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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
Physis : World Creation  

Plato's TIMAEUS : Necessity

Timaeus 47e - 48d  * Greek Fonts


HUS far in what we have been saying, with small exception, the works of intelligence have been set forth; and now we must place by the side of them in our discourse the things which come into being through necessity-for the creation is mixed, being made up of necessity and mind. Mind, the ruling power, persuaded necessity to bring the greater part of created things to perfection, and thus and after this manner in the beginning, when the influence of reason got the better of necessity, the universe was created. But if a person will truly tell of the way in which the work was accomplished, he must include the other influence of the variable cause as well. Wherefore, we must return again and find another suitable beginning, as about the former matters, so also about these. To which end we must consider the nature of fire, and water, and air, and earth, such as they were prior to the creation of the heaven, and what was happening to them in this previous state; for no one has as yet explained the manner of their generation, but we speak of fire and the rest of them, whatever they mean, as though men knew their natures, and we maintain them to be the first principles and letters or elements of the whole, when they cannot reasonably be compared by a man of any sense even to syllables or first compounds. And let me say thus much: I will not now speak of the first principle or principles of all things, or by whatever name they are to be called, for this reason-because it is difficult to set forth my opinion according to the method of discussion which we are at present employing. Do not imagine, any more than I can bring myself to imagine, that I should be right in undertaking so great and difficult a task. Remembering what I said at first about probability, I will do my best to give as probable an explanation as any other-or rather, more probable; and I will first go back to the beginning and try to speak of each thing and of all. Once more, then, at the commencement of my discourse, I call upon God, and beg him to be our saviour out of a strange and unwonted enquiry, and to bring us to the haven of probability. So now let us begin again. 


Τὰ μὲν οὖν παρεληλυθότα τῶν εἰρημένων πλὴν βραχέων ἐπιδέδεικται τὰ διὰ νοῦ δεδημιουργημένα· δεῖ δὲ καὶ τὰ δι΄ ἀνάγκης γιγνόμενα τῷ λόγῳ παραθέσθαι. [48a] μεμειγμένη γὰρ οὖν ἡ τοῦδε τοῦ κόσμου γένεσις ἐξ ἀνάγκης τε καὶ νοῦ συστάσεως ἐγεννήθη· νοῦ δὲ ἀνάγκης ἄρχοντος τῷ πείθειν αὐτὴν τῶν γιγνομένων τὰ πλεῖστα ἐπὶ τὸ βέλτιστον ἄγειν͵ ταύτῃ κατὰ ταῦτά τε δι΄ ἀνάγκης ἡττωμένης ὑπὸ πειθοῦς ἔμφρονος οὕτω κατ΄ ἀρχὰς συνίστατο τόδε τὸ πᾶν. εἴ τις οὖν ᾗ γέγονεν κατὰ ταῦτα ὄντως ἐρεῖ͵ μεικτέον καὶ τὸ τῆς πλανωμένης εἶδος αἰτίας͵ ᾗ φέρειν πέφυκεν· [48b] ὧδε οὖν πάλιν ἀναχωρητέον͵ καὶ λαβοῦσιν αὐτῶν τούτων προσήκουσαν ἑτέραν ἀρχὴν αὖθις αὖ͵ καθάπερ περὶ τῶν τότε νῦν οὕτω περὶ τούτων πάλιν ἀρκτέον ἀπ΄ ἀρχῆς. τὴν δὴ πρὸ τῆς οὐρανοῦ γενέσεως πυρὸς ὕδατός τε καὶ ἀέρος καὶ γῆς φύσιν θεατέον αὐτὴν καὶ τὰ πρὸ τούτου πάθη· νῦν γὰρ οὐδείς πω γένεσιν αὐτῶν μεμήνυκεν͵ ἀλλ΄ ὡς εἰδόσιν πῦρ ὅτι ποτέ ἐστιν καὶ ἕκαστον αὐτῶν λέγομεν ἀρχὰς αὐτὰ τιθέμενοι στοιχεῖα τοῦ παντός͵ [48c] προσῆκον αὐτοῖς οὐδ΄ ἂν ὡς ἐν συλλαβῆς εἴδεσιν μόνον εἰκότως ὑπὸ τοῦ καὶ βραχὺ φρονοῦντος ἀπεικασθῆναι. νῦν δὲ οὖν τό γε παρ΄ ἡμῶν ὧδε ἐχέτω· τὴν μὲν περὶ ἁπάντων εἴτε ἀρχὴν εἴτε ἀρχὰς εἴτε ὅπῃ δοκεῖ τούτων πέρι τὸ νῦν οὐ ῥητέον͵ δι΄ ἄλλο μὲν οὐδέν͵ διὰ δὲ τὸ χαλεπὸν εἶναι κατὰ τὸν παρόντα τρόπον τῆς διεξόδου δηλῶσαι τὰ δοκοῦντα͵ μήτ΄ οὖν ὑμεῖς οἴεσθε δεῖν ἐμὲ λέγειν͵ οὔτ΄ αὐτὸς αὖ πείθειν ἐμαυτὸν εἴην ἂν δυνατὸς ὡς ὀρθῶς ἐγχειροῖμ΄ ἂν τοσοῦτον ἐπιβαλλόμενος ἔργον· [48d] τὸ δὲ κατ΄ ἀρχὰς ῥηθὲν διαφυλάττων͵ τὴν τῶν εἰκότων λόγων δύναμιν͵ πειράσομαι μηδενὸς ἧττον εἰκότα͵ μᾶλλον δὲ καὶ ἔμπροσθεν ἀπ΄ ἀρχῆς περὶ ἑκάστων καὶ συμπάντων λέγειν. θεὸν δὴ καὶ νῦν ἐπ΄ ἀρχῇ τῶν λεγομένων σωτῆρα ἐξ ἀτόπου καὶ ἀήθους διηγήσεως πρὸς τὸ τῶν εἰκότων δόγμα διασῴζειν ἡμᾶς ἐπικαλεσάμενοι πάλιν ἀρχώμεθα λέγειν.

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