How was the world generated and how does matter continue to be ordered so that the world can continue functioning? Questions like these have existed as long as humanity has been capable of rational thought. In antiquity, Plato's Timaeus introduced the concept of the Demiurge, or Craftsman-god, to answer them. This lucid and wide-ranging book argues that the concept of the Demiurge was highly influential on the many discussions operating in Middle Platonist, Gnostic, Hermetic and Christian contexts in the first three centuries AD. It explores key metaphysical problems such as the origin of evil, the relationship between matter and the First Principle and the deployment of ever-increasing numbers of secondary deities to insulate the First Principle from the sensible world. It also focuses on the decreasing importance of demiurgy in Neoplatonism, with its postulation of procession and return.
Carl Sean O'Brien is Alexander von Humboldt Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at Ruprecht-Karls-Universitat, Heidelberg and Research Associate in the Centre for the Study of the Platonic Tradition at Trinity College Dublin.
1. Demiurgy and other approaches to world-generation; 2. Plato's Timaeus, the original concept of the Demiurge and the exegesis of the dialogue; 3. Logos into Demiurge: Philo of Alexandria as witness to developments in contemporary Platonism; 4. Plutarch and the Demiurge of Egyptian mythology; 5. A simplified understanding of God: Maximus of Tyre; 6. Numenius and his doctrine of three Gods; 7. On the fringes of philosophy: speculations in Hermetism; 8. The ignorant Demiurge: Valentinus and the Gnostics; 9. Origen, the Demiurge and Christian theology; 10. Plotinus and the demise of the Demiurge; 11. Concluding remarks.