Before the Creation of Time in Plato’s Timaeus

In Daniel Vázquez & Alberto Ross (eds.), Time and Cosmology in Plato and the Platonic Tradition. pp. 111–133 (2022)
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Abstract

I defend, against its more recent critics, a literal, factual, and consistent interpretation of Timaeus’ creation of the cosmos and time. My main purpose is to clarify the assumptions under which a literal interpretation of Timaeus’ cosmology becomes philosophically attractive. I propose five exegetical principles that guide my interpretation. Unlike previous literalists, I argue that assuming a “pre-cosmic time” is a mistake. Instead, I challenge the exegetical assumptions scholars impose on the text and argue that for Timaeus, a mere succession of events and the relations derived from it (before, after, simultaneous with) imply no time, given the narrow definition of the term used in the dialogue. For Timaeus, I explain, time is measurable, regular, and dependent on the motion of the celestial bodies. A mere succession of events like the one needed to understand the creation story and the pre-cosmos requires none of these elements. Readers of Plato erroneously assume that a succession of events implies time, but that is to impose a conception of time absent in the text. The chapter offers a detailed reconstruction of the pre-cosmic stage under a literalist interpretation and argues how it is compatible with the immutable relationship between the Demiurge and the cosmos. This is an open access chapter distributed under the terms of the CC BY-NC 4.0 license. chapter 4

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Daniel Vázquez
Mary Immaculate College

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