Proclus

Proclus

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Proclus Lycaeus called "The Successor" or "Diadochos" (Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

  Próklos ho Diádokhos), was a Greek
Greek philosophy
Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BCE and continued through the Hellenistic period, at which point Ancient Greece was incorporated in the Roman Empire...

 Neoplatonist philosopher
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, one of the last major Classical philosophers (see Damascius
Damascius
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 Justinian in the early 6th century, and was forced for a time to seek refuge in the Persian court, before being allowed back into the empire...

). He set forth one of the most elaborate and fully developed systems of Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas...

. He stands near the end of the classical development of philosophy, and was very influential on Western medieval philosophy (Greek and Latin) as well as Islamic thought.
"Wherever there is number, there is beauty."
Proclus, quoted by M. Kline
Morris Kline
Morris Kline was a Professor of Mathematics, a writer on the history, philosophy, and teaching of mathematics, and also a popularizer of mathematical subjects.Kline grew up in Brooklyn and in Jamaica, Queens...

, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times

Biography


Proclus was born February 8, 412 AD (his birth date is deduced from a horoscope
Horoscope
In astrology, a horoscope is a chart or diagram representing the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, the astrological aspects, and sensitive angles at the time of an event, such as the moment of a person's birth. The word horoscope is derived from Greek words meaning "a look at the hours" In...

 cast by a disciple, Marinus
Marinus of Neapolis
Marinus was a Neoplatonist philosopher born in Flavia Neapolis , Palestine in around 450 AD. He was probably a Samaritan, or possibly a Jew....

) in Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 to a family of high social status in Lycia
Lycia
Lycia Lycian: Trm̃mis; ) was a region in Anatolia in what are now the provinces of Antalya and Muğla on the southern coast of Turkey. It was a federation of ancient cities in the region and later a province of the Roman Empire...

 (his father Patricius was a high legal official, very important in the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

's court system) and raised in Xanthus
Xanthos
Xanthos was the name of a city in ancient Lycia, the site of present day Kınık, Antalya Province, Turkey, and of the river on which the city is situated...

. He studied rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

, philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 and mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 in Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

, with the intent of pursuing a judicial position like his father. Before completing his studies, he returned to Constantinopole 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
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 under Olympiodorus the Elder
Olympiodorus the Elder
Olympiodorus the Elder was a 5th century peripatetic philosopher who taught in Alexandria, in the late years of the Western Roman Empire...

 (he also began studying mathematics during this period as well with a teacher named Heron (no relation to Hero of Alexandria
Hero of Alexandria
Hero of Alexandria was an ancient Greek mathematician and engineerEnc. Britannica 2007, "Heron of Alexandria" who was active in his native city of Alexandria, Roman Egypt...

 who was also known as Heron). Eventually, this gifted student became dissatisfied with the level of philosophical instruction available in Alexandria, and went to Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, the preeminent philosophical center of the day, in 431 to study at the Neoplatonic successor of the famous Academy
Academy
An academy is an institution of higher learning, research, or honorary membership.The name traces back to Plato's school of philosophy, founded approximately 385 BC at Akademia, a sanctuary of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and skill, north of Athens, Greece. In the western world academia is the...

 founded 800 years (in 387 BC) before by Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

; there he was taught by Plutarch of Athens
Plutarch of Athens
Plutarch of Athens was a Greek philosopher and Neoplatonist who taught at Athens at the beginning of the 5th century. He reestablished the Platonic Academy there and became its leader...

, Syrianus
Syrianus
Syrianus ; died c. 437) 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...

, and Asclepigenia
Asclepigenia
Asclepigenia was an Athenian philosopher and mystic whose life is known from an account in Marinus' Life of Proclus. Her father, Plutarch of Athens was head of the Neoplatonist school at Athens, and instructed Asclepigenia and her brother Hierius in the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle...

; he succeeded Syrianus as head of the Academy, and would in turn be succeeded on his death by Marinus of Neapolis
Marinus of Neapolis
Marinus was a Neoplatonist philosopher born in Flavia Neapolis , Palestine in around 450 AD. He was probably a Samaritan, or possibly a Jew....

.

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 travelling and being initiated into various mystery cults
Greco-Roman mysteries
Mystery religions, sacred Mysteries or simply mysteries, were religious cults of the Greco-Roman world, participation in which was reserved to initiates....

 as befitted his universalist approach to religion, trying to become "a priest of the entire universe". His house has been discovered recently in Athens, under the pavement, south of Acropolis, opposite the theater of Dionysus. He had a great devotion to the Goddess Athena, whom he believed guided him at key moments in his life. Marinus reports that when Christians removed the statue of the Goddess from the Parthenon
Parthenon
The Parthenon is a temple on the Athenian Acropolis, Greece, dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their virgin patron. Its construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the height of its power. It was completed in 438 BC, although...

, 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
Mount Lycabettus
Mount Lycabettus, also known as Lycabettos, Lykabettos or Lykavittos , is a Cretaceous limestone hill in Athens, Greece. At 277 meters above sea level, the hill is the highest point in the city that surrounds it. Pine trees cover its base, and at its peak are the 19th century Chapel of St...

 in a tomb.

Works


The majority of Proclus' works are commentaries on dialogues of Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 (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 the Platonic texts to be divinely inspired (ho theios Platon -- The divine Plato, inspired by God) 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 also wrote an influential commentary on the first book of Euclid
Euclid
Euclid , fl. 300 BC, also known as Euclid of Alexandria, was a Greek mathematician, often referred to as the "Father of Geometry". He was active in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy I...

's Elements of Geometry. This commentary 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
Leodamas of Thasos
Leodamas of Thasos was a Greek mathematician and a contemporary of Plato, about whom little is known.There are two references to Leodamas in Proclus's Commentary on Euclid:...

, Archytas of Taras
Archytas
Archytas was an Ancient Greek philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, statesman, and strategist. He was a scientist of the Pythagorean school and famous for being the reputed founder of mathematical mechanics, as well as a good friend of Plato....

, and Theaetetus
Theaetetus (mathematician)
Theaetetus, Theaitētos, of Athens, possibly son of Euphronius, of the Athenian deme Sunium, was a classical Greek mathematician...

), a second set of younger mathematicians (Neoclides, Eudoxus of Cnidus
Eudoxus of Cnidus
Eudoxus of Cnidus was a Greek astronomer, mathematician, scholar and student of Plato. Since all his own works are lost, our knowledge of him is obtained from secondary sources, such as Aratus's poem on astronomy...

), and a third yet younger set (Amyntas, Menaechmus
Menaechmus
Menaechmus was an ancient Greek mathematician and geometer born in Alopeconnesus in the Thracian Chersonese, who was known for his friendship with the renowned philosopher Plato and for his apparent discovery of conic sections and his solution to the then-long-standing problem of doubling the cube...

 and his brother Dinostratus
Dinostratus
Dinostratus was a Greek mathematician and geometer, and the brother of Menaechmus. He is known for using the quadratrix to solve the problem of squaring the circle.- Life and work :...

, Theudius of Magnesia, Hermotimus of Colophon and Philip of Opus
Philip of Opus
Philip of Opus, Greece, was a philosopher and a member of the Academy during Plato's lifetime. Philip was the editor of Plato's Laws...

). 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, which consists of 211 propositions, each followed by a proof, beginning from the existence of the One (the first principle of all things) and ending with the descent of individual souls into the material world. The Platonic Theology 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; On providence and fate; On the existence of evils.

He also wrote a number of minor works, which are listed in the bibliography below.

System


Proclus' system, like that of the other Neoplatonists, is a combination of Platonic, Aristotelian, and Stoic elements. In its broad outlines, Proclus' system agrees with that of Plotinus
Plotinus
Plotinus was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his system of theory there are the three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition...

. However, following Iamblichus, Plutarch of Athens
Plutarch of Athens
Plutarch of Athens was a Greek philosopher and Neoplatonist who taught at Athens at the beginning of the 5th century. He reestablished the Platonic Academy there and became its leader...

 (not to be confused with Plutarch of Chaeronea), and his master Syrianus
Syrianus
Syrianus ; died c. 437) 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...

, Proclus presents a much more elaborate universe than Plotinus, subdividing the elements of Plotinus' system into their logically distinct parts, and positing these parts as individual things. This multiplication of entities is balanced by the monism
Monism
Monism is any philosophical view which holds that there is unity in a given field of inquiry. Accordingly, some philosophers may hold that the universe is one rather than dualistic or pluralistic...

 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
Eriugena
Eriugena is an adjective meaning Irish . It was typically used in the early Middle ages as a surname when it was common to distinguish people by labeling them according to where they were born or lived. It has been notably applied to the following philosophers;* Augustine Eriugena* Johannes Scotus...



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 One


The first principle in Neoplatonism is the One (Greek: to Hen). It is the principle which produces all Being. For this reason, the Neoplatonists thought that the One could not itself be a being. If it were a being, it would have a particular nature, and so could not be universally productive of all being. Because it is beyond being (epekeina tes ousias is 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 isn't a positive name, but rather the most non-multiple name we can think of, 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 one in different manners, for example). As the One confers individuality it is in reality the principle of plurality. Because the One makes things exist by giving them the unity 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. The first principle isn't double, however. Instead, all things have a double relation to it, as coming from it (One) and then being oriented back towards it to receive their perfection or completion (Good).

The particular characteristic of Proclus' system is his insertion of a level of individual ones, called henads between the One itself and the divine Intellect, which is the second principle. The henads are beyond being, like the One itself, but they stand at the head of chains of causation (seirai) and in some manner give to these chains their particular character. They are also identified with the traditional 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. The henads serve both to protect the One itself from any hint of multiplicity, and to draw up the rest of the universe towards the One, by being a connecting, intermediate stage between absolute unity and determinate multiplicity.

In terms of his sources, the One is like a combination of the Platonic Form of the Good, because it confers being and intelligibility on all things, and Aristotle's Unmoved Mover, which is the final cause of all things.

Coming between the One and the henads (some scholars think after the henads) are the two principles of First Limit and First Infinity, which are the principles of the fertile production (Infinity or Unlimited, apeiron) and the controlled nature of the production (Limit, peras) of all things.

Intellect


The principle which is produced below the level of the One and the Henads is the divine Intellect (Nous
Nous
Nous , also called intellect or intelligence, is a philosophical term for the faculty of the human mind which is described in classical philosophy as necessary for understanding what is true or real, very close in meaning to intuition...

). 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 doesn't 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' 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' 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


Soul (Psuche) 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
Theurgy
Theurgy describes the practice of rituals, sometimes seen as magical in nature, performed with the intention of invoking the action or evoking the presence of one or more gods, especially with the goal of uniting with the divine, achieving henosis, and perfecting oneself.- Definitions :*Proclus...

 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 it 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.

Influence


Proclus' 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
Dionysius the Areopagite
Dionysius the Areopagite was a judge of the Areopagus who, as related in the Acts of the Apostles, , was converted to Christianity by the preaching of the Apostle Paul during the Areopagus sermon...

, 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' metaphysical principles.

Another important source for the influence of Proclus on the Middle Ages is Boethius
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, commonly called Boethius was a philosopher of the early 6th century. He was born in Rome to an ancient and important family which included emperors Petronius Maximus and Olybrius and many consuls. His father, Flavius Manlius Boethius, was consul in 487 after...

' Consolation of Philosophy, which has a number of Proclus principles and motifs. The central poem of Book III is a summary of Proclus' 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' Elements of Theology circulated under the name Liber de Causis
Liber de Causis
The Liber de Causis was a philosophical work attributed to Aristotle that became popular in the Middle Ages, first in Arabic and Islamic countries and later in the Latin West. The real authorship remains a mystery, but most of the content is taken from Proclus' Elements of Theology...

 (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' Elements were translated into Latin that Thomas Aquinas realised its true origin.

Proclus' works also exercised an influence during the Renaissance through figures such as George Gemistios Plethon 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. Dodd's 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:
"I am Proclus,
Lycian whom Syrianus brought up to teach his doctrine after him.
This tomb reunites both our bodies.
May an identical sojourn be reserved to our both souls!"


The crater Proclus
Proclus (crater)
Proclus is a young lunar impact crater located to the west of the Mare Crisium, on the east shore of the Palus Somni. It lies to the south of the prominent, terraced crater Macrobius, and west-northwest of the lava-flooded Yerkes...

 on the Moon is named after him.

Proclus' works

  • Platonic Theology: A long (six volumes in the Budé
    Collection Budé
    The Collection Budé, or the Collection des Universités de France, is a series of books comprising the Greek and Latin classics up to the middle of the 6th century...

     edition) systematic work, using evidence from Plato's dialogues to describe the character of the various divine orders
  • Elements of Theology: A systematic work, with 211 propositions and proofs, describing the universe from the first principle, the One, to the descent of souls into bodies
  • Elements of Physics

  • Commentary on Plato's "Alcibiades I" (it is disputed whether or not this dialogue was written by Plato, but the Neoplatonists thought it was)
  • Commentary on Plato's "Cratylus"
  • Commentary on Plato's "Parmenides"
  • Commentary on Plato's "Republic"
  • Commentary on Plato's "Timaeus"

  • A Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements

  • Three small works: Ten doubts concerning providence; On providence and fate; On the existence of evils

  • Various Hymns (fragments)
  • Commentary on the Chaldaean Oracles (fragments)

  • The life of Proclus, or On Happiness: written by his pupil, Marinus


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:

Secondary sources: monographs

  • Proklos: Grundzüge seiner Metaphysik, by Werner Beierwaltes
    Werner Beierwaltes
    Werner Beierwaltes is a German academic born in 1931 in Klingenberg am Main. He is best known as a historian of philosophy, and his most important areas of specialization are Neoplatonism and German Idealism...

  • L'Un et L'Âme selon Proclos, by Jean Trouillard
  • La mystagogie de Proclos, by Jean Trouillard
  • KINESIS AKINETOS: A study of spiritual motion in the philosophy of Proclus, by Stephen Gersh
  • From Iamblichus to Eriugena. An investigation of the prehistory and evolution of the Pseudo-Dionysius tradition, by Stephen Gersh
  • L'architecture du divin. Mathématique et Philosophie chez Plotin et Proclus, by Annick Charles-Saget
  • Proclus: Neoplatonic philosophy and science, by Lucas Siorvanes
  • The Philosophy of Proclus - the Final Phase of Ancient Thought, by L J Rosan
  • The Logical Principles of Proclus' Stoicheiôsis Theologikê as Systematic Ground of the Cosmos, by James Lowry

Collections of essays
  • Proclus et son influence, actes du Colloque de Neuchatel, Juin, 1985. Zürich: Éditions du Grand Midi, 1987.
  • Proclus lecteur et interprète des anciens. Actes du Colloque internationale du C.N.R.S., Paris 2–4 October 1985. J. Pépin et H.-D. Saffrey. Paris: C.N.R.S., 1987.
  • On Proclus and his Influence in Medieval Philosophy, ed. by E.P. Bos and P.A. Meijer (Philosophia antiqua 53), Leiden-Köln-New York: Brill, 1992.
  • The perennial tradition of neoplatonism, ed. by J. Cleary (Ancient and medieval philosophy, Series I 24), Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1997.
  • Proclus et la Théologie platonicienne: actes du colloque international de Louvain (13-16 mai 1998) en l'honneur de H. D. Saffrey et L. G. Westerink, éd. par A.-Ph. Segonds et C. Steel (Ancient and medieval philosophy, Series I 26), Leuven-Paris: Leuven University Press / Les Belles Lettres, 2000.

Bibliography
  • Proclo, negli ultimi quarant' anni. Bibliografia ragionata delle letteratura primaria e secondaria riguardante il pensiero procliano e i suoi influssi storici (anni 1949–1992), by Nicoletta Scotti Muth

External links