In this paper I offer a new account of the teleology of human beings in the Timaeus. Several recent interpreters have argued that human beings are the products of a teleological process and possess a natural unity, despite being composites of immortal and mortal parts. By contrast, I argue that human beings are inherently unstable creatures; rather than the goal or end of a teleological process, they are an intermediate stage on the way to some further goal. One of the curious features of the account of human beings in the Timaeus is that they are generated for two distinct and incompatible goals: (1) The Demiurge’s goal of completing the cosmos, through the creation of the three kinds of mortal beings and (2) the individual ethical goal of restoring the best and original condition of the immortal soul. This second goal is at odds with the first, because it is only through the failure of some individuals to restore the immortal soul to its original condition that the three kinds of mortal creatures come to be. I argue that this is a fundamental and irresolvable tension in the teleology of human beings in the dialogue.
Chair: Katharine O'Reilly
Workshop in Ancient Philosophy Convenors: Prof Ursula Coope, Dr Karen Margrethe Nielsen, and Dr Luca Castagnoli