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Plants in Plato's Timaeus

  • J. B. Skemp (a1)

‘Now that all parts and members of the mortal creature had been fashioned into one, seeing that it must be the creature's lot for reasons of necessity to spend its life in the domain of fire and air and that it was like to waste away being continually melted and emptied by their onslaught, the gods contrived reinforcement for it. Blending a being kindred to man's being but with different shapes and senses, they brought it into life, a second kind of living creature. Trees, plants, and seeds are these, and those among them which are cultivated types to-day have arrived at their mild benevolence to man only because they have been civilized by his husbandry; formerly only the wild kinds existed, for these are older than the cultivated. Now everything that is alive, whatever it be, may perfectly correctly and of right be termed ‘a living creature’. The creature now in question has at any rate the third kind of soul which our discourse told us is situated between the midriff and the navel. This kind of soul has nothing of opining or of reasoning mind, but it has sensation of pleasant and painful with attendant desires. For continually it is subject to every impression. Its manner of birth has not granted it the power to revolve by itself in itself upon itself rejecting outside motion and asserting its own and thus by beholding all things by native endowment of soull to reason out aught of its own concerns. So it has life and is not some second being other than a living creature, but it stays fixed, rooted, motionless, for it has never been granted movement of its own initiation.’

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page 53 note 1 Reading κατιδ⋯ντι π⋯ντα φ⋯σει at 77 c 2; v. infr. ad fin.

page 53 note 2 Plato , Timaeus 76 C 7 ff.

page 53 note 3 The ψυχ⋯ was immaterial, the marrow only a κ⋯τος. The writer may perhaps be allowed to refer, for fuller discussion of this point, to The Theory of Motion in Plato's Later Dialogues, p. 49.

page 53 note 4 Cf. Laws 795 E; also Philebus 14 E init., where Badham sought to emend άμα ἄλλα to differentiate μ⋯ρη and μ⋯λη in sense.

page 53 note 5 Ar. Hist. An. 1. 1. 48628.

page 54 note 1 Timaeus 81B ff. This view of the meaning of ⋯ν πυρ⋯ κα⋯ πνε⋯ματι has the support of Galen, whose commentary on this part of Timaeus is extant (ed. Daremberg, p. 8). He says that fire and air, as contrasted with earth and water, are δραστικώτερα κα⋯ μ⋯λιστα ⋯ν τοῖς ξᾡοις.

page 54 note 2 See the Epilogue in Cornford, Plato's Cosmology (p. 361).

page 54 note 3 Politicus 271 D and Laws 782 A ff. imply that an ideal vegetarianism was relegated to a primitive ‘golden age’. Aristotle in his Пερ⋯ τ⋯ν Пυθαγορε⋯ων (Ar. fragment 194 (Rose)) and the relevant passages in Iamblichus, V.P. and Diogenes Laertius suggest fourth-century Pythagorean disputes on ‘where to draw the line’. The Epinomis (975 A) tells us that philosophy has partly abolished cannibalism, partly reduced it to lawful proportions.

page 54 note 4 Taylor (ad loc.) quotes Ar. Hist. An. 518a18. The nearest approach of συγγεν⋯ς to the sense ‘coeval’ in the Timaeus appears to be at 30 D fin., where we find ζῷον ἔν ⋯ρατ⋯ν, π⋯νθ' ⋯σα αὐτο⋯ κατ⋯ φ⋯σιν συγγεν⋯ ζῷα ⋯ντ⋯ς ἔχον ⋯αυτο⋯, συν⋯οτησε. But here, too, κατ⋯ φ⋯σιν shows that the idea of ‘kindred’ is primary and that any notion of ‘contemporary’ coming-into-being is quite secondary.

page 55 note 1 Aristotle, of course, said also that the root of a plant was equivalent to the head (see especially De incessu animalium 706b5; De partibus animalium 686b35).

page 55 note 2 δι⋯ το⋯τ' οὖν ⋯ Пλ⋯των εἰπεν αἰσθ⋯σεως γ⋯νους ἰδ⋯ου μετ⋯χειν τ⋯ φυτ⋯ τ⋯ γ⋯ρ οἰκεῖ⋯ν τι κα⋯ ⋯λλ⋯τριον γνωρ⋯ζει (Galen, In Tim. Plat., ed. Daremberg, p. 8).

page 55 note 3 Politicus 271 D ff., especially 272 A.

page 55 note 4 Theaet. 167 B.

page 55 note 5 Cf. Sophistes 219 A (cited by Taylor, ad loc.).

page 56 note 1 See especially Placita 5. 26. 4 (R.P. 172), 'Εμπεδοκλ⋯ς πρ⋯τα τ⋯ δ⋯νδρα τ⋯ν ζῷων ⋯κ γ⋯ς ⋯ναφ⋯να⋯ φησι. Anaxagoras and Democritus agreed in regarding φυτ⋯ as ζῷα ἔγγεια (v. Plutarch, Quaest. phys. 911 D), but the tradition here followed and vindicated by Plato is rather the Pythagorean one (cf. Diogenes Laertius 8. 28, cited Diels-Kranz , F.d.V. i. 449. 24).

page 56 note 2 Fr. 287 (Koch).

page 56 note 3 De part. an. 681a10 S. The Stoics seem to have followed Aristotle in their distinction between animals with ψυχ⋯ and plants with φ⋯σις, while logs and stones had only ἔξις Sext. Math. 9. 81; see also R.P. 506 A for the statement on Philo's authority that, for the Stoics, ψυχ⋯ δ⋯ ⋯στι φ⋯σις προσειληφυῖα φαντασ⋯αν κα⋯ ⋯ρμ⋯ν.

page 56 note 4 De anima 413a1.

page 56 note 5 De part, an., loc. cit.

page 56 note 6 It should also be remembered that in the De anima of Aristotle (as distinct from the zoological works) we find something similar. φυτ⋯ have only man's nutritive soul. Aristotle's treatment of ψυχ⋯ there is as anthropocentric as Plato's is in this passage.

page 57 note 1 Timaeus 34 A.

page 57 note 2 Ibid. 43 c, D.

page 57 note 3 κα⋯ κτ⋯σει ibid. 92 C 3. See Taylor, ad loc.

page 57 note 4 Phil, der Griechen3, II. i, p. 731, n. 5.

page 57 note 5 Op. cit., p. 12. Daremberg lauds the emendation, ibid., p. 42; so also does Martin.

page 57 note 6 v.l. ⋯ττικιαν⋯. Were, these by Atticus the rhetorician, the disciple of Olympiodorus, as loc. Daremberg suggests, or could they come from the Platonist Atticus of whom we hear from Eusebius, Praep. Evangelica, xv? He was probably active at the same time as Galen, the or a little earlier.

page 58 note 1 Taylor cites W here, and in the Addenda to his Commentary gives a list of its readings up to 55 D 3. He says that his information about the readings of W is everywhere due to Rivaud's edition.

page 58 note 2 Plato's Cosmology, p. 302.

page 58 note 3 At Laws 894 A init. and at Timaeus 28 A 4 we find only the cognate γ⋯γεσθαι used with γ⋯νεσις. At ibid. 29 B 2 we find μ⋯γιςτον δ⋯ παντ⋯ς ἄρξασασθαι κατ⋯ φ⋯σιν ⋯ρχ⋯ν, but this is methodological, and φ⋯σις there means ‘the nature of Reality’. There is no mention of γ⋯νεσις κατ⋯ φ⋯σιν, much less of φ⋯σις γεν⋯σεως.

page 59 note 1 Comm. p. 544.

page 59 note 2 Tim. 47 A.

page 59 note 3 Ibid. 27 A.

page 59 note 4 315 C 5.

page 59 note 5 Fr. 910.

page 59 note 6 On the regular use of καθορ⋯ν for intuitive perception see Cornford, Plato's Theory of Knowledge, p. 189, n. 1, and compare in particular Phaedrus 247 D 5 (the soul's vision of the Forms in the ὐπερουρ⋯ιος τ⋯πος.)

page 59 note 7 We have a significant early indication of the hold which this doctrine had on Plato's mind in the ‘etymology’ of ἄνθρωπος in the Cratylus (399C). οημα⋯νει το⋯το τ⋯ ⋯νομα ⋯ ‘ἄνθρωπος’ ὅτι τ⋯ μ⋯ν ἄλλα θηρ⋯α ὧν ⋯ρᾷ οὐδ⋯ν ⋯πισκοπεῖ οὐδ⋯ ⋯ναλογ⋯ζεται οὐδ⋯ ⋯ναθρεῖ, ⋯ δ⋯ ἄνθρωπος ἄμα ⋯ώρακεν—το⋯το δ' ⋯οτ⋯ ‘⋯πωπε’—κα⋯ ⋯ναθρεῖ κα⋯ λογ⋯ζεται το⋯το ὃ ⋯πωπεν. ⋯ντε⋯θεν δ⋯ μ⋯νον τ⋯ν θηρ⋯ων ⋯ρθ⋯ς ⋯ ἄνθρωπος ‘ἄνθρωπος’ ὠνομ⋯σθη, ⋯ναθρ⋯ν ἃπωπε. This passage is, of course, Forms un-Pythagorean in its distinction of man from the beasts.

page 59 note 8 Tim. 92 c.

page 60 note 1 This, of course, implies that the archetype of W as well as the archetype of A gave our present text and that the omission must have been a very early one. The explanation is thus equally valid if the change to φ⋯σιν was made by a manuscript of the W tradition earlier than W itself.

page 60 note 2 This is the writer's suggestion: Sir Ellis Minns preferred not to conjecture what had been omitted.

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