The Timaeus is a very difficult dialogue, and one that has traditionally been interpreted as offering a modification of certain aspects of Plato's "Theory of the Forms," through the introduction of a "demiurge" or divine artificer and the "chora" or prime matter for creation. Sallis does not take this traditional approach. He does not see the Platonic dialogues as documents that present a Platonic "doctrine," and he does not see the dialogues as advocating a "Theory of the Forms." Instead, he sees the dialogues as complex, dramatic texts in which complex ideas are developed and studied in subtle (sometimes subterranean) ways. Sallis's approach (already revealed in his earlier Being and Logos) amounts to a radical re-reading of the Platonic corpus.
Sallis's reading of the Timaeus is slow and careful. He takes his cues as far as possible from the indications in the text itself. His practice is to see how the text, in its development, sets up the matrix in which other aspects of the text can come to have significance. The text is observed in its self-referentiality, in its false starts and unfulfilled promises, in its repetitions, in its gradual adumbration of meaningful topics. Where others might rush to grasp the "doctrine" being put forward, Sallis lingers over the preliminaries-he follows the seemingly endless outpouring of detail, of apparent triviality, with meticulous care, being interested in reading the text, rather than passing beyond it to an idea. The result is a new Timaeus, a Timaeus oozing with formerly unnoticed significance at every point, a Timaeus clearly pervaded with the problematics of the figure that is the central subject of Sallis's book: the chora, that "nurse" or "receptacle" of becoming that is introduced midway through Timaeus's account.
Basically, the discourse about the "chora" shows that this "receptacle of becoming" simultaneously makes possible the opposition of being and becoming and undermines its primacy. The discourse of the chora brings us back the radical singularity of our place, our earth, our bodies. In his study of this theme, Sallis also reconsiders the relation of phusis and techne, the nature of the city, the nature of eros and, (the central philosophical issue of the book) the nature of beginnings in the context of philosophical method.
This is an excellent book, offering a fresh, new approach to this classic text of Ancient Philosophy. Its extended reflection on the question of beginning will also be of interest to students of Hegel, Heidegger and Derrida.