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HET GODSBEGRIP BIJ PLATO—II

C. J. de Vogel
Acta Classica
Vol. 8 (1965), pp. 38-52
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24591145
Page Count: 15
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HET GODSBEGRIP BIJ PLATO—II
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Abstract

What did Plato mean by the Demiurge? And, because this is a personal God, is it correct to say that here, if anywhere, we have to do with Plato's God? To these questions the author replies: First, the Demiurge is a transcendent Noûs. As the creator of Soul, he is ontologically of a level superior to Soul, which is the level of intelligible Being. As such he is not to be identified with the ultimate Cause of intelligible Being, which (according to a well-known passage in the Republic) is the ’Αγαθόν. Those modern scholars who do identify the Demiurge with 'the Good' did not notice that in the Republic, where he is concerned with the ’Αγαθόν, Plato is not concerned with the direct Cause of the sensible world. Second: As to the 'personal' character of the Demiurge, it is true that for Plato 'providence' is essential to the divinity, and this not only in the later works (Tim. and the Laws) but also in Rep. II. What should be borne in mind, however, is that Plato speaks of 'god' on different ontological levels. It is erroneous to infer from such a passage as Rep. II 379 a–c that, since for Plato God is the cause of any good, the Idea of Good which as the ultimate principle of Being must be God, per se must care for man and for the world. Though granting that indirectly the Idea of Good is the cause of any good, also for man and in the sensible world, one should recognize that directly the Idea of Good is the cause of intelligible Being only. Providence with regard to the world and man is exercised on a lower level: first by the Demiurge who is the Creator of souls, next by the Soul itself, which is an immanent principle of order, both in the world and in man. Rep. X 595–597 (God 'makes' the Ideas, just as a craftsman makes a bed or a table) cannot support the identification of the Demiurge of the Tim. with the Idea of Good. It does give an analogy, but there is a difference of level. It is certainly not so that the Demiurge of the Tim. or the good World-soul of Laws X should have taken the place of the Idea of Good. This is a misunderstanding of those who did not see that in those later works Plato is concerned with a different problem, in the Tim. with the genesis of the sensible world, and in Laws X with giving the nearest approach to the θεῖον for those who start from the sensible world. Can it be said that in Plato there is 'coexistence' of different religious ideas which, as a matter of fact, do not form an organized whole? It might seem so. Yet, for Plato these different aspects of the Divine were not unconnected. The key to a true understanding of these seemingly rather incongruous 'concepts of god' is: that Plato found the Divine on different ontological levels.

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