Publication Date

April 2017


Steven Horst




English (United States)


This study was aimed at developing systematically the account of the Third kind in Plato’s Timaeus. However, as I put more and more work into connecting all the little pieces of puzzle, I came to realize that there were certain things in my thesis where I just had this understanding going in that unless I get this right I am actually jeopardizing the whole project. As I went back to rewrite parts of it, I discovered over and over again that I cannot make any progress if I do not make some point come across as absolutely clear even if it proves to be controversial, in the last analysis. Eventually, this took most of my time and transformed this study into a self-contained project, as I will argue, that you can find on the pages of this thesis. Originally conceived to be far and wide in scope, it ultimately boiled down to a comprehensive study of the interpretive strategies dealing with the Third kind in Plato’s Timaeus. I gave myself freedom to cover a wide field of issues surrounding the appearance that the Third kind makes in this dialogue in the context of the treatise on cosmology because I was interested most of all in thinking through how my understanding of it differs from what a scholarly consensus is taken to be. The past several decades saw a great increase of the interest in the scholarly literature to the concepts of chora and the receptacle of all becoming that are generally considered to be instances of the third kind of thing unique to the Timaeus. For that reason, I attempted to produce a sustained critical engagement with the existing work of others in the field to which I submit the main findings that I have made in the course of this thesis. In the first two chapters, I set up the foundation of my interpretation, which includes a brief summary of the text and comparative philosophical analysis of the environment of the Academy in the fields of astronomy and physics into which the Timeaen cosmology was born. Chapter III and IV develop some critical perspectives on how the Third kind was received and interpreted in the recent critical literature. In chapter III, I present what I call following Sarah Broadie “the ontological interpretation” of the Receptacle. I argue that it grows out of viewing the Timaeus against the background of the metaphysical vacuum which the theory of knowledge as recollection pumped into the Theory of Forms. In chapter IV, I discuss the literalist and non-literalist approaches to the interpretation of the myth of creation in the Timaeus. On the basis of it, I build an account of the Receptacle that is capable of avoiding the ontological interpretation that is committed to a view that the Receptacle is called to re-uphold the dualism of Forms and images after it was put in danger of collapsing in Parmenides. In my own analysis, I will argue that the Receptacle, fundamentally, provides “that in which” the elements can permanently exist and in this way solves a real problem faced by Plato in defending the tenacity of his cosmological model. Finally, the last two chapters tackle perhaps the most difficult passage of the whole dialogue, namely, this-such passage. Here, I take seriously Plato’s claim that four kinds of the element (fire, water, air, and earth) have generation. My major claim in this part is that Plato keeps the possibility of referring to the sense-objects in spite of the contradictory evidence of senses. I also devote a lot of time to grounding my interpretation in other people’s work and explain what really was Plato’s view on the generation of the elements in nature. My main hope is that this thesis manages to give to Plato’s philosophical heritage the fair treatment it deserves. There is hardly another passage in the whole of Platonic corpus that has been a subject of polemics as heightened and diverse as the Receptacle-passage in Plato’s Timeaus and it is really worth studying it for anyone who is interested in metaphysics, epistemology, and ontology, and not just cosmology. However, for many years, Timaeus has unjustly been treated as accessible to but to a small number of people who were able to decipher its meaning. This study is born out of the sense of wanting to reverse this situation and make this dialogue known to a wider public, while maintaining the highest standards of depth and breadth of the analysis. This thesis purports to be a companion to students of Plato’s elusive receptacle of all becoming, or, in a single word, chora. What follows is an exploration of the nature of the Third kind in the Timaeus in relation to life and thought of the man and philosopher Plato.



© Copyright is owned by author of this document