09 March 2005

Johansen's Comments

Readers of this blog will be interested to know that Thomas Johansen has commented on the posts, Johansen on Plato's Natural Philosophy and Craftsmanship and the Craftsman (both of 2 March).

Here are excerpts.

...Mere space devoted to a subject-matter in the Timaeus and Aristotle's works is not a very good criterion here. Plato wrote one work on the cosmos, Aristotle wrote distinct works on each of the subject-matters (physics, psychology, motion of animals, parts of animals, generation of animals, theory of the simple bodies, cosmology, meteorology, etc.). Disregarding Aristotle’s treatment of plants (of which we are pretty ignorant), I think it is fair to say that Aristotle is much more interested in non-human animals for their own sake than is Timaeus. This difference may, on Plato's part, have something to do with the approach to the soul suggested by the reincarnation story: animal souls are basically corrupted forms of the human soul, and their bodies are appropriately formed as punishment for the manner in which these beings have let their souls be corrupted. To this extent, Aristotle’s criticism in De Anima 402b5 that ‘those who have investigated soul seem to have confined themselves to human soul’ is not wide of the mark....

I do not claim or imply in the book that that ‘an appeal to the individual craftsman is always irrelevant in explaining the product of a craft’...It is quite clear from texts such as Physics II.3 (which I refer to, p.84) that Aristotle wishes to correlate particular causes with particular effects. So, Aristotle says, ‘we should look for kinds of cause for kinds of thing, and particular causes for particular things’ (195b25-27, Charlton transl.). However, II.3 suggests that there is also a way in which we may talk of the craftsman qua craftsman. Moreover, I cite Aristotle at 195b21-25 to the effect that craftsmanship is the akrotaton, ‘most precise’ (Ross) or ‘top-most’ (Charlton) specification of the cause. It is this Aristotelian way of talking about the cause as the craftsman qua craftsman, or the craftsman ‘with respect to craftsmanship’ (kata tĂȘn oikodomikĂȘn), that I pick up on in my book at pp. 83-86. That is to say, the point from Aristotle that I am applying to the Timaeus is that there is a way - also a way - of talking about the cause as a craftsman by virtue of the properties that he shares with other practitioners of his craft, insofar as they are practitioners of that craft. The reason for picking up on this way of talking (rather than the other) was that I wanted to highlight some advantages in the interpretation of the Timaeus of talking about the divine craftsman not as a particular individual but simply as a craftsman, or as I also put it, as the manifestation of the craft.
I've mentioned only Andrea Falcon's review in NDPR, which appeared after this blog began, but readers might wish to compare Lloyd Gerson's earlier review in BMCR.