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2006-02-18
Soul in the Timaeus
TAG:张轩辞 柏拉图 希腊

Soul in the Timaeus

Zhang Xuanci

In the Timaeus Plato draws a picture of the generation of the universe and individuals through the narration of Timaeus. After Socrates repeats the political structure of an ideal city which he has talked about yesterday and Critias tells the story of Atlantis which shows the citizens of the ancient Athens perform the marvelous deeds as Socrates’ virtuous citizens, Timaeus is requested to account the creation of the universe. In fact Critias does not finish his story here; he wants to continue his story after Timaeus’ account. He says, “We thought that because Timaeus is our expert in astronomy and has made it his main business to know the nature of the universe, he should speak first, beginning with the origin of universe and concluding with the nature of human beings. Then I’ll go next, once I’m in possession of Timaeus’ account of the origin of human beings and your (Socrates’) account of how some of them came to have a superior education”(Timaeus 27a-b). The story of the origin of universe and individual related by Timaeus is between the discussions on ideal citizens. This is a hint that we should not ignore the political interest which is behind the investigations of physics when we read how Timaeus narrates the generation of the universe.[1]    

For Timaeus universe is a product of a Craftsman or a Demiurge. The Demiurge is good and he wants everything as good as possible. He reasons that intelligent things are better than unintelligent, therefore “he put intelligence in soul, and soul in body, and so he constructed the universe” (Timaeus 30b6). The body, which combines soul, revolving in a circle is called universe. This is a rough picture of Timaeus’ universe. Within the immortal universe there are other kinds of mortal things constructed by the offspring of the Demiurge. Human beings are one of these mortal ones. Universe and human beings as living things (zoia), according to Timaeus, both have souls in themselves. The universe is endowed with world soul and human beings with the human soul. The soul, the only thing which contains intelligence, let the things be living things. Therefore, in order to know the universe and further to know why and how we, as human beings, should know the immortal world, the world order (kosmos)that is, why and how our ethical or political lives should refer to the world order— we must inquire into the nature of the soul first.

 In this paper I will focus on the arguments about both the world soul and the human soul in the Timaeus. Since the human soul is the imitation of the world soul I will sketch the source and nature of the world soul first in the first section. In the second section I will discuss Timaeus’ human soul in the context of other Platonic dialogues and try to figure out the differences and the consistency of these statements of the soul. Here the position and significance of the body is a key problem of the theories of the soul. In the Timaeus, Plato gives a comparatively different picture of the body from earlier works such as the Phaedo and the Republic. The body which is necessary to the living thing is begotten to help the soul present its nature and may cooperate with reason. This emphasis on the body is also represented by his account of death. In the third section, I will discuss how Timaeus talks about death which has to be faced by human beings and the derived question about the disease of body and soul. Further, I will inquire how to keep health both of body and soul, that is inquire how to have a good life according to Timaeus. Here I will compare the human soul with the world soul and discuss the relationship between them. Considering the Plato’s ethical interest I mentioned at the beginning of this paper I will point out from the viewpoint of Timaeus human beings will be supremely happy when every part within them is well-ordered in accordance with the world order.

I

How does Demiurge create the world soul? What are the components of it? How does the world soul affect the movements of the world body? What is the nature of the world soul? The world soul that is created by Demiurge ranks highly in the universe. It is the archetype of all the other souls including the human soul which is the focused theme of this paper. Knowing the nature of the world soul is the first step to knowing the human soul. However in order to know the world soul we have to answer the foregoing questions. Timaeus gives an elaborate account of the world soul in the prior part of his story of the generation of the universe to show the answers of these questions. At first, Timaeus distinguishes indivisible and changeless Being from divisible one which comes to be in the corporeal realm. The Demiurge mixes this two together to make a third form of being, intermediate form of being. He does the same things with Same and Different. Then he takes the three mixtures and mixes them together. The uniform mixture is the soul. The soul is the mixture of Same, Different and Being. Next, he divides “the whole mixture into as many parts as his task required” (Timaeus 35b3) and puts them into intervals according to mathematical ratios. Each part remains a mixture of Same, Different, and Being. The divided souls impart the harmonious order of nature to every three-dimensional body and then every body moves according to the movement of the world soul. The Demiurge slices the whole soul into two strips and joins the strips into two circles: the outer circle and the inner circle. The outer circle is the movement of the Same, while the inner one is that of the Different. The circle of the different is further subdivided into seven circles which move in accordance with mathematic proportions. These seven circles are responsible for the revolutions of the visible planets. Timaeus thinks the self-moving soul is the source of all physical motions. Although Timaeus displays the fashioning of the soul after he displays the construction of the body, he stresses the priority of the soul. He says that the Demiurge gives priority and seniority to the soul and let it rule over the body.

    Then, why is the soul as the ruler begotten in this way? That is to say, how do we understand this description of composition and structure of the soul? And what makes the soul superior to the body? In order to find the answers to these questions, I think we should examine Timaeus’ account of the body briefly first, for Timaeus’ account of the soul is not independent of the account of the body. Timaeus distinguishes being from coming to be before he displays the structure of the body. According to Timaeus, being is the eternal model which the Demiurge looks at, and he makes our world beautiful as an image of the being. Our world, the universe, is coming to be since it is changeable and “of necessity comes to be by the agency of some cause” (Timaeus 28a). “Now that which comes to be must have bodily form, and be both visible and tangible”(Timaeus 31b5). Fire, earth, water and air as the four elements construct the body in certain proportion. These four elements make the universe visible and tangible. But the universe is not just visible and tangible stuff but a living thing. In other words, the universe needs not only the body but also the soul. The soul that is also fashioned by the Demiurge has intelligence which distinguishes the soul from the body. Having intelligence which is the rational power to grasp the being expresses the goodness of the Demiurge who thinks the intelligence is best and endows the soul with it. Since the soul is the object which is made, it shares the attribute of coming to be; and since the soul is the object which has intelligence it shares the attribute of being. Therefore we find that when the Demiurge fashions the soul he mixes the being and coming to be together to make the third, intermediate form of being. The soul is superior to the body because it has reason which can grasp the changeless Being. As for the other two mixtures, according to Cornford, we can understand them by reading the Sophist. “In the dialogue these three ‘kinds’ or Forms are singled out for the purpose of showing how Forms in general can be connected in true affirmative statements and disjoined in true negative statements.”[2] The Being, the Same and the Different are three basic Forms that are used to explain the world. In Timaeus’ picture of the world soul the movement of the Same and the Different respond to the movement of the heavenly bodies. Furthermore, the world soul is not only the principle of the movement of the body; it also has the ability to make different judgments. The soul can judge being, same and different since it has the elements of sameness, difference, and being. The different movements of Different and Same are also used by Timaeus to explain the generations of opinion and knowledge. “Whenever the account concerns anything that is perceptible, the circle of the Different goes straight and proclaims it throughout its whole soul. This is how firm and true opinions and convictions come about. Whenever, on the other hand, the account concerns any object of reasoning, and the circle of the Same runs well and reveals it, the necessary result is understanding and knowledge”(Timaeus 37c).

    We find that the composition of the soul can explain both the motion of the world body and the judgment.[3] The soul can be the source of motion of the world body and has the capacities of knowing and perceiving because that the soul is the mixture of being, same, and different. Further, the world soul is not the pure being, sameness and difference; it is the intermediate form of being, the intermediate form of sameness, and the intermediate form of difference. The nature of the intermediate makes the soul which is the principle of the universe not only divine, immortal, intelligible but also perceiving the changeable things as imitations of being and partaking of the lower order of existence of body. The body as a living thing needs the soul which is the essence of living things; the soul as the mixture of the being and coming to be needs the body which is the character of coming to be. The invisible soul needs the visible body to present the nature of the soul itself, i.e. the reason. Besides the nature of the soul needing the body, Timaeus uses “necessity” to explain the indispensability of the body. He explains that the Demiurge is not the only cause of the universe. There is another one which is “necessity”. The Demiurge needs not just a plan to carry out his work of fashioning the universe; he also needs materials in which to realize his design. The world body is necessary to the world soul. The body is created to fit the soul and aims the best under the ruling the soul. “Intellect prevailed over Necessity by persuading it to direct most of the things that come to be toward what is best, and the result of this subjugation of Necessity to wise persuasion was the initial formation of this universe”(Timaeus 48a). The universe/heaven is the perfect result of the cooperation of the Intellect and Necessity. The world body, the stars and the planets, always revolve orderly in accordance with the nature of the soul; therefore this universe is divine, immortal and eternal.

II

If the universe is simply equal to the immortal heavenly bodies which combine with the world soul, then the work of creation is finished. But in fact it is not the end of fashioning. “There remain still three kinds of mortal beings that have not yet been begotten; and as long as they have not come to be, the universe will be incomplete, for it will still lack within it all the kinds of living things it must have if it is to be sufficiently complete”(Timaeus 41c). Universe is a whole living thing which consists of all living things: the mortal and the immortal. Therefore Timaeus continues to state the coming into being of mortal things among which the generation of human being is accounted most detailedly. Timaeus narrates how the human soul and the human body are fashioned and how they cooperate to follow the world order so that human beings are the highest among the mortal things.

    Unlike the concept of the world soul which is particularly raised in this dialogue, the concept of the human soul is not a new concept. The doctrine of the human soul is one of the most important Platonic doctrines. Not only his theory of recollection but also his theory of the city is based on his explanations of the human soul: its function, its structure and the relationship between the human soul and the human body. Therefore, since the Timaeus Plato has talked about the human soul frequently in his other dialogues, I think it makes sense to scan Plato’s statements of the soul in his other dialogues first. It can help us understand Plato’s theory of the soul not only in the Timaeus but also in the context of Platonic dialogues. We will find the different accounts of the human soul, such as the different accounts on the composition of the soul and the relationship between the body and the soul, in different dialogues. But at the same time we will also feel the consistently among his varied accounts, which is the superiority and divinity of the soul. In the Timaeus, the soul is still the ruler of the body, but the body can also work with the soul. The soul is the superiority. Therefore in order to have good lives we should obey the order of the soul; and because the body works with the soul we should keep our body healthy in order to have a healthy soul. In the third section of the paper I will discuss how to be healthy and happy in according to the theory of the soul in the Timaeus. And now let us start with the context of Plato’s dialogues and see how he talks about the soul.  

    When people talk about the theory of the soul on Plato they sould not ignore Phaedo which is known also by the subtitle On the Soul.[4] It is the dialogue which is a record of the last hours of Socrates in the jail. The main task of Socrates at that time is to demonstrate the immortality of the soul to his companies. According to Socrates, death is the freedom of the soul from the body. The soul is divine, immortal, intelligible, uniform, indissoluble, always the same as itself, whereas the body is human, mortal, multiform, unintelligible, soluble and never consistently the same (Phaedo 80b). The soul can observe things by itself and attain true knowledge, while the body is the obstacle of the soul’s desire for wisdom. The body fills us with wants, desires, fears, all sorts of illusions so that we are too busy to pursue wisdom (Phaedo 66c-d). Moreover if we use body, that is use senses, to investigate things, our soul is dragged by the body and strays and cannot catch the truth (Phaedo 79c). In a word, the soul is absolutely divine and intelligible, whereas the body is absolutely mortal and foolish. The soul’s embodiment only means the soul is imprisoned in the body. Thus the way to let soul free is to let the soul separate from the body, which means to be dead, or at least to refrain as much as possible from association with the body.

    In the Phaedo, the human soul is pure, immortal and indivisible. If the soul has parts and some part of the soul share the body’s manner of life, the soul will be corporeal even it departs from the body, so that the soul soon falls back into another body and grows in it (Cf. Phaedo 83d). Therefore the soul will not be free and see the truth for ever. Because of this, the soul as the immortal, the divine has no part in it. One of the premises of Socrates’ argument of the immortality and the unity of the soul is that the body is the complete negative of the soul. The pure soul can only express its nature without the body. The best thing for the soul is to separate from the body. But if the immortal things are the best things which deserve us to pursue and the immortal things are higher and stronger than the mortal things, the following questions will be raised. Why the higher things fall into the lower and are influenced by it? That is to say, why the immortal soul falls into the mortal body? How can the intelligible soul be influence by the foolish body? The Phaedo does not give us the answers.

In the Phaedrus, we find that Plato begins to try to answer these questions. On the one hand in this dialogue Socrates still emphasizes the immortality of the soul: the soul as self-mover and as a source of motions is immortal; on the other hand the soul accounted by Socrates is no longer indivisible. He uses the image of the chariot to explain what the structure of the soul is like. Unlike the gods which have both good winged horses and charioteers, every soul has a mixture. The driver is in charge of a pair of winged horses: one is good and from stock of the same sort, the other is the opposite. Therefore the chariot-driving in this case is a difficult business (Phaedrus 246b). The good horse has the power to lift up heavy things while the heaviness of the bad horse drags its charioteer towards the earth. If the charioteer works well and follows the gods closely the soul can reach the top of the heaven and see the view of outside which truth stands. The truth nourishes the best part of the soul, lets the wings of the horses grow best so that the soul can keep staying in the heaven. If the charioteer fails to control it well and the soul sheds its wings and lights on something solid, the combination of soul and body is called a living thing and according to the law of Destiny the soul will be set in a human body instead of a wild animal in its first incarnation. Then, what causes the shedding of the wings? “Foulness and ugliness make the wings shrink and disappear” (Phaedrus 246e). And if “The soul does not see any thing true because it could not keep up, and by some accident takes on a burden of forgetfulness and wrongdoing, then it is weighed down, sheds its wings and falls to earth”(Phaedrus 248d). Here Socrates gives an explanation of the embodiment of the soul. The soul is no longer unitary but has parts. The soul as a chariot has three parts: a charioteer, a good horse and a bad horse. Since the soul has bad horse and the charioteer cannot tame it sometimes the soul have to face the fall. It is need to mention that the whole story told by Socrates about the soul as a chariot is only a metaphor in order to illustrate what the soul is like. The soul does not really have two winged horses, one is good and the other is bad, and the shedding of the wing makes the soul fall down. It only means that the immortal soul is placed in the mortal body because the soul itself has a kind of force of heaviness to drag itself into the body. That the soul as a chariot has three parts does not mean the soul really composed by a charioteer and two horse but points out the tripartition of the soul.

The tripartition of the soul is discussed more clearly in the Republic. In Book IV, Socrates analyzes the three parts of the soul: the rational part, the spirited part and the appetitive part. “We’ll call the part of the soul with which it calculates the rational part and the part with which it lusts, hungers, thirsts, and gets excited by other appetites the irrational appetitive part” (Republic 439d), and the part by which we get angry the spirited part (Republic 439e). These three parts have different functions: knowledge, emotion, and appetite. They are quite different from each other. Here Socrates stresses the differences among these three parts because he wants to prove the existence of these three parts so that he can prove the validity of the three classes of the city. [5]The rational part is wise and appropriate to be the ruler of the whole soul. The spirited part in the soul is by nature the helper of the rational part and these two govern the appetitive part which is the largest part in the soul and most insatiable. The rational part and the spirited part have their own roles. Music and poetry make these two parts harmonious: they nurture the rational part and soothe the spirited part. Having been educated in this way, these two parts can learn their roles and can watch over the appetite to make sure it does its own work. The appetite desires the pleasure just like the beast. It does not have reason and cannot help the other two parts realize the reason; it is just the object which needs to be ruled over. The appetite like the bad horse which has shed its wings drags the soul away from the plane of the reason.

The tripartition of the soul presents the possibility of the embodiment of the soul. According to the Phaedrus the soul has three parts before its embodiment. According to the Republic the three parts differ from each other strictly and the appetite part is opposed to the rational part. On account of these statements, two main questions have to be asked. The first is, if the three parts exist before its embodiment how can the bodily appetite or spirit combine with the rational soul which is immortal and divine as a whole soul without a body? More concretely, how can the emotions, such as love mingled with pleasure and pain, fear and spiritedness, as the capacities of the spirited part exist without the feelings by a body? And how can the appetite for the food or drink arises without the desire from a body? The second question is, if the non-rational appetite only opposes of the rational part and sometimes will be big and strong enough to enslave the rational part how can the soul present its superior to the body and all mortal things?

In some sense, the account of the human soul in the Timaeus responses to these two questions. Answering to the first question, Timaeus amends the account of the origin of the tripartition. Timaeus accedes the tripartition of the soul. But the tripartition here does not take place when it is apart from the body. The soul itself before the incarnation is pure, rational and immortal. The spirited and the appetitive are constructed after the soul combining with the body. Answering to the second question, Timaeus does not put the body and the motal soul on the opposite of the immortal, rational soul. According to Timaeus, the two mortal parts of the soul and the human body are all made to help the soul be rational. The human body and the mortal parts of human soul do not just impede the rational soul but also cooperate with the soul. Both the rational soul and the others exist according to the rules of the reason. Therefore reason is the highest rule of the world and the soul which has reason is superior to everything and rules over other things by nature. Now, let’s come back to the Timaeus’ story on the fashioning of the human beings to see how he displays these above statements. 

Since human beings are mortal things, creating them is not the task of the Demiurge. The Demiurge makes the immortal part of human soul and then commands his offspring to finish the task. He speaks to these lesser gods, “I shall begin by sowing that seed, and then hand it over to you. The rest of the task is yours. Weave what mortal to what is immortal, fashion and beget living things. Give them food, cause them to grow, and when they perish, receive them back again” (Timaeus 41d).

The Demiurge uses the same stuffs as the world soul and mixes them in the same way to fashion the human soul. Its substance is divided into the ratios of the same harmonic of the world soul, and given the motions of the Same and the Different. It possesses the faculties of intelligence and knowledge, opinion and belief. But the stuffs which used to fashion the human soul are the remains of the previous ingredients. It is inferior to the world-soul since “it is no longer invariably and constantly pure, but of a second or third grade of purity” (Timaeus 41d). Like the world soul, the human soul must be implanted in a body. These bodies are created by the offspring of the Demiurge. Imitating their father they borrow fire, earth, water, and air from the world to make bodies. But the bodies do not do the circular movements as the world bodies do. As mortal things they move in a disorderly, random and irrational way. When a soul is bound within a mortal body, the orbit of the soul is shaken violently by the body. The embodiment of the human soul let it far differ from the world soul. The mortal part of the soul is begotten and the human body is fashioned according to the nature of the soul. The compositions of the human soul and the human body are called human beings.

This is an outline of the coming to be of the human beings. The immortal human soul made by the Demiurge has the same structure of the world soul. Although it is immortal it is a mixture, and as we have mentioned in the second section the mixture as well as the human being as coming to be requires of necessity a body. The embodiment of the soul is not a possibility described in the Phaedrus. The embodiment is inevitable. Unlike the world body which is without age and disease the human body is a mortal one. Therefore the mortal human body impacts the soul strongly and leads the gods to fashion the mortal part of the soul. The mortal part of the soul cannot exist apart from the body; it is the result of the embodiment. Thus the first question raised in accordance with the account in the Phaedrus is not a question any more here. But how on earth do the offspring fashion the mortal soul and the body? Does the embodiment of the soul weaken the soul’s divinity? Let’s look at the works done by the progenies.

The progenies continue the task. They fashion a round head as a vessel of the immortal soul. In order to support the movement of the soul, they give it the trunk and limbs regarded as a machine for locomotion; and give it the sense-organs, such as sight, situated in the fore part of the head, to enable the soul to lead its way. When the soul combines with the mortal body, the soul has of necessity the capacity of sensation, love mingled with pleasure and pain, fear and boldness. All of them are dreadful but necessary. They are dreadful because they are like the flowing and ebbing river striking the rational circles of the soul. But it is necessary because the generation of the mortal human beings needs the mortal things. Therefore they make the mortal part of soul in the trunk, away from the head which holds the immortal one. And further they divide the mortal part into two: spirit and appetite, and accordingly situate the midriff in the trunk to make two sections: chest and belly. Since the spirit is superior to the appetite, the spirit is set “nearer the head, between the midriff and the neck, so that it might listen to reason” (Timaeus 70a). The appetite supporting the nourishment of the body cannot understand reason and lies farther from the head, between the midriff and the navel.

The work of constructing the mortal parts of the soul finishes now. This work goes on with the constructing of the body as well. We find that both the structure of the body and the locations of the three parts of the soul in the body are not random. The gods obey the rules made by the Demiurge when they proceed to construct mortal things. They imitate the Demiurge to make things as good as possible, that is to say, to let the immortal soul, the reason, be as unaffected by the mortal part as possible. When we know how the gods make the other parts of the body we can understand this statement further.

The heart is the source of blood and ties all veins together. Through it, reason can command the whole body. But if the spirit boils over then the heart cannot transmit the reason very well and some irrational acts may take place. In order to balance the extra fire which causes the spirit’s arousing, the gods put lung in the chest. The lung can cool the heart by breathing and drinking; therefore it can help the spirited part serve the reason. The liver is the dwelling place of appetite situated by the gods. It is smooth and bright so that it can receive the thoughts from reason and return the visible images. The liver also has a bitter quality, which works together with thoughts of reason to control appetite. Besides, the spleen is placed next to the liver like a dust cloth to keep the liver bright and clean all the time. Thus, all the organs of the body are fashioned and set in a proper way to maximize the force of the reason and aid the reason to control the mortal soul as well as the body itself.

Here all the things are fashioned as good as possible by the Demiurge or the gods. The immortal soul made by the Demiurge is rational because the reason is the best and the best is immortal. Therefore the other parts of the soul and the body made by the gods who imitate the Demiurge will be good as long as they are in accordance with the reason and help the immortal soul realize its reason. In Timaeus’ story, both the account of the origin of the soul’s tripartition and the structure of the body present the rational soul’s superiority for the reason is the rule of all things. Here the reason of the soul or the immortality of the soul is emphasized in the extreme. But the emphasis on the immortal soul does not lead to the ignorance of the other parts of the soul and the body. It does not lead to the result that the best thing for the soul is separate from the body, as in the Phaedo. In the Timaeus, the rational soul is the highest and the ruler of the others. The embodiment of the soul does not mean that the soul as the superior is enslaved by the body, on the contrary the rational rule also present its power of the rule in the mortal body. Both the body and the soul follow the rhythm of the reason. The soul’s superiority lies in that its nature, the reason, is the principle of the body. Thus Timaeus also answers the second question which is raised according to the account in the Republic.

III

As immortal things human beings have to face death, therefore after displaying the generation of the human beings that are the compositions of the body and the soul. Timaeus begins to say his explanation of the death. His main interest in the discussion of the death and the derivative discussions about the diseases and the health are in accordance with his comprehension of the functions of human beings, i.e. the natures and relationship of the human soul and the human body.

When Plato describes death in his other dialogues, such as in the Phaedo, the discussion about the death is accompanied with the discussion about the afterlife. It is comprehensible because there the immortal soul without the body is the real life that belongs to the soul. As we have analyzed in the second section, in the Timaeus, the conflict between the body and the soul, and the conflict among three parts of the soul are diminished. Accordingly, since the relationship between the mortal soul and the immortal soul, the body and the soul, accounted by Timaeus differ from the accounts in the Phaedo and the Republic, their pictures of the afterlife are different. It is hard for Timaeus to educe the same judgment of the afterlife as it is accounted in the Phaedo, which the soul is free after death and the afterlife is the divine and deserving life we should pursue, or in the Republic, which the appetite and spirited part of the soul are weakened after death. In fact, Timaeus does not talk much about after death. Although he mentions that the soul may be existent after death it is not the main interest of him. Then, how does Timaeus talk about the death? According to Timaeus, death is the result of the breaking down of the triangles of the marrow[6]. When the triangles cannot be firmly locked together and hold the soul, the soul is free from the body and it is called death. It seems that the account about the death is similar with the account in the Phaedo: death means the release of the soul. But Timaeus’ account on the released soul just ends in the mention of it. He does not talk about what the soul will exactly be after death, whether it will know the truth more easily without the body or whether it will be pure divine and up to the immortal world after death. It seems that they are not the questions for Timaeus here. His emphasis of discussions about the death is not the afterlife, or the life of the soul without the body, but the death itself as a phenomenon of a living thing which is a combination of the soul and the body. It is accordance with his discussions on the human soul and the human body. He points out there are two kinds of death: one is pleasant death, the other is painful death. He says if the soul release because the triangles cannot hold the soul, “the soul is then released in a natural way, and finds it pleasant to take its flight. All that is unnatural, we recall is painful while all that occurs naturally is pleasant. This is true of death as well: a death that is due to disease or injury is painful and forced, while a death that comes naturally, when the aging process has run its course, is of all deaths the least distressing—a pleasant, not a painful death” (81e). We find when Timaeus talks about the death he cares not only the soul but also the body. The distinguishing between the painful death and the pleasant death and the introducing of the concept of the disease express the bodily character of the death. According to Timaeus, to be dead without pain means to avoid diseases and let all things grow and decay by nature. In order to know how we can avoid diseases to acquire pleasant death, we should inquire the diseases discussed by Timaeus first.  

From the viewpoint of Timaeus there are three classes of diseases. The first class of disease is due to the imbalance of the four elements of the body. The second is about the organ or tissue. The third is caused by air, phlegm or bile. When each of the earth, fire, water, and air moves from its own regions into another’s region a conflict will take place. It is the origin of the disease. In the most basic sense, it can use to explain all the diseases. The class of disease which is about the organ and tissue is a class of secondary structures. When the formations of marrow, bone, flesh and sinew which are composed of the four elements are reversed a serious diseases will happen. The third class of disease concerns the humors of the body. When the humors cannot find a vent to the outside, they will cause the diseases, such as epilepsy and inflammations. The diseases accounted by Timaeus are the unnatural states of the humors, tissues. They are not in their proper regions or they do not keep their functions well. In the final analysis, the diseases are originated by the inappropriate proportion of the four elements. The ill-proportion not only causes the disease of the body, but also causes the disease of the soul.

After describing the origin of the bodily disease Timaeus talks about the soul’s diseases. The ill-proportion between the body and the soul causes the diseases of the soul. “When within it there is a soul more powerful than the body and this soul gets excited, it churns the whole being and fills it form inside with disease, and when it concentrates on one or another course of study or inquiry, it wears the body out…. But when, on the other hand, a large body, too much for its soul, is joined with a puny and feeble mind, then given that human beings have two sets of natural desires—desires of the body for food and desires of the most divine part of us for wisdom—the motions of the stronger part will predominate, and amplify their own interest. They render the function of the soul, stupid and forgetful, thereby bringing on the gravest disease of all: ignorance” (88a-b). Madness and ignorance are the diseases of the soul. Timaeus thinks that the disease of the soul is the result from a bodily condition, and the ill-proportion between the body and the soul. At least he only talks about this sort of psychical diseases here.

On the one hand because the body is necessary to the soul, if the condition of the body is corrupt, not only the diseases of the body but also the diseases of the soul will take place; on the other hand because the soul is the ruler of the body, the diseases of the soul also can influence the health of the body. To be health one need both the appropriate proportion of the four elements and the good proportion between the body and the soul. Therefore, the way to preserve one from all kinds of disease is to exercise the soul with the body. “From both of these conditions there is in fact one way to preserve oneself and that is not to exercise the soul without exercising the body, nor the body without the soul, so that each may be balanced by the other and so be sound” (88b-c). Timaeus gives examples that the mathematician should exercise the body by doing gymnastics and the one who want to develop the body should exercises the soul by pursuing wisdom.

 But what exercises the soul and the body should do to keep them health? And what is the appropriate or good proportion of the elements of the body and between the body and the soul? Timaeus’ answer concerns the structure or the order of the universe. At the end of the discussion about the human soul and body Timaeus back to the beginning of his speech which is about the generation of the universe. The appropriate proportion can be found in the universe and the good exercises for the body and the soul is to imitate the order of the universe. In the first section I have pointed that the universe/heaven begotten by the Demiurge is the perfect composition of the world soul and the world body. Every thing in the heaven moves in its own orbit dominated by the soul. And, as I have discussed in the second section, the gods imitate the Demiurge to create human beings, both the mortal part of human soul and human body. Their aim that is to make the human beings as good as possible is just like the aim of the Demiurge who fashions the universe. Reason as the immortal thing is regarded as the best, so both the human body and the mortal part of the soul are fashioned to serve the reason. And the rational part of the soul is directly from the heaven. The Demiurge makes the immortal soul using the same stuffs and in the same way of making the world soul which is strictly according to the world order and is the source of movement of the universe. The universe with the world soul presents a superior form of reason. Imitating the order and motion of the universe is the way to help the immortal soul perfect its nature; and at the same time since the soul-body relation in the universe is well ordered imitating the order of universe can also help to keep the health of body and soul and further to tame the mortal soul and body to serve the rational soul. The order of universe not the abstractive umber or proportion, it is the principle of the entire universe, including the immortal things and mortal things. As the wise men have told us in the Gorgias that the universe is called a world order because “partnership and friendship, orderliness, self-control, and justice hold together heaven and earth, and gods and men” (Gorgias 508a). We find that the world order which orders the universe is suited the ethical life of human beings as well. We have mentioned that the main interest of Plato is in the ethic or politics. He talks about the world structure, the relationship between human body and human soul because what he is concerned about is how human beings can have good lives: being health and happy. His theory of the universe and theory of the soul are both serve his discussion of the good human life. Since the body and the soul can cooperate to present the reason, the true healthy must be the healthy of both the body and the soul, and since the good exercise for both of them is to imitate the order of universe, the immortal part of the soul shows its superiority because the immortal world soul is the ruler of the universe. Accordingly, as regards the human life, the highest good condition of it—happiness—cannot exist without the order of the immortal part of the soul, reason. According to Timaeus, since human beings are imitations of the universe, a human who takes care of reason and lets the reason lead the immortal soul and body in a good order through imitating the world order is the human who is at the best condition of both body and soul. From the viewpoint of Timaeus this human is most excellent and will indeed be supremely happy. Timaeus emphasizes that the order of universe is not foreign to the life of human beings; on the contrary it is the fundamental of the good life of human beings. “Now there is but one way to care for anything, and that is to provide for it the nourishment and the motions that are proper to it. And the motions that have an affinity to the divine part within us are the thoughts and revolutions of the universe. These, surely, are the ones which each of us should follow. We should redirect the revolutions in our heads that were thrown off course at our birth, by coming to learn the harmonies and revolutions of the universe, and so bring into conformity with its objects our faculty of understanding, as it was in its original condition. And when this conformity is complete, we shall have achieved our goal: that most excellent life offered to humankind by the gods, both now and forevermore” (90c-d).



[1] I agree with Cornford’s remark on the purpose of Plato. “Plato’s purpose may have been to indicate that, now as ever, his chief interest lies in the field of mortals and politics, not in physical speculation.” See Cornford, Plato’s Cosmology, the Humanities Press Inc., 1952, P. 20.

[2] Cornford, Plato’s Cosmology, the Humanities Press Inc., 1952, P. 61.

[3] In antiquity there are “kinetic” reading and “cognitive” reading which were both common. I borrow the statement from Johansen. Cf. Thomas Kjeller Johansen, Plato’s Natural Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 2004, P. 138-9.Which one, the cognitive, the kinetic or the combination of them should we choose? It is not the task of this paper. What interests me most is the mixed structure of the soul.

[4] Cf. Cooper’s introduction of the Pheado.

[5] “Let’s apply what has come to light in the city to an individual, and if it is accepted there, all will be well. But if something different is found in the individual, then we must go back and test that on the city”(Republic 434e). Considering Plato’s political interest I think that his theory of soul serves his theory of the city. There is also other interpretation that the theory of the city bases on the theory of the soul.

[6] The formation of the marrow, which is formed by the triangles of the firs, air, water, and earth, is the starting point of fresh, bones that form the body.

 

 

 

 

 



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荇菜 () 发表于2006-03-11 04:44:47

这不是在北大的作业。在北大一般不要求用英文写作业,偶尔会有。要说做古希腊研究的人,我也不知道怎样算多,大概每级都会有一两个吧。


neckmail () 发表于2006-03-10 23:16:27

不错啊.连作业都要求用英文写.北大现在研究古希腊哲学的人多吗?


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