An Introduction to Proclus

An Introduction to Proclus

One of the greatest difficulties in understanding Proclus is that he does not (as a rule) present his claims by starting from the problems and data that motivate his beliefs. Rather, one finds him constantly applying an already established set of beliefs to solve particular philosophical and exegetical problems. This does not mean that he does not argue for his claims. On the contrary, Proclus constantly presents arguments. But they very often are intra-Platonic arguments, that depend upon previously accepted premises from Platonist metaphysics. If not, they are in any case not arguments starting from below, from a set of facts and doubts, but from above, from first principles. It is understandable that Proclus should privilege such top-down arguments given his understanding of science as demonstrative understanding, but it makes it hard to enter his thought.

For this reason, I composed an to Proclus’ theoretical philosophy, when I wrote my dissertation on proclus’philosophy of time. However, that dissertation ended up being around 200.000 words in length, which was far to long to be published as a book. I ended up cutting two whole chapters and many subchapters that I hope to transform into journal articles over the next year. The introduction served the same fate. But not being a text that argues a novel point or studies texts that have yet to be studied, it is not fit to be transformed into a journal piece. I might very well in the future extend it into a small introductory book. For now, hwoever, I have decided to make it publicaly available on my academia.edu page as it could be of assistance to those who want to start reading Proclus or who want to teach it. For those who would like to go on to read a longer introduction, I can recommend Radek Chlup’s Proclus: An Introduction, though he does employ the “energy” vocabulary that one finds often in Neoplatonic scholarship, especially that directed at a broad audience and I find materialist and confusing. (Though Jefrrey Kripal - I forget where - offers an impasioned defense for its phenomenological accuracy in describing mystic experiences)

In any case, here is the link
I hope interested readers will be able to profit from my text and am happy about any questions it raises and any requests for further explanations about Proclus. In this vein I have already started to tape as well a series of youtube videos describing his understadning of the science of metaphysics. The third part of the series (which is the first that I’ve actually taped) can be found here.I am always happy to share Proclus’metaphysics, even when I do find its ultimate implications very troubling.


Header image credit: English: Proclus, Platonic Theology 1.1 in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Laud. gr. 18, fol. 2r.

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