Plato’s Causal Theory of the Nature of Man in The Timaeus 69a6-92c9
Timaeus 69a6-92c9 is a causal theory of the nature of man. Demigods, created heavenly bodies, take over soul and four elements, structured by a divine, good craftsman, who uses mathematical processes on things of two unlike origins. Imitating their creator, the demigods build man and leave him to run his life. What each individual man ‘takes over’ varies as does his individual and society’s handling of it, resulting in human lives ranging from the god-like to the murkiest low-life. This, through cycles of reincarnation, diversifies fauna bringing life, and extending the influence of reason into every elemental region; in a word it brings the heavens down to earth. Presented as anatomy, physiology, nosology and care of man, this is ancient Greek medical theory in the widest sense, including the use of hypothesis and claims about the soul. It mentions but stops short of addressing social and political levels. As cosmogony it is concerned with a micro-cosmos, but as cosmology with the running of this micro-cosmos within the macro-cosmos and as a part serving its overall being and purpose, as an organ serves and is served by the whole body of which it is an inner part. As a medical theory it brims with debated issues. Has Plato successfully answered the objections against using hypotheses, raised in On Ancient Medicine (Ch. III)? Is Aristotle’s objection to the theory of breathing a challenge to Plato’s analogy of macro- and micro cosmology? Why did Plato, unlike Galen later, chose to include soul in medicine, and to emphasise the elements, rather than the humours? Does movement as a cause of change and the different kinds of movements available for man’s self-care (Ch. V), mirror the intellectual and motivational division of human soul? Is the shaking receptacle a paradigm for vital human self-reflection? Chapter I discusses how introductions to English translations of the Timaeus reflect the old debate on keeping either to the heavens or to earth, to theology or to physics. Chapter II contains an introductory discussion on the Timaeus as a whole, with emphasis on its structure. In chapters III on anatomy, IV on physiology and in V on diseases and care of man, I focus on the structure of the causal account with regard to man as a mixed being. Using other texts purely for contrast and comparison I keep, to the extent possible, to the Timaeus, and mostly to 68e1-92c9. I argue that the transition between demiurgic and lesser gods’ causation at the junction of our main text and the previous lines, later carries over from the demigods to man’s self-care, individually and collectively, and that it mirrors the division of labour between Timaeus, Critias and Hermocrates, as natural philosophers, whereas Socrates, the fourth participant is a philosopher of a different kind along the line of division drawn at 29b. This thesis offers an outline of an argument for re-evaluating the Timaeus on the nature of man, particularly with regard to its formal logical side and its relation to rational persuasion.