published on May 12, 2022
Casey Hall, Elizabeth Jelinek
Evil, Demiurgy, and the Taming of Necessity in Plato’s Timaeus
Plato’s Timaeus reveals a cosmos governed by Necessity and Intellect; commentators have debated the relationship between them. Non-literalists hold that the demiurge (Intellect), having carte blanche in taming Necessity, is omnipotent. But this omnipotence, alongside the attributes of benevolence and omniscience, creates problems when non-literalists address the problem of evil. We take the demiurge rather as limited by Necessity. This position is supported by episodes within the text, and by its larger consonance with Plato’s philosophy of evil and responsibility. By recognizing the analogy between man and demiurge, the literal reading provides a moral component that its non-literal counterpart lacks.