The Problem of the Relationship Between Ideas and the Sensible Universe and the Demiourgos

The Problem of the Relationship Between Ideas and the Sensible Universe and the Demiourgos

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

Plato’s dualistic attitude of separating the ideas from the sensible universe leads to an important problem. It is possible to summarize this problem as follows: Sensible things are completely material and therefore they can be perceived by sense organs.

However, ideas are abstract structures that do not have any material properties and can only be grasped by thought. According to Plato, ideas are the cause of sensible things and give them their essence. Then it is certain that there is a relation between sensible things and ideas. But how to establish the relationship between things that are purely material and can therefore be perceived by the sense organs, and abstract ideas that have no material properties and can therefore be fully grasped by thought? How is it possible for an abstract structure to interact with a concrete material structure?

Plato tried to explain the relationship between ideas and sensible objects in various ways in his different works, and while doing this, he resorted to expressions such as “taking a share”, “participating”, “being present”, “imitating”. According to these solution proposals, sensible objects “join” the ideas, “take a share” from them in a certain amount, and try to be like them and imitate them. Conversely, ideas “are present” in sensible things one by one. Everything becomes what it is only by participating in its idea by taking part in it, or by having it somehow (Phaidon, 100 d).

In order to explain the relationship between sensible things and ideas, Plato used expressions such as “taking a share”, “participating”, “being present”, “imitating” in his various works.

However, because he thought that these explanations could not solve the problem completely, Plato made another attempt to solve the problem in Timaios, one of his works of old age. In this work, Plato speaks of a regulative divine power he calls the Demiourgos. Demiourgos, whose word meaning is a handicraftsman and who is understood to be a kind of architect of the universe, is the first-matter in a chaotic state that has no form, color, smell, in short, no quality that would make it perceptible to human beings and therefore in a state of non-existence, He arranged it by looking at the ideas, a certain form, color, smell, etc. has achieved. Demiourgos has given the best possible shape to the chaotic matter he has shaped, since he is an essentially good being. Therefore, it can be said that he arranged the universe in line with a certain purpose. This goal is to make the universe as good as possible. In that case, chaotic matter, which has no qualities yet, that is, in a state of non-existence, has taken every quality it has acquired from forms, and the activity of Demiourgos, who gave it these qualities, is based on the knowledge of forms (Timaios 29a-33a). This is how the visible universe order emerges. Demiourgos made even the human soul in this way, with the knowledge of primordial forms.

When we pay attention to this universe table presented in Timaios, it is seen that there are three main elements in it. The first of these is the ideas, the second is the first-matter in a chaotic state, which has an independent existence from the ideas and does not have any qualities yet, and the third is the Demiourgos, who shapes the chaotic first-matter by looking at the forms and brings them into order. All three of these are eternal and eternal structures. That is, they did not come into existence later and they will not disappear. Demiourgos solves the problem of the relationship between ideas and matter in a way, and the mind of Demiourgos is the place where this relationship is achieved. The knowledge of the Idea is transferred from the mind of the Demiourgos to proto-matter as a formative force.

Plato says in Timaios that the universe has three causes; Ideas, first-matter and Demiourgos. All three of them are eternal and eternal.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook