Literature Proclus Commentaries on The Timaeus by Plato

Proclus Commentaries on The Timaeus by Plato

Proclus Commentaries on The Timaeus by Plato
Catalog # SKU3867
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 3.00 lbs
Author Name Proclus Diadochus, Platonic Successor, Thomas Taylor
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Proclus Commentaries
on The Timaeus by Plato

Proclus' 5 Book Commentaries
on the Timaeus of Plato

2 Volume Set

Proclus Diadochus
The Platonic Successor
Translator: Thomas Taylor

Of that golden chain of philosophers, who, having themselves happily penetrated, luminously unfolded to others the profundities of the philosophy of Plato, Proclus is indisputably the largest and most refulgent link.



Born with a genius transcendently great, and accompanied through life with a fortune singularly good, he exhibited in his own person a union of the rarest kind, in which power concurred with will, the benefit resulting from genuine philosophy with the ability of imparting it, and in which Wisdom was inseparable from Prosperity. The eulogium therefore of Ammonius Hermeas, "that Proclus possessed the power of unfolding the opinions of the ancients, and a scientific judgement of the nature of things, in the highest perfection possible to humanity," will be immediately assented to by every one, who is an adept in the writings of this incomparable man.

I rejoice therefore, in the opportunity which is now afforded me of presenting to the English reader a translation of one of the greatest productions of this Coryphean philosopher; though unfortunately like most of his other works, it has been transmitted to us in a mutilated state. For these Commentaries scarcely explain a third part of the Timaeus; and from a passage in Olympiodorus On the Meteors of Aristotle, there is every reason to believe that Proclus left no part of the Timaeus without his masterly elucidations. This is likewise more than probable, from what Marinus says in his life of him, "that he was a man laborious to a miracle;" for it cannot be supposed that such a man would leave the greater part of one of the most important dialogues of Plato unelucidated, and particularly as these Commentaries were written by him (as the same Marinus informs us) in the flower of his age, and that he preferred them beyond all his other works. Fortunately however, the most important part of this work is preserved; or that part in which the demiurgic, paradigmatic, and final causes of the universe are unfolded; the corporeal nature of it is represented as fabricated with forms and demiurgic sections, and distributed with divine numbers; and soul is produced from the Demiurgus, and is filled with harmonic ratios, and divine and fabricative symbols. The whole mundane animal too, is here shown to be connected, according to the united comprehension which subsists in the intelligible world; and the parts which it contains are so disposed as to harmonize with the whole, both such as are corporeal, and such as are vital.

For partial souls such as ours, are introduced into its spacious receptacle, are placed about the mundane Gods, and become mundane through the luciform vehicles with which they are connected. The progression of the elements likewise from their first incorporeal subsistence to their subterranean termination, and the nature of the heavens and heavenly bodies, are beautifully developed. And as the result of the most scientific reasoning, it is shown that every planet is surrounded with satellites, that the fixed stars have periodic revolutions on their axes, though the length of their duration is to us unknown; and that the stars, which at times disappear and again become visible, are the satellites of other fixed stars of a more primary dignity, behind the splendours of which they are occasionally concealed. These and many other most interesting particulars, are unfolded in these Commentaries, with an accuracy and perspicuity which have seldom been equalled, and have never been excelled.

When I speak however, of the perspicuity with which these particulars are developed, I do not mean that they are delivered in such a way, as to be obvious to every one, or that they may be apprehended as soon as read; for this pertains only to the fungous and frivolous productions of the present day; but my meaning is, that they are written with all the clearness, which they are naturally capable of admitting, or which a genuine student of the philosophy of Plato can desire. And this leads me to make some remarks on the iniquitous opinion which, since the revival of letters, has been generally entertained of the writings of Proclus and other philosophers, who are distinguished by the appellation of the latter Platonists, and to show the cause from which it originated.

The opinion to which I allude is this, that Plotinus and his followers, or in other words, all the Platonists that existed from his time to the fall of the Roman empire, and the destruction of the schools of the philosophers by Justinian, corrupted the philosophy of Plato, by filling it with jargon and revery, and by ascribing dogmas to him, which are not to be found in his writings, and which are perfectly absurd. It might naturally be supposed that the authors of this calumny were men deeply skilled in the philosophy, the corruptors of which they profess to have detected; and that they had studied the writings of the men whom they so grossly defame. This however is very far from being the case. For since the philosophy of Plato, as I have elsewhere shown, is the offspring of the most consummate science, all the dogmas of it being deduced by a series of geometrical reasoning, some of them ranking as prior, and others as posterior, and the latter depending on the former, like the propositions in Euclid, certain preparatory disciplines are requisite to the perfect comprehension of these doctrines. Hence a legitimate student of this philosophy must be skilled in mathematics, have been exercised in all the logical methods, and not be unacquainted with physics. He must also be an adept in the writings of Aristotle, as preparatory to the more sublime speculations of Plato. And in addition to all this, he must possess those qualifications enumerated by Plato in the Republic; viz. he must have naturally a good memory, learn with facility, be magnificent and orderly, and the friend and ally of justice, truth, fortitude, and temperance. Since the revival of letters however, this philosophy has not been studied by men, who have had the smallest conception that these requisites were indispensably necessary, or who have attempted the acquisition of it, in this regular and scientific method.

Hence, they have presumed to decide on the excellence of works, with the true merits of which, as they were thus unqualified, they were wholly unacquainted, and to calumniate what they could not understand. They appear likewise to have been ignorant, that Plato, conformably to all the other great philosophers of antiquity, wrote in such a way as to conceal the sublimest of his doctrines from the vulgar, as well knowing, that they would only be profaned by them without being understood; the eye of the multitude, as he says, not being sufficiently strong to bear the light of truth. Hence, as Proclus well observes, "it is needless to mention, that it is unbecoming to speak of the most divine of dogmas before the multitude, Plato himself asserting that all these are ridiculous to the many, but in an admirable manner are esteemed by the wise. Thus also, the Pythagoreans said, that of discourses, some are mystical, but others adapted to be delivered openly.

With the Peripatetics likewise, some are esoteric, and others exoteric; and Parmenides himself, wrote some things conformable to truth, but others to opinion; and Zeno calls some assertions true, but others adapted to the necessary purposes of life." The men therefore, who have defamed the latter Platonists, being thus unqualified, and thus ignorant of the mode of writing adopted by the great ancients, finding from a superficial perusal of the most genuine disciples of Plato many dogmas which were not immediately obvious in his writings, and which were to them incomprehensible, confidently asserted that these dogmas were spurious, that the authors of them were delirious, and that they had completely corrupted and polluted the philosophy of their master. It may also be added, as Olympiodorus justly observes, that the writings of Plato like those of Homer, are to be considered physically, ethically, theologically, and in short, multifariously; and that he who does not consider them, will in vain attempt to unfold the latent meaning they contain. By the latter Platonists however, they have been explored in this way, and he who is capable of availing himself of the elucidations of these most benevolent and most sagacious men, will find the arduous sublimities of Plato accessible, his mystic narrations conformable to scientific deductions, and his apparent obscurity, the veil of conceptions, truly luminous and divine. And thus much as to the cause of the prevailing iniquitous opinion, respecting the writings of the latter Platonists; for the authors of it, I have not been able to discover. But of this I am certain, and posterity will confirm the decision, that whoever they were, they were no less ignorant than arrogant no less contemptible than obscure.

826 pages in 2 volumes - 8½ x 11 softcover - Print size, 11 point font

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