εἰκώς as such was not a part of the sceptic philosopher’s epistemological vocabulary. It thus appears that veri simile, as an apparent synonym for probabile, was incorporated by Cicero into the vocabulary of sceptical epistemology despite the fact that its usual Greek counterpart, εἰκώς, did not belong to this field.

  • 30  Görler (1992) argues that, based on his use of probabile, Cicero must be credited with the origina (...)
  • 31  Cicero reports that Philo taught rhetoric in the Academy at Tusc.II, 9; De Orat. III, 110.
  • 32  Regarding the development of the rhetorical-philosophical method, Reinhardt’s (2000) insightful st (...)

18I refrain from judging with certainty whether a deliberate, philosophically charged reinterpretation of the rhetorical veri simile as a synonym for probabile, translating the epistemological πιθανόν, was original to Cicero30, or whether a conflation of the rhetorical εἰκώς/veri simile and the epistemological πιθανόν / probabile had occurred previously, in the process of assimilation between rhetorical argument and philosophical investigation. The intrinsic relation between both methodologies is brought to the point, for instance, at De Oratore III,107–9: Cicero’s mouthpiece, the orator Crassus, explains how an exercise originally used in the field of rhetoric, the so-called disputatio in utramque partem, had become a philosophical investigative method. Having characterised this exercise, more specifically, as a method of constructing ‘two-sided debates (ancipites disputationes) allowing copious arguments to be advanced both pro and contra (in utramque partem)’, he explains further: ‘This exercise is now considered peculiar to [the Academy31 and the Peripatetics] but in the old days it was the activity of the persons who were sought to provide arguments and material for speeches on all kinds of public affairs …’32.

19Regarding Cicero’s use of rhetorical and philosophical vocabulary, it appears to me that we do not possess sufficient evidence for a confident assessment of the extent to which Cicero, brought up on rhetoric as well as philosophy from a young age, would have drawn a clear distinction between πιθανόν / probabile and εἰκώς / veri simile as on the one hand purely epistemological, and on the other purely rhetorical concepts. The mingling of rhetorical and epistemological expressions and nuances may have appeared to him natural as a consequence of the inherent affinities between both methodologies. Nevertheless, regardless of whether or not one wishes to interpret Cicero’s use of veri simile, as a synonym for the epistemological πιθανόν / probabile, as an original and philosophically charged innovation, it is not hard to discern why the term would have been an immediate choice for Cicero as a rendering of εἰκώς in our Timaeus passage, where, in addition to its rhetorical meaning, εἰκώς is given a distinctively epistemological significance by Plato. Let us return to Cicero’s translation.

  • 33  My discussion of Cicero’s vocabulary in the present passage supports the conclusions drawn by Davi (...)
  • 34  It appears that Cicero saw no significance in Timaeus’ alternate use of λόγος on the one hand, and (...)

20Cicero’s veri similitudo for εἰκὼς λόγος in §2 maintains the ambiguous rhetorical–epistemological colouring that is produced by Plato’s εἰκώς in its specific application in the present passage. Moreover, in view of the above considerations, Cicero’s wording suggests a link between the oratio Nigidius is presenting and the dialectical method of the disputatio in utramque partem, the aim of which is to establish what is veri simile − or probabile33. We encounter the latter term in §5 where it renders, in its neuter plural form, εἰκότας [λόγους] and τὸν εἰκότα μῦθον 34, thereby emphasising further the association of Cicero’s translation with the form of a disputatio in utramque partem.

  • 35  I hope to elaborate elsewhere that Cicero incorporated a further element of rhetorical invention, (...)
  • 36  Significant in this respect are the findings of Peetz, op. cit., p. 118–126, who argues that the S (...)
  • 37  Cicero may have had in mind the Divided Line of Plato’s Republic, in which πίστις  and  εἰκασία  a (...)

21Incidentally, the rhetorical nuances of veri similitudo are further underlined by the appearance of fides in §3. Similar to its Greek counterpart πίστις, we have encountered the term fides also in a technical sense used by Cicero, for instance at Part. Or. 40 where it describes the desired effect of a rhetorical argument achieved by the veri similia, the components of rhetorical proof. While fides in §3 initially appears to be a straightforward rendering of πίστις, its appearance within close proximity to veri similitudo in §2 results in a heightened rhetorical nuancing of the Latin text that, given Cicero’s rhetorical expertise, is unlikely to have been a chance result35. Significant in this respect is that Aristotle’s terms ἐικότα, πιθανόν and πίστις occur in his Rhetorics in the context of rhetorical proof that is ἔνδεχόμενον, i.e., that is based on δόξα (cf. Top. I,1)36. It is possible that Cicero associated the εἰκὼς λόγος, an account dealing with the sensible realm that is δόξῃ μετ’ αἰσθήσεως ἀλόγου δοξαστόν (Tim. 28a2-3), with this particular type of rhetorical proof 37.

  • 38  Cf. Powell (1995), p. 280-281.
  • 39  Cic. Fat.1: ‘The method I followed in those other books concerning the nature of the gods (qui sun (...)

22In §4, Nigidius indicates the topic of his investigation: quocirca si forte de deorum natura ortuque mundi disserentes... While Cicero remains relatively close to the Greek (πολλὰ πολλῶν πέρι θεῶν καὶ τῆς τοῦ παντὸς γενέσεως), the slight modification achieved by the omission of πολλὰ πολλῶν, and his addition, in turn, of natura, not only results in a rendering immediately reminiscent of the title of Cicero’s De Natura Deorum, composed in close proximity to his Timaeus translation38, but, moreover, identifies the subject of Nigidius’ oratio as the nature of the gods and the creation of the universe, subjects covered in that same dialogue. In addition, the fact that the De Natura Deorum is presented as a disputatio in utramque partem39 lends further support to the impression that Cicero had approached his Timaeus project with the same intention of arguing on either side of a given thesis, with the additional variation of presenting one side of the argument in Plato’s very own words – albeit in translation. The envisaged result would have aligned contemporary Academic rhetorical-dialectical methodology with the master himself. Nigidius’ speech would, on this interpretation, have formed one side of a given thesis that had at its centre an inquiry concerning the nature of the gods and the creation of the world and that, moreover, had the aim of establishing veri similitudo or probabilia.

  • 40  Cf. Cic. Ac. I, 46: hanc Academiam novam appellant, quae mihi vetus videtur, si quidem Platonem ex (...)
  • 41  See, e.g. Tusc. I, 4: hanc enim perfectam philosophiam semper iudicavi, quae de maximis quaestioni (...)
  • 42  Noteworthy are a number of remarks in which Cicero emphasises Plato’s talent, not as a philosopher (...)

23To conclude: it appears that it was Cicero’s intention to claim − with the help of his Timaeus translation which explicitly identifies itself as a disputatio in utramque partem − Plato’s allegiance for his contemporary Academy, in agreement with his portrayal of Plato elsewhere as the ‘original sceptic’40. What is more, we have found evidence that Cicero associated Plato’s εἰκὼς λόγος, correlated by Timaeus with the sensible realm of becoming and the epistemological plane of δόξα, with Aristotelian endoxic rhetorical proof. Given the fact that Aristotle is credited by Cicero with the teaching of the disputatio in utramque partem, it is entirely possible that Aristotelian rhetorical concepts and vocabulary had been incorporated into this investigative method which was later appropriated by Philo’s sceptical Academy. Incidentally, this mingling of Aristotelian rhetorical and sceptical dialectical elements would have presented an opportunity for Cicero to draw attention to the affinities that existed between rhetorical and philosophical methodology, and to demonstrate how the two disciplines rhetoric and philosophy could be reunited41. The result might have contributed to the vindication of rhetoric as a true τέχνη, a major concern in Cicero’s philosophical project42. Cicero’s interpretation of the εἰκὼςλόγος, as a programmatic expression indicative of his Platonism, must thus be located within the contexts of Aristotelian rhetorical theory and the rhetorical-philosophical disputatio in utramque partem practised in Philo’s sceptical Academy.

II.3. Calcidius’ interpretation of the εἰκὼς λόγος

  • 43  We find no reference to his work in any other writer of antiquity, cf. Waszink’s introduction to h (...)
  • 44  Gersh (1986) summarises the various contending views on Calcidius’ date at 421ff.
  • 45  See, however, Dillon (1977), 403f.
  • 46  Apart from Waszink, op. cit., Gersh, op. cit., and Dillon, op. cit., cf. Reydams-Schils (1999; 200 (...)

24Any consideration of Calcidius’ philosophical work must take into account not only the mystery surrounding his persona43, but also the problematic alignment of the contents of his commentary on the one hand, and its supposed date of composition one the other. Calcidius’ translation and commentary on the Timaeus date approximately from the latter fourth century AD44. A difficulty in this respect is the fact that Calcidius presents us with a mixture of Middle Platonic and Neoplatonic45 thought, interspersed on a number of occasions with elements of Christian doctrine. While the disentangling of such a wide range of ideas is at best challenging, it is the Middle Platonic material in his supposedly late fourth-century work that poses a chronological problem. To be clear from the outset, my discussion will not deal with any aspects of ‘Quellenforschung’ in Calcidius’ work. For treatment of such matters, I refer to those studies that offer a more comprehensive analysis of his commentary46. What I offer is a discussion of Calcidius’ interpretation of Timaeus’ εἰκὼς λόγος only. Nevertheless, several aspects of his work require consideration before we turn to his translation proper.

Calcidius’ views on Plato

  • 47  Mention of the dogma Platonis occurs in the commentary, for instance, in ch. 119, p. 164, l.5 of h (...)
  • 48  Gersh, op. cit., 425f., with n. 21, provides a list of Calcidius’ quotations from these works.

25Calcidius’ Platonic outlook is of dogmatic conviction and it is his intention to elucidate in his commentary the true dogma Platonis47. He underpins his own authority as a Platonic exegete by drawing upon other dialogues such as the Theaetetus, the Parmenides, the Phaedrus, the Republic and the Laws,48 and stresses repeatedly that his explanations provide for the reader a path by which to attain knowledge of the truth. For instance, in his discussion of the leges fatales that are set out before the human souls by the demiurge (referring to the νόμοι εἱμαρμένοι at Tim. 41e2f), Calcidius declares that he is about to reiterate for the reader what Plato, ‘inspired by truth itself’, had spoken: nos vero divinam legem sequentes repetemus ab exordio quae de fato Plato veritatis ipsius, ut mihi quidem videtur, instinctu locutus est (Ch. 176, p. 204, 3ff.).

Calcidius on his role as a translator and commentator

26In the letter of dedication to his superior, Osius, Calcidius accounts for his composition of the commentary – an addition to the originally commissioned task of producing a translation – in the following manner:

  • 49  Cal., Comm. in Tim. 6, 6-9.

‘Having approached the first parts of Plato’s Timaeus ... I have not only translated [the text] but have, moreover, composed a commentary on the same parts, in the belief that a copy (simulacrum) of an obscure subject matter (reconditae rei) without the unfolding of an interpretation (sine interpretationis explanatione) would be rather more obscure than the model (exemplo) itself.’49

  • 50  This sentiment is repeated in the preface to the commentary (4,58, 19-22) where Calcidius explains (...)
  • 51  Cf. the conclusions drawn by Reydams-Schils (2007), p. 313, who stresses the contrast between Calc (...)

27In identifying his translation as a simulacrum, Calcidius established an important link between his own project and the subject matter of Timaeus’ speech, the sensible universe, which is itself a simulacrum. If we complete the equation, Plato’s original as the exemplum corresponds to this eternal and unchanging model used by the demiurge, while Calcidius, in addition to merging his own role as narrator (of a simulacrum) with that of Timaeus (narrator of the εἰκὼς λόγος), presents himself also as a mediator between both by providing an interpretatio, a commentary tailored to the frame of mind of his the late fourth-century audience50. In the prolegomena to his work, Calcidius thus creates a connection between the subject matter of his treatise and the significance of his own exegesis in the commentary51. His emphasis on his role as a mediator between exemplum and simulacrum forms a thread throughout his Timaeus project that continuously reaffirms his identity as a guide who offers an interpretatio of the Platonic dogma. With this in mind, let us turn to Calcidius’ translation of Tim. 29b2-d3:

§1: μέγιστον δὴ παντὸς ἄρξασθαι κατὰ φύσιν ἀρχήν. ὧδε οὖν περί τε εἰκόνος καὶ περὶ τοῦ παραδείγματος αὐτῆς διοριστέον, ὡς ἄρα τοὺς λόγους, ὧνπέρ εἰσιν ἐξηγηταί, τούτων αὐτῶν καὶ συγγενεῖς ὄντας•

§2: [διοριστέον, ὡς ἄρα τοὺς λόγους] τοῦ μὲν οὖν μονίμου καὶ   βεβαίου καὶ μετὰ νοῦ καταφανοῦς μονίμους καὶ ἀμεταπτώτους - καθ’ ὅσον οἷόν τε καὶ ἀνελέγκτοις προσήκει λόγοις εἶναι καὶ ἀνικήτοις, τούτου δεῖ μηδὲν ἐλλείπειν - τοὺς [λόγους] δὲ τοῦ πρὸς μὲν ἐκεῖνο ἀπεικασθέντος, ὄντος δὲ εἰκόνος εἰκότας ἀνὰ λόγον τε ἐκείνων ὄντας

§1: Et quoniam rationem originis explicare non est facile factu, distinguendae sunt imaginis exemplique naturae. Causae quae, cur unaquaeque res sit, ostendunt, earundem rerum consanguineae sunt

§2: ita constantis quidem generis stabilisque naturae intellectui prudentiaeque perspicuae rei causa et ratio constans perspicuaque et inexpugnabilis reperitur, at vero eius quae ad similitudinem constantis perpetuaeque rei facta est ratio, utpote imaginis imaginaria simulacrumque rationis, perfunctoriam similitudinem mutuatur.

  • 52  Presumably rendering ἀρχήν.

28At the outset of our passage, the Latin Timaeus with whom, as we have seen, Calcidius implicitly identifies himself, begins: ‘Since it is not easy to set out (explicare for ἄρξασθαι) the account (ratio) of the origin52 [of the cosmos], we must distinguish between the nature of model (exemplum) and copy (imago).’

  • 53  Cal., Comm. in Tim., 58,1f.

29We recall that, previously, Calcidius identified the exemplum as Plato’s Greek text and the simulacrum as his own translation. Between these, the unfolding of his commentary or exegesis, the explanatio interpretationis, serves to make possible a transition from one to the other. Calcidius’ distinction in §1 between model and copy thus takes on a double-layered meaning, referring not only (as is the case in the Greek) to the intelligible model and its copy, our universe, but at the same time also to the Greek text (the exemplum), his Latin translation (the simulacrum or imago) and the explanatio interpretationis, the unfolding of his interpretation of, or commentary on, the Timaeus. That his commentary is foremost in his mind in the present context becomes evident, moreover, from his rendering, in §2, of the Greek λόγους (supplied in the Greek from §1) with causa et ratio, an expression echoing a statement Calcidius makes in the preface to the work: ‘In this work, since it treats of the nature (status) of the universe and of all those things the cosmos comprises, let an explanatory account be provided (causa et ratio praestetur)’53. The impression arises from Calcidius’ translation of the first two paragraphs of our passage that he is reflecting upon his own methodology as a commentator who is unfolding an explanatory account (explicare rationem originis for ἄρξασθαι   παντὸς in §1, causa et ratio in §2) of the origin of the cosmos. I shall return to the remainder of §2 in due course. Before I do so, let us turn to another passage in the translation:

§4: ἐὰν οὖν, ὦ Σώκρατες, πολλὰ πολλῶν πέρι θεῶν καὶ τῆς τοῦ παντὸς γενέσεως, μὴ δυνατοὶ γιγνώμεθα πάντῃ πάντως αὐτοὺς ἑαυτοῖς ὁμολογουμένους λόγους καὶ ἀπηκριβωμένους ἀποδοῦναι, μὴ θαυμάσῃς ·

§5: ἀλλ’ ἐὰν ἄρα μηδενὸς ἧττον παρεχώμεθα εἰκότας, ἀγαπᾶν χρή, μεμνημένους ὡς ὁ λέγων ἐγὼ ὑμεῖς τε οἱ κριταὶ φύσιν ἀνθρωπίνην ἔχομεν, ὥστε περὶ τούτων τὸν εἰκότα μῦθον ἀποδεχομένους πρέπει τούτου μηδὲν ἔτι πέρα ζητεῖν.

§4: Quare praedico iam nunc, Socrate: si, dum de natura uniuersae rei disputatur, minime inconcussas inexpugnabilesque rationes afferre ualuerim, ne miremini,

§5: quin potius illud intuere, si nihilo minus quam quiuis alius consentaneas assertiones afferam; memento enim tam me qui loquor quam uos qui iudicatis homines fore atque in rebus ita sublimibus mediocrem explanationem magni cuiusdam esse onus laboris.

30Calcidius translates:

  • 54  On the particular meaning ‘suitable’ of εἰκώς, see Burnyeat’s illuminating discussion, op. cit., 1 (...)

‘Thus, Socrates, I should like to warn, do not be surprised, in our discussion of the nature of the universe, if I should render accounts (rationes) that are of little steadfastness (minime inconcussas) and reliability, but, instead, be pleased if I shall render assumptions that are no less suitable (consentaneas)54 than those of another; for we must bear in mind that I, who am speaking, and you, who are judging, are human, and that, regarding objects of such sublimity (in rebus ita sublimibus), the mediocre explanation (mediocrem explanationem) of something great (magni cuiusdam) [or perhaps: ‘the mediocre manner of setting out something great’] is the burden of our task (onus laboris).’

  • 55  Calcidius’ use of the term sublimis, at first sight, appears odd in view of the fact that only sho (...)
  • 56  περὶ δὲ τῶν ἄλλων δαιμόνων εἰπεῖν καὶ γνῶναι τὴν γένεσιν μεῖζον ἢ καθ’ ἡμᾶς .

31Calcidius locates and evaluates his explanatio in relation to ‘[subject] matters of great sublimity’ (in rebus ita sublimibus). The latter expression renders περὶ τούτων (§5) which refers back to πολλὰ πολλῶν πέρι, θεῶν καὶ τῆς τοῦ παντὸς γενέσεως (§4) − paraphrased as de natura uniuersae rei by Calcidius − and describes the subject matter of Timaeus’ account. The attribute sublimis55, in the remainder of his writing, invariably describes characters or objects of divine nature. An example of such a type of subject matter occurs in Chapter 127, in the context of Tim. 40d7f., where Timaeus asserts that ‘to discover and declare the origin of the other divinities (i.e. those familiar from the traditional pantheon), is a task that lies beyond us’56. Calcidius interprets this statement by explaining that the sanctity and sublimity of this subject matter surpasses the context of his present discussion of natural philosophy and requires, instead, an inquisitio epoptica:

  • 57  Cal. Comm. in Tim., 127, 170, 6-12.

‘...this exposition is [not] unfitting for philosophers – whom else would it suit more? But because the examination of this subject is the task of a reflection of prime and surpassing rank, [and such an examination is described as] epoptica. It is considerably more august than physics and therefore does not seem to be appropriate to us who are now treating the physical nature of things...’57.

32It thus appears that a thorough understanding of the res sublimes Calcidius refers to in §5, likewise, would require a type of discussion that is epoptica, while Calcidius is offering merely a mediocris explanatio.

  • 58  On the structure of the Platonic curriculum and reflections thereof in the Timaeus, see Reydams-Sc (...)
  • 59 An initial distinction between theoretical and practical philosophy is ascribed to Xenocrates (Fr.6 (...)
  • 60  A thorough exposition of the various types of divisions of philosophical disciplines is P. Hadot’s (...)
  • 61  Comm. in Tim. 264, 270, 6-7: dividitur porro haec (i.e. the consideratio or theoretical philosophy (...)

33What type of investigation, then, is the mediocris explanatio referred to in §5, and how does it relate to an inquisitio epoptica? It is my opinion that Calcidius’ phrasing reflects the structure of the Platonic curriculum of the later Middle and Neoplatonist tradition58. In the Middle Platonist tradition, we encounter a variation of the familiar division of philosophy into the three disciplines: ethics, physics and logic. Similar to Aristotle’s classification59 of subject matter, practical philosophy, i.e. ethics, was distinguished from the theoretical fields of theology, physics and mathematics. What is more, we find in the work of some philosophers a separation of theology, the study of the ἀρχαί, from physics as the study of the phenomena in the physical world only, with both disciplines considered two distinct subdivisions of theoretical philosophy60. Calcidius identifies physics as part of theoretical philosophy and clearly distinguishes it from theology61.

  • 62  Cf. Hadot, op. cit., 441. The order of reading varied, as is reported for instance by Diogenes Lae (...)
  • 63  Hadot, op. cit. 436. To my knowledge, Calcidius is the only Latin writer to have used the term epo (...)
  • 64  Reydams-Schils (2007), esp. 314-19, suggests dividing Calcidius’ work into three parts: mathematic (...)

34From the first century AD, Platonic philosophy appears to have been fitted into the form of a study course that progressed from ethics to the subject of physics and culminated in theological subject matter62. The final stages of intellectual progress in this development were likened to the initiation rites familiar from Eleusinian mysteries63. Within this philosophical curriculum, the Timaean creation account recommended itself as an exposition of Platonic dogma covering mathematics and logic, physics and theology.64

35It is my view that Calcidius’ translation of §§4-5 alludes to the distinction of physics from theology, and thus to a distinction of a disputatio or explanatio naturalis from an inquisitio epoptica. Calcidius’ rendering mediocris explanatio for Timaeus’ εἰκὼς μῦθος qualifies his own treatment of the Timaeus, with its focus on natural philosophy, as ‘intermediate’, most likely in view of the subordinate status of physics in relation to the subject of theology. The difference between accounts dealing with physics, on the one hand, and theology on the other, is explained further by Calcidius in his commentary at 272, 277, 6-8:

‘The [disputatio naturalis] is like an unreliable image of truth and resembles reliability only to a certain extent (ut imago nutans aliquatenus et in veri simili quadam stabilitate contenta), whereas … the epoptical discussion flows out from the source of the purest knowledge (ex sincerissimae rerum scientiae fonte manat).’

  • 65  Perfunctorius occurs in Calcidius in the senses of “cursory”, “fleeting” (142,181,15; 253,262,18; (...)
  • 66  I hope to have shown that Burnyeat’s evaluation of Calcidius’ term explanatio for μῦθος as ‘dreary (...)

36With this in mind, let us now return to Calcidius’ translation of §2, where we learn that an account (ratio) concerning an object made in the likeness of a constant and eternal res (eius quae ad similitudinem constantis perpetuaeque rei facta est ratio), i.e., an account about a simulacrum, obtains a ‘fleeting likeness’65perfunctoriam similitudinem, translating εἰκότα   λόγον  – when compared to a ratio dealing with subject matter that is constant and transparent. In his translation of §2, Calcidius attributes to his own mediocris explanatio the ‘fleeting likeness’ of an epoptical discussion, that is, the imperfect image of a discussion that deals with what is of an ‘abiding kind and steadfast nature, discernible by intellect and wisdom’ (causa et ratio constantis quidem generis stabilisque naturae intellectui prudentiaeque perspicuae rei). In a similar manner, a disputatio naturalis, in the passage from the commentary just cited, is described to be ‘somewhat like a wavering image’ (imago nutans) and ‘limited to some resemblance of steadfastness (in veri simili quadam stabilitate contenta). Calcidius’ rendering of εἰκὼς λόγος, at Tim. 29d, as mediocris explanatio thus reflects his own treatment of the Timaeus as a disputatio naturalis, as opposed to a disputatio epoptica. The subject matter of the disputatio naturalis, or the mediocris explanatio, is physics, which is to be located between ethics and theology and thus takes the middle position in the Platonic curriculum66.

37To sum up: in view of our findings from the Calcidian translation, it appears that Calcidius interprets Timaeus’ εἰκὼς λόγος as a disputatio naturalis, an account that – like his own commentary – deals with physics proper, whereas a disputatio epoptica is identified as the type of account Timaeus describes as being τοῦ μονίμου καὶ βεβαίου καὶ μετὰ νοῦ καταφαν[ῆ] μονίμο[ν] καὶ ἀμεταπτώτο[ν] (Tim. 29b5-6). He interprets Timaeus’ concern to locate the discussion of the physical universe on a different epistemological plane from that of a λόγος concerning the intelligible sphere as a concern to distinguish the contexts dealing with natural philosophy, covered by a disputatio naturalis, from those of theology, to be covered in a disputatio epoptica. He associates the λόγοι, or methods of exposition distinguished by Timaeus, with different philosophical disciplines or fields of inquiry. Calcidius’ interpretation of the εἰκὼς λόγος thus incorporates the systematising methodology of later Platonists into the dialogue itself, thereby incidentally claiming Plato’s authority for the structuring of the later Platonic curriculum.

III. Conclusion

38We have witnessed the transformation of Timaeus’ εἰκὼς λόγος into three different individual meanings. Susemihl’s German translation reflects the interpretative issues focused upon in our contemporary Platonic scholarship by incorporating into the text the distinction between scientific reasoning and mythical narrative. Cicero’s take on the Timaeus results in the transformation of the εἰκὼς λόγος into the rhetorical–dialectical concept of probabile and veri simile, associated with his contemporary sceptical Academy as well as with Aristotelian rhetorical theory. Calcidius associates the λόγοι or methods of exposition distinguished by Timaeus with the various types of exegesis that set out the different philosophical disciplines or fields of inquiry. In my discussion, I have highlighted, it is hoped, the capacity of translation for developing and transforming philosophical ideas and concepts when employed as a vehicle for the transmission of thought.

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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.

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Notes

1  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).

2  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.

3  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.

4   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.

5  For instance, Baltes, op. cit., Bryan (2012), Burnyeat (2009), Donini (1988), Howald (1922) and Meyer-Abich (1973).

6  Plato plays on this similarity also at Rep. 517d1 and Soph. 236a8.

7  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).

8  See, for instance, Taylor (1928), p. 59.

9  Apart from its appearance at 29d2, see 59c6 and 69b1.

10  A viewpoint that rejects the position of Vlastos (1939), 380-3 and, more recently, Rowe (2003).

11  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.

12  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 iudicohunc extitisse qui illam [disciplinam] renovaret.  

13  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.

14  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).

15  Ibid., 1355b,  26.

16  E.g., Ar. Rhet. I,2,1357a31ff.

17  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).

18  See Glucker, op. cit., 128f.

19  On Cicero’s knowledge of Aristotle’s rhetorical works, cf. Fortenbaugh (1989), p. 39-60.

20  Cf. also Burnyeat, op. cit., p. 169.

21  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.

22  Cf. Or. 46; De Orat. III, 80.

23  I understand this phrasing to be synonymous with veri simile.

24  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.

25  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.

26  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.

27 Ac. II,33; 99; cf. Glucker, op. cit., p. 117, 135.

28  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.

29  Further instances of an ‘epistemological’ use of veri simile are Tusc. II, 9 and Fin. II, 43.

30  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.

31  Cicero reports that Philo taught rhetoric in the Academy at Tusc.II, 9; De Orat. III, 110.

32  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.

33  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.

34  It appears that Cicero saw no significance in Timaeus’ alternate use of λόγος on the one hand, and μῦθος on the other.

35  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.

36  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.

37  Cicero may have had in mind the Divided Line of Plato’s Republic, in which πίστις  and  εἰκασία  are subdivisions of δόξα.

38  Cf. Powell (1995), p. 280-281.

39  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).’

40  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...

41  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.

42  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.

43  We find no reference to his work in any other writer of antiquity, cf. Waszink’s introduction to his edition (1962), ix.

44  Gersh (1986) summarises the various contending views on Calcidius’ date at 421ff.

45  See, however, Dillon (1977), 403f.

46  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.

47  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).

48  Gersh, op. cit., 425f., with n. 21, provides a list of Calcidius’ quotations from these works.

49  Cal., Comm. in Tim. 6, 6-9.

50  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.

51  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.

52  Presumably rendering ἀρχήν.

53  Cal., Comm. in Tim., 58,1f.

54  On the particular meaning ‘suitable’ of εἰκώς, see Burnyeat’s illuminating discussion, op. cit., 170f.

55  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.

56  περὶ δὲ τῶν ἄλλων δαιμόνων εἰπεῖν καὶ γνῶναι τὴν γένεσιν μεῖζον ἢ καθ’ ἡμᾶς .

57  Cal. Comm. in Tim., 127, 170, 6-12.

58  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.

59 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.

60  A thorough exposition of the various types of divisions of philosophical disciplines is P. Hadot’s ‘Die Einteilung der Philosophie im Altertum’ (1982).

61  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.

62  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.

63  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.

64  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).

65  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).

66  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.

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Christina Hoenig, « Εἰκὼς λόγος: Plato in Translation(s) », Methodos [En ligne], 13 | 2013, mis en ligne le 26 avril 2013, consulté le 23 juin 2017. URL : http://methodos.revues.org/2994 ; DOI : 10.4000/methodos.2994

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Christina Hoenig

University of Cambridge, UK

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