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Plato’s Timaeus is a challenge to understand and to interpret, but its central ontological innovation, a third kind in addition to the standard Platonic categories of Being and Becoming, is, even according to Timaeus himself, a murky and difficult topic. I endeavor to shed a meager light on this shadowy entity, the Receptacle of all Becoming, by examining an argument Timaeus gives for the claim that “we should always call it the same thing” (50b6-7).[1] This claim comes immediately after the famous gold analogy, about which I will say only a few words, and so it also closely follows the “much misread” passage of 49c7-50b5, about which I will say even less.[2] At the other end of the argument (51b6-e6), Timaeus takes up the question of the existence of Forms; this is another topic I will leave aside. What I will do is to focus on the argument that is given in the nine lines from 50b6-c6 and explained in the following page (50c7-51b6), employing what is perhaps “bastard reasoning” to extract from this passage some clear dogmata about this unclear kind.[3]

[1] All references are to Burnet’s edition of the Timaeus, unless otherwise noted. Translations are my own.

[2] Interpretations of this passage include Cherniss 1954, Cornford 1937, pp. 178-81, Gulley 1960, Lee 1967, McCabe 1994, pp. 179-84, Miller 2003, Mohr 1980, pp. 138-44, reprinted in Mohr 1985, pp. 85-91, and Mohr 2005, pp. 83-90, Prior 1985, pp. 109-10, Silverman 1992, Silverman 2002, pp. 257-65, Taylor 1928, White 1981, pp. 307-19, Zeyl 1975, and Zeyl 2000, pp. lvi-lxiv.

[3] In this paper I will not claim that Plato believes there is a Receptacle with such a nature as is laid out in the Timaeus, although I think this is likely. Instead, I’ll discuss what Timaeus, the character in the dialogue, tells us about the Receptacle.