The Cosmic Soup and the Demiurgic Function in Plutarch’s IV Platonica Quaestio (Carlo Delle Donne, Sapienza-Università di Roma)

1:00pm - 2:00pm / Thursday 12th December 2019 / Venue: Arthur West Room, 8-14 Abercromby Square Abercromby SQ (south)
Type: Seminar / Category: Department
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Plutarch’s philosophy has received increasing attention from scholars in the last few decades, and many aspects of Plutarch’s ontology and cosmology have been extensively examined. Nevertheless, there is still a side of his thought which has not yet been investigated properly: I refer to the demiurgic actors who are to be found in Plutarch’s writings. In particular, who are we to consider as being primarily responsible for the ordering of the indeterminate precosmic matter? 1) Is this activity imputable to the divine demiurgic intellect, as the treatise The generation of the soul in the “Timaeus” strongly suggests? 2) Or are we to take the Cosmic Soul as the force which firstly gave shape to the precosmic chora/hyle, as the IV Platonic Question would imply? Be all that as it may, there is an inconsistency in Plutarch’s texts which cannot be neglected, nor can it be solved by simply doing away with one of the preceding options. The aim of my paper is to examine, precisely and mainly, the IV Platonica Quaestio. In particular, I set out to maintain that, at a certain moment of his philosophical career, Plutarch thought it better to relieve the divine intellect from the task of firstly ordering the material substratum, and as a consequence, this duty could not help but fall upon the Cosmic Soul. As a general result, Plutarch could keep the divine intellect from any engagement in practical activities concerning the precosmic hyle - thus also neutralising a powerful criticism which the Epicureans used to address to the Platonists (cf. Cic. De nat deor. 1.20 ff.). This event is part of the Work in Progress seminar series