Philo, On Creation, II.8: αὐτὸ

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Mike Baber
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Philo, On Creation, II.8: αὐτὸ

Post by Mike Baber » November 27th, 2013, 3:34 am

Μωυσῆς δὲ καὶ φιλοσοφίας ἐπʼ αὐτὴν φθάσας ἀκρότητα καὶ χρησμοῖς τὰ πολλὰ καὶ συνεκτικώτατα τῶν τῆς φύσεως ἀναδιδαχθεὶς ἔγνω δή, ὅτι ἀναγκαιότατόν ἐστιν ἐν τοῖς οὖσι τὸ μὲν εἶναι δραστήριον αἴτιον, τὸ δὲ παθητόν, καὶ ὅτι τὸ μὲν δραστήριον ὁ τῶν ὅλων νοῦς ἐστιν εἱλικρινέστατος καὶ ἀκραιφνέστατος, κρείττων ἢ ἀρετὴ καὶ κρείττων ἢ ἐπιστήμη καὶ κρείττων ἢ αὐτὸ τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ αὐτὸ τὸ καλόν,


What is the function and meaning of the bold-faced αὐτὸ?
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cwconrad
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Re: Philo, On Creation, II.8: αὐτὸ

Post by cwconrad » November 27th, 2013, 7:17 am

Mike Baber wrote:
Μωυσῆς δὲ καὶ φιλοσοφίας ἐπʼ αὐτὴν φθάσας ἀκρότητα καὶ χρησμοῖς τὰ πολλὰ καὶ συνεκτικώτατα τῶν τῆς φύσεως ἀναδιδαχθεὶς ἔγνω δή, ὅτι ἀναγκαιότατόν ἐστιν ἐν τοῖς οὖσι τὸ μὲν εἶναι δραστήριον αἴτιον, τὸ δὲ παθητόν, καὶ ὅτι τὸ μὲν δραστήριον ὁ τῶν ὅλων νοῦς ἐστιν εἱλικρινέστατος καὶ ἀκραιφνέστατος, κρείττων ἢ ἀρετὴ καὶ κρείττων ἢ ἐπιστήμη καὶ κρείττων ἢ αὐτὸ τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ αὐτὸ τὸ καλόν,


What is the function and meaning of the bold-faced αὐτὸ?
αὐτός/ή/ό in the predicate position is always "selfsame" or "him/her/itself". What you see here in αὐτὸ τὸ ἀγαθόν and αὐτὸ τὸ καλόν are the classical Platonic terms "the good itself" and "the beautiful itself", which notions he also terms "the form" (εἶδος) or "the idea" (ἰδέα) of the good/beautiful. Philo here adapts the Genesis 1 & 2 creation narratives to Platonic dualism by distinguishing an active -- creative -- factor (νοῦς) --  to which he will oppose a passive factor as the raw material that Mind/God creates by imposing form upon it. Here he is simply insisting upon the superiority of creative νοῦς to the ideas/forms that are the principles employed in the process of creation.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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