All Things Natural: Ficino on Plato's Timaeus by Arthur Farndell

By Arthur Farndell

Marsilio Ficino, a leading pupil of the Italian Renaissance who translated all of the works of Plato into Latin, examines Plato’s Timaeus, the main broadly influential and hotly debated of the Platonic writings. delivering a likely account of the production and nature of the cosmos, the dialogue accommodates such questions as what's the functionality of mathematics and geometry within the layout of construction? what's the nature of brain, soul, topic, and time? and what's our position within the universe? To his major remark Ficino provides an appendix, which amplifies and elucidates Plato’s meanings and reveals attention-grabbing information about Ficino himself.

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Sample text

Again, as I have said, Plato may have thought that matter was ever and uninterruptedly from God, yet not continually ordered by God, but only for periods of time, so that God’s nature is to impart order constantly, while the nature of matter is to be ordered variably; it receives the temporal balance of its arrangement just as a clock does from its maker, and when specific periods of time have elapsed in conformity with its nature, it loses its order by degrees and ultimately loses all of it, thus returning to chaos; but God, not accepting total confusion, restores it at once to its former disposition with a single fiat of will, and it becomes totally re-shaped matter, while God is not the least whit changed.

Some, I think, will reply that the finest powers of the elements are to be located there as causes, while in the spheres of the elements beneath the Moon their natures are according to their forms, and in compounds they are present through some participation; but they will deny that the actual natures of the elements are present in the heavens. With reference to these matters, the followers of Plato point out that particular excellences are universally based on particular natures, and therefore, if the excellences of the elements are in the heavens, their natures are there too; but just as the excellences reside there in a genus far superior to these here, so their natures reside in a genus that is more excellent, indeed, to speak more accurately, in a genus that is most excellent.

It fulfils nature, which extends as far as four limits by means of substance, quantity, quality, and movement. In short, it fulfils all, whether it be something within nature or something above nature, through essence, being, power, and action. The followers of Pythagoras were therefore justified in using the number four to designate the fullness of the cosmic body and the cosmic soul and to testify on oath that the fount of ever-flowing nature is fourfold. It is undoubtedly from this fount that the four elements emanate.

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