ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

24. God and the Idea of the Good. -- Plato's theodicy is intimately connected with his metaphysics. In fact, since there is nothing above the Idea of the Good, which is the sovereign essence, it is important to determine what precisely are its relations to God, -- to the personal God, the intelligent Demiurge, the ruler of the lesser gods and of men, the provident director and guide of the world, as Plato describes Him in the Timaeus, clothing his thought with all the rich phraseology of his exuberant poetic inspiration. We touch here on one of the most obscure problems in the whole Platonic philosophy.

We must refuse either to make the Idea of the Good subordinate to God (Trendelenburg), or to make God subordinate to the Idea of the Good (Orges), under pain of overthrowing the supremacy of either. To identify the Idea of Good with God (Zeller), would be to admit the identity of the most impersonal of abstractions with the highest incarnation of personality, and to endow the same being with contradictory attributes. It seems preferable to maintain the coexistence of the Idea of the Good and of God (Hermann), the dyarchy of two independent sovereigns, both alike free from the laws of change.{1} This dualism may be rendered a little less unacceptable by determining somewhat more exactly the respective roles of these two concepts -- of the Good, and of God. While the Idea of the Good is the final and formal cause of all things, God is regarded chiefly as the prudent ruler of the visible world. He is the cause that applies the Idea to the phenomenon, i.e., the efficient subordinate cause. Both being sovereigns of distinct kingdoms, we may call them, on different titles, the principles of things. This is not the only example of unexplained dualism that Platonic philosophy offers us.

{1} For the details of this controversy see ZELLER, op. cit., II., i., pp. 767 sqq.

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