This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations . (January 2014) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|Born||8 February 412|
|Died||17 April 485 73) (aged|
|Other names||"The Successor"|
Proclus Lycaeus ( // ; 8 February 412 – 17 April 485 AD), called the Successor (Greek Πρόκλος ὁ Διάδοχος, Próklos ho Diádokhos), was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, one of the last major classical philosophers (see Damascius). He set forth one of the most elaborate and fully developed systems of Neoplatonism. He stands near the end of the classical development of philosophy and influenced Western medieval philosophy (Greek and Latin).
Proclus was born on February 8, 412 AD (his birth date is deduced from a horoscope cast by a disciple, Marinus) in Constantinople to a family of high social status in Lycia (his father Patricius was a high legal official, very important in the Eastern Roman Empire's court system) and raised in Xanthus. He studied rhetoric, philosophy and mathematics in Alexandria, with the intent of pursuing a judicial position like his father. Before completing his studies, he returned to Constantinople when his rector, his principal instructor (one Leonas), had business there.
Proclus became a successful practicing lawyer. However, the experience of the practice of law made Proclus realize that he truly preferred philosophy. He returned to Alexandria, and began determinedly studying the works of Aristotle under Olympiodorus the Elder. He also began studying mathematics during this period as well with a teacher named Heron (no relation to Hero of Alexandria, who was also known as Heron). As a gifted student, he eventually became dissatisfied with the level of philosophical instruction available in Alexandria, and went to Athens, the pre-eminent philosophical center of the day, in 431 to study at the Neoplatonic successor of the famous Academy founded 800 years earlier (in 387 BC) by Plato; there he was taught by Plutarch of Athens (not to be confused with Plutarch of Chaeronea), Syrianus, and Asclepigenia; he succeeded Syrianus as head of the Academy, and would in turn be succeeded on his death by Marinus of Neapolis.
He lived in Athens as a vegetarian bachelor, prosperous and generous to his friends, until the end of his life, except for a voluntary one-year exile, which was designed to lessen the pressure put on him by his political-philosophical activity, little appreciated by the Christian rulers; he spent the exile traveling and being initiated into various mystery cults. He was also instructed in the "theurgic" Neoplatonism, as derived from the Orphic and Chaldean Oracles. His house has been discovered recently in Athens, under the pavement of Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, south of Acropolis, opposite the theater of Dionysus. He had a great devotion to the goddess Athena, who he believed guided him at key moments in his life. Marinus reports that when Christians removed the statue of the goddess from the Parthenon, a beautiful woman appeared to Proclus in a dream and announced that the "Athenian Lady" wished to stay at his home.Proclus died aged 73, and was buried near Mount Lycabettus in a tomb. It is reported that he was writing 700 lines each day.
The majority of Proclus's works are commentaries on dialogues of Plato (Alcibiades, Cratylus, Parmenides, Republic, Timaeus). In these commentaries he presents his own philosophical system as a faithful interpretation of Plato, and in this he did not differ from other Neoplatonists, as he considered that "nothing in Plato’s corpus is unintended or there by chance", that "that Plato’s writings were divinely inspired" (ὁ θεῖος Πλάτων ho theios Platon—the divine Plato, inspired by the gods), that "the formal structure and the content of Platonic texts imitated those of the universe",and therefore that they spoke often of things under a veil, hiding the truth from the philosophically uninitiate. Proclus was however a close reader of Plato, and quite often makes very astute points about his Platonic sources. A number of his Platonic commentaries are lost.
Proclus, the scholiast to Euclid, knew Eudemus of Rhodes' History of Geometry well, and gave a short sketch of the early history of geometry, which appeared to be founded on the older, lost book of Eudemus. The passage has been referred to as "the Eudemian summary," and determines some approximate dates, which otherwise might have remained unknown.The influential commentary on the first book of Euclid's Elements of Geometry is one of the most valuable sources we have for the history of ancient mathematics, and its Platonic account of the status of mathematical objects was influential. In this work, Proclus also listed the first mathematicians associated with Plato: a mature set of mathematicians (Leodamas of Thasos, Archytas of Taras, and Theaetetus), a second set of younger mathematicians (Neoclides, Eudoxus of Cnidus), and a third yet younger set (Amyntas, Menaechmus and his brother Dinostratus, Theudius of Magnesia, Hermotimus of Colophon and Philip of Opus). Some of these mathematicians were influential in arranging the Elements that Euclid later published.
In addition to his commentaries, Proclus wrote two major systematic works. The Elements of Theology (Στοιχείωσις θεολογική) consists of 211 propositions, each followed by a proof, beginning from the existence of the One (divine Unity) and ending with the descent of individual souls into the material world. The Platonic Theology (Περὶ τῆς κατὰ Πλάτωνα θεολογίας) is a systematisation of material from Platonic dialogues, showing from them the characteristics of the divine orders, the part of the universe which is closest to the One.
We also have three essays, extant only in Latin translation: Ten doubts concerning providence (De decem dubitationibus circa providentiam); On providence and fate (De providentia et fato); On the existence of evils (De malorum subsistentia).
He also wrote a number of minor works, which are listed in the bibliography below.
This section needs additional citations for verification . (January 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Proclus's system, like that of the other Neoplatonists, is a combination of Platonic, Aristotelian, and Stoic elements. In its broad outlines, Proclus's system agrees with that of Plotinus. However, following Iamblichus, Plutarch of Athens, and his master Syrianus, Proclus presents a much more elaborate universe than Plotinus, subdividing the elements of Plotinus's system into their logically distinct parts, and positing these parts as individual things. This multiplication of entities is balanced by the monism which is common to all Neoplatonists. What this means is that, on the one hand the universe is composed of hierarchically distinct things, but on the other all things are part of a single continuous emanation of power from the One. From this latter perspective, the many distinctions to be found in the universe are a result of the divided perspective of the human soul, which needs to make distinctions in its own thought in order to understand unified realities. The idealist tendency is taken further in John Scotus Eriugena.
There is a double motivation found in Neoplatonic systems. The first is a need to account for the origin and character of all things in the universe. The second is a need to account for how we can know this origin and character of things. These two aims are related: they begin from the assumption that we can know reality, and then ask the question of what reality must be like, in its origin and unfolding, so that we can know it. An important element in the Neoplatonic answer to these questions is its reaction to Scepticism. In response to the sceptical position that we only know the appearances presented by our senses, and not the world as it is, Plotinus placed the object of knowledge inside the soul itself, and accounted for this interior truth through the soul's kinship with its own productive principles.
The first principle in Neoplatonism is the One (Greek: to Hen). Being proceeds from the One. The One cannot itself be a being. If it were a being, it would have a particular nature, and so could not be universally productive. Because it is beyond being (epekeina tes ousias, a phrase from Plato's Republic 509b), it is also beyond thought, because thinking requires the determinations which belong to being: the division between subject and object, and the distinction of one thing from another. For this reason, even the name The One is not a positive name, but rather the most non-multiple name possible, a name derived from our own inadequate conception of the simplicity of the first principle. The One causes all things by conferring unity, in the form of individuality, on them, and in Neoplatonism existence, unity, and form tend to become equivalent. The One causes things to exist by donating unity, and the particular manner in which a thing is one is its form (a dog and a house are individual in different manners, for example). Because the One makes things exist by giving them the individuality which makes them what they are as distinct and separate beings, the Neoplatonists thought of it also as the source of the good of everything. So the other name for the One is the Good. Despite appearances, the first principle is not double; all things have a double relation to it, as coming from them (One) and then being oriented back towards them to receive their perfection or completion (Good).
The particular characteristic of Proclus's system is his elaboration of a level of individual ones, called henads, between the One which is before being and intelligible divinity. The henads exist "superabundantly", also beyond being, but they stand at the head of chains of causation (seirai) and in some manner give to these chains their particular character. He identifies them with the Greek gods, so one henad might be Apollo and be the cause of all things apollonian, while another might be Helios and be the cause of all sunny things. Each henad participates in every other henad, according to its character. What appears to be multiplicity is not multiplicity at all, because any henad may rightly be considered the center of the polycentric system.
The principle which is produced below the level of the One and the Henads is the divine Intellect ( Nous ). The One cannot have a determinate nature if it is to be the source of all determinate natures, so what it produces is the totality of all determinate natures, or Being. By determination is meant existence within boundaries, a being this and not that. The most important determinate natures are the Greatest Kinds from Plato's Sophist (Being, Same, Other, Rest, Motion) and Aristotle's ten categories (Quantity, Quality, etc.). In other words, the One produces what Plato called the Forms, and the Forms are understood to be the first determinations into which all things fall. The One produces the Forms through the activity of thinking. The One itself does not think, but instead produces a divine mind, Intellect, whose thoughts are themselves the Forms. Intellect is both Thinking and Being. It is a mind which has its own contents as its object. All things relate to the first principle as both One and Good. As Being, Intellect is the product of the One. But it also seeks to return to its cause, and so in Thinking it attempts to grasp the One as its Good. But because the simplicity of the One/Good does not allow Intellect to grasp it, what Intellect does is generate a succession of perspectives around its simple source. Each of these perspectives is itself a Form, and is how Intellect generates for itself its own content.
Plotinus speaks about the generation of Intellect from the One, and Intellect's attempt to return to the One in a thinking which is also a desiring. Proclus systematises this production through a threefold movement of remaining, procession, and return (mone, proodos, epistrophe). Intellect remains in the One, which means that it has the One as its origin. It proceeds from the One, which means that it comes to be as a separate entity. But it returns to the One, which means that it does not cut itself off from its source, but receives the good which is its identity from the One. This threefold motion is used by Proclus to structure all levels of his system below the One and above material reality, so that all things except those mentioned remain, proceed, and return.
Proclus also gives a much more elaborate account of Intellect than does Plotinus. In Plotinus we find the distinction between Being and Thinking in Intellect. Proclus, in keeping with his triadic structure of remaining, procession, and return, distinguishes three moments in Intellect: Intelligible, Intelligible-Intellectual, and Intellectual. They correspond to the object of thought, the power of the object to be grasped by the subject, and the thinking subject. These three divisions are elaborated further, so that the intelligible moment consists of three triads (Being, Eternity, and the Living Being or Paradigm from Plato's Timaeus). The intelligible-intellectual moment also consists of three triads, and the intellectual moment is a hebdomad (seven elements), among which is numbered the Demiurge from Plato's Timaeus and also the monad of Time (which is before temporal things). In this elaboration of Intellect as a whole, Proclus is attempting to give a hierarchical ordering to the various metaphysical elements and principles that other philosophers have discussed, by containing them within a single triadic logic of unfolding.
Proclus's universe unfolds according to the smallest steps possible, from unity to multiplicity. With Intellect emerges the multiplicity which allows one being to be different from another being. But as a divine mind, Intellect has a complete grasp of all its moments in one act of thought. For this reason, Intellect is outside of Time.
Intellect as the second principle also gives rise to individual intellects, which hold various places within Proclus's cosmos.
In terms of his sources, Intellect is like taking the Platonic Forms and placing them in the self-thinking thought which is Aristotle's Unmoved Mover.
Soul (Psyche) is produced by Intellect, and so is the third principle in the Neoplatonic system. It is a mind, like Intellect, but it does not grasp all of its own content as one. Therefore with Soul, Time comes to be, as a measure of Soul's movement from one object of thought to another. Intellect tries to grasp the One, and ends up producing its own ideas as its content. Soul attempts to grasp Intellect in its return, and ends up producing its own secondary unfoldings of the Forms in Intellect. Soul, in turn, produces Body, the material world.
In his commentary on Plato's Timaeus Proclus explains the role the Soul as a principle has in mediating the Forms in Intellect to the body of the material world as a whole. The Soul is constructed through certain proportions, described mathematically in the Timaeus, which allow it to make Body as a divided image of its own arithmetical and geometrical ideas.
Individual souls have the same overall structure as the principle of Soul, but they are weaker. They have a tendency to be fascinated with the material world, and be overpowered by it. It is at this point that individual souls are united with a material body (i.e. when they are born). Once in the body, our passions have a tendency to overwhelm our reason. According to Proclus, philosophy is the activity which can liberate the soul from a subjection to bodily passions, remind it of its origin in Soul, Intellect, and the One, and prepare it not only to ascend to the higher levels while still in this life, but to avoid falling immediately back into a new body after death.
Because the soul's attention, while inhabiting a body, is turned so far away from its origin in the intelligible world, Proclus thinks that we need to make use of bodily reminders of our spiritual origin. In this he agrees with the doctrines of theurgy put forward by Iamblichus. Theurgy is possible because the powers of the gods (the henads) extend through their series of causation even down to the material world. And by certain power-laden words, acts, and objects, the soul can be drawn back up the series, so to speak. Proclus himself was a devotee of many of the religions in Athens, considering that the power of the gods could be present in these various approaches.
For Proclus, philosophy is important because it is one of the primary ways to rescue the soul from a fascination with the body and restore it to its station. However, beyond its own station, the soul has Intellect as its goal, and ultimately has unification with the One as its goal. So higher than philosophy is the non-discursive reason of Intellect, and the pre-intellectual unity of the One. Philosophy is therefore a means of its own overcoming, in that it points the soul beyond itself.
Proclus can be considered as the spokesman of mature Neoplatonism. His works had a great influence on the history of western philosophy. The extent of this influence, however, is obscured by the channels through which it was exercised. An important source of Procline ideas was through the Pseudo-Dionysius.This late-5th- or early-6th-century Christian Greek author wrote under the pseudonym Dionysius the Areopagite, the figure converted by St. Paul in Athens. Because of this fiction, his writings were taken to have almost apostolic authority. He is an original Christian writer, and in his works can be found a great number of Proclus's metaphysical principles.
Another important source for the influence of Proclus on the Middle Ages is Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy , which has a number of Proclus principles and motifs. The central poem of Book III is a summary of Proclus's Commentary on the Timaeus, and Book V contains the important principle of Proclus that things are known not according to their own nature, but according to the character of the knowing subject.
A summary of Proclus's Elements of Theology circulated under the name Liber de Causis (the Book of Causes). This book is of uncertain origin, but circulated in the Arabic world as a work of Aristotle, and was translated into Latin as such. It had great authority because of its supposed Aristotelian origin, and it was only when Proclus's Elements were translated into Latin that Thomas Aquinas realised its true origin.
Proclus's works also exercised an influence during the Renaissance through figures such as Georgius Gemistus Pletho and Marsilio Ficino. Before the contemporary period, the most significant scholar of Proclus in the English-speaking world was Thomas Taylor, who produced English translations of most of his works, with commentaries.
His work inspired the New England Transcendentalists, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, who declared in 1843 that, in reading Proclus, "I am filled with hilarity & spring, my heart dances, my sight is quickened, I behold shining relations between all beings, and am impelled to write and almost to sing."
Modern scholarship on Proclus essentially begins with E. R. Dodds edition of the Elements of Theology in 1933. Since then he has attracted considerable attention, especially in the French-speaking world. Procline scholarship, however, still (2006) falls far short of the attention paid to Plotinus.
The following epigram is engraved on the tomb which houses Proclus and his master Syrianus:
The crater Proclus on the Moon is named after him.
A number of other minor works or fragments of works survive. A number of major commentaries have been lost.
The Liber de Causis (Book of Causes) is not a work by Proclus, but a summary of his work the Elements of Theology, likely written by an Arabic interpreter. It was mistakenly thought in the Middle Ages to be a work of Aristotle, but was recognised by Aquinas not to be so.
A list of modern editions and translations of his surviving works is available at:
Collections of essays
It is well known that the commentary of Proclus on Eucl. Book I is one of the two main sources of information as to the history of Greek geometry which we possess, the other being the Collection of Pappus
| Wikisource has original works written by or about:|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Proclus|
| Library resources about |
In the Platonic, Neopythagorean, Middle Platonic, and Neoplatonic schools of philosophy, the demiurge is an artisan-like figure responsible for fashioning and maintaining the physical universe. The Gnostics adopted the term "demiurge". Although a fashioner, the demiurge is not necessarily the same as the creator figure in the monotheistic sense, because the demiurge itself and the material from which the demiurge fashions the universe are both considered to be consequences of something else. Depending on the system, they may be considered to be either uncreated and eternal or the product of some other entity.
Plotinus was a major Hellenistic philosopher who lived in Roman Egypt. In his philosophy, described in the Enneads, there are three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas, who was of the Platonic tradition. Historians of the 19th century invented the term Neoplatonism and applied it to Plotinus and his philosophy, which was influential during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Much of the biographical information about Plotinus comes from Porphyry's preface to his edition of Plotinus' Enneads. His metaphysical writings have inspired centuries of Pagan, Jewish, Christian, Gnostic, and Islamic metaphysicians and mystics, including developing precepts that influence mainstream theological concepts within religions, such as his work on duality of the One in two metaphysical states. This concept is similar to the Christian notion of Jesus being both god and man, a foundational idea in Christian theology.
Apophatic theology, also known as negative theology, is a form of theological thinking and religious practice which attempts to approach God, the Divine, by negation, to speak only in terms of what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is God. It forms a pair together with cataphatic theology, which approaches God or the Divine by affirmations or positive statements about what God is.
Damascius, known as "the last of the Neoplatonists," was the last scholarch of the School of Athens. He was one of the pagan philosophers persecuted by Emperor Justinian I in the early 6th century AD, and was forced for a time to seek refuge in the Persian court, before being allowed back into the Empire. His surviving works consist of three commentaries on the works of Plato, and a metaphysical text entitled Difficulties and Solutions of First Principles.
Timaeus is one of Plato's dialogues, mostly in the form of a long monologue given by the title character Timaeus of Locri, written c. 360 BC. The work puts forward speculation on the nature of the physical world and human beings and is followed by the dialogue Critias.
Iamblichus was a Syrian Neoplatonist philosopher of Arab origin. He determined the direction that would later be taken by Neoplatonic philosophy. He was also the biographer of the Greek mystic, philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras,
Thomas Taylor was an English translator and Neoplatonist, the first to translate into English the complete works of Aristotle and of Plato, as well as the Orphic fragments.
Syrianus was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, and head of Plato's Academy in Athens, succeeding his teacher Plutarch of Athens in 431/432. He is important as the teacher of Proclus, and, like Plutarch and Proclus, as a commentator on Plato and Aristotle. His best-known extant work is a commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle. He is said to have written also on the De Caelo and the De Interpretatione of Aristotle and on Plato's Timaeus.
Timaeus of Locri is a character in two of Plato's dialogues, Timaeus and Critias. In both, he appears as a philosopher of the Pythagorean school. If there ever existed a historical Timaeus of Locri, he would have lived in the fifth century BC, but his historicity is dubious since he only appears as a literary figure in Plato; all other ancient sources are either based on Plato or are fictional accounts.
Platonism is the philosophy of Plato and philosophical systems closely derived from it, though contemporary platonists do not necessarily accept all of the doctrines of Plato. Platonism had a profound effect on Western thought. Platonism at least affirms the existence of abstract objects, which are asserted to exist in a third realm distinct from both the sensible external world and from the internal world of consciousness, and is the opposite of nominalism. This can apply to properties, types, propositions, meanings, numbers, sets, truth values, and so on. Philosophers who affirm the existence of abstract objects are sometimes called platonists; those who deny their existence are sometimes called nominalists. The terms "platonism" and "nominalism" also have established senses in the history of philosophy, where they denote positions that have little to do with the modern notion of an abstract object.
Gnosticism refers to a collection of religious groups originating in Jewish religiosity in Alexandria in the first few centuries CE. Neoplatonism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century, based on the teachings of Plato and some of his early followers. While Gnosticism was influenced by Middle Platonism, neo-Platonists from the third century onward rejected Gnosticism.
Hellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy and Middle Eastern philosophy that was developed in the Hellenistic period following Aristotle and ending with the beginning of Neoplatonism.
Neoplatonism was a major influence on Christian theology throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages in the West. This was due to St. Augustine of Hippo, who was influenced by the early Neoplatonists Plotinus and Porphyry, as well as the works of the Christian writer Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, who was influenced by later Neoplatonists, such as Proclus and Damascius.
Plutarch of Athens was a Greek philosopher and Neoplatonist who taught in Athens at the beginning of the 5th century. He reestablished the Platonic Academy there and became its leader. He wrote commentaries on Aristotle and Plato, emphasizing the doctrines which they had in common.
Origen the Pagan was a Platonist philosopher who lived in Alexandria. He was a student of Ammonius Saccas and a contemporary of Plotinus in Ammonius's philosophy school in Alexandria. It is possible that he was the famous Christian philosopher and theologian Origen of Alexandria, who was educated by Ammonius Saccas..
Hermias was a Neoplatonist philosopher who was born in Alexandria c. 410 AD. He went to Athens and studied philosophy under Syrianus. He married Aedesia, who was a relative of Syrianus, and who had originally been betrothed to Proclus, but Proclus broke the engagement off after receiving a divine warning. Hermias brought Syrianus' teachings back to Alexandria, where he lectured in the school of Horapollo, receiving an income from the state. He died c. 450 AD, at a time when his children, Ammonius and Heliodorus, were still small. Aedesia, however, continued to receive an income from the state, in order to raise the children, enabling them to become philosophers.
Commentaries on Plato refers to the great mass of literature produced, especially in the ancient and medieval world, to explain and clarify the works of Plato. Many Platonist philosophers in the centuries following Plato sought to clarify and summarise his thoughts, but it was during the Roman era, that the Neoplatonists, in particular, wrote many commentaries on individual dialogues of Plato, many of which survive to the present day.
Neoplatonism is a strand of Platonic philosophy that emerged in the third century AD against the background of Hellenistic philosophy and religion. The term does not encapsulate a set of ideas as much as it encapsulates a chain of thinkers which began with Ammonius Saccas and his student Plotinus and which stretches to the sixth century AD. Even though neoplatonism primarily circumscribes the thinkers who are now labeled Neoplatonists and not their ideas, there are some ideas that are common to neoplatonic systems, for example, the monistic idea that all of reality can be derived from a single principle, "the One".
The Chaldean Oracles are a set of spiritual and philosophical texts widely used by neoplatonist philosophers from the 3rd to the 6th century CE. While the original texts have been lost, they have survived in the form of fragments consisting mainly of quotes and commentary by neoplatonist writers. They were likely to have originally formed a single mystery-poem, which may have been in part compiled, in part received via trance, by Julian the Chaldean, or more likely, his son, Julian the Theurgist in the 2nd century CE. Later neoplatonists, such as Iamblichus and Proclus, rated them highly. The 4th-century Emperor Julian suggests in his Hymn to the Magna Mater that he was an initiate of the God of the Seven Rays, and was an adept of its teachings. When Christian Church Fathers or other Late Antiquity writers credit "the Chaldeans", they are probably referring to this tradition.
Many Plato interpreters held that his writings contain passages with double meanings, called 'allegories' or 'symbols', that give the dialogues layers of figurative meaning in addition to their usual literal meaning. These allegorical interpretations of Plato were dominant for more than fifteen hundred years, from about the first century CE through the Renaissance and into the Eighteenth Century, and were advocated by major figures such as Plotinus, Proclus, and Ficino. Beginning with Philo of Alexandria, these views influenced Jewish, Christian and Islamic interpretation of their holy scriptures. They spread widely in the Renaissance and contributed to the fashion for allegory among poets such as Dante, Spenser, and Shakespeare.