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Classics Neoplatonism
by
Sarah Klitenic Wear

Introduction

Neoplatonism (also called “Platonism”) refers to the school of philosophical and religious thought, beginning with the philosopher Plotinus (b. 204–d. 270 CE), which is marked by certain metaphysical teachings on Plato and Aristotle. After Plotinus, the three major periods of Neoplatonism include: the writings of Plotinus’s student, Porphyry (b. 232–d. 305); Iamblichus and the school of Calchis (d. 326); and the 5th- and 6th-century schools of Athens and Alexandria, including Syrianus (d. 437), Proclus (b. 412–d. 485), Damascius (b. 458–d. 538), and Olympiodorus (b. c. 500–d. 570). Each of these three major movements also includes a great many other writers, particularly the last phase of late antique Neoplatonism, which was marked by a pronounced interest in commentaries on the works of Plato and Aristotle, with commentaries on the latter being particularly prevalent in 5th- and 6th-century Alexandria. Moreover, while “Neoplatonism” generally refers to the writings of pagans, the movement was heavily influential among Christian, Jewish, and Arabic thinkers, who adopted terminology and metaphysical principles well into the medieval period. As an extreme example of this, the Christian thinker Pseudo-Dionysius (fl. 500?) not only adopted much of Proclus’s language and thought, but parts of his treatises have been found to be a word for word copying of Proclus’s writing. Although Neoplatonism represents a wide group of authors, styles, and interests certain trends can be found throughout members of the philosophical movement; namely, Neoplatonists believe that the One is the principle of unification and source of all creation; all things emanate from the One and all things return to the One. Below the One is the level of Intellect, which houses the forms, followed by the Soul. One, Intellect, and Soul are all related to each other, with Intellect in some way emanating from the One, and returning to the One, and Soul, which emanates from and returns to Intellect. In Neoplatonic thought, the individual soul of man in some way returns to the One, by means of contemplation of the One and, for some authors, through sacramental practices known as theurgy. While Neoplatonists have these basic principles in common, authors vary in their understandings of the structure of the universe. Later authors, moreover, tend to introduce a greater number of intermediary entities. Because of the breadth of this subject matter, the bibliography will need to be limited to general works on Neoplatonism, works on particular topics, and works on only a handful of key authors who are considered to be key figures in the Athenian and Alexandrian schools of Neoplatonism: Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Syrianus, Proclus, Pseudo-Dionysius, Damascius, and Olympiodorus. For other authors, see the section General Overviews.

General Overviews

There are a number of books that provide a starting point for study in Neoplatonism. For classroom use, Dillon and Gerson 2004 (cited under Readers) offers a fine selection of readings from major texts from a range of Neoplatonists, including Plotinus, Iamblichus, Porphyry, and Proclus. These readings are challenging, while still being accessible to the undergraduate philosophy student. Sambursky 1982 and Sambursky and Pines 1971 (both cited under Readers) are readers, but on very specific topics (place and time, respectively), that could be useful to students looking into those topics. Sorabji 2004 (cited under Readers) is a masterpiece, offering an enormous range of readings on topics from many Neoplatonists, but given that the selections are short, and the range large, the book may be most helpful to those researching, rather than classroom use. For secondary sources, Gerson 2010 is an excellent update of Armstrong 1967. It offers many articles on thinkers and movements in Neoplatonism with excellent bibliographies; it is ideal for beginning students and researchers. Wallis 1995 and Remes 2008 are short introductions to Neoplatonism that are helpful for undergraduates. Tuominen 2009 is an introduction for undergraduates geared toward those interested in the ancient commentators on Aristotle. Lloyd 1990 is a somewhat more complicated introduction and Sorabji 2006 (cited under Readers) is a high-level introduction, focusing on the particular topic of time and eternity. The Ancient Commentators on Aristotle Project and the De Wulf Mansion Centre (both cited under Reference Resources) are two centers which conduct research on Neoplatonists. Both maintain helpful websites; the De Wulf Centre maintains two up-to-date bibliographies on Proclus and Damascius. Gerson 2010 is an excellent starting point for those interested in Neoplatonism. It is encyclopedic in scope, with forty-eight articles covering both figures and movements of thought. The bibliography is extensive. It is an update of Armstrong 1967 which has longer articles with a more general focus. The articles, however, are still important and good as a starting point for those interested in major schools and movements in Neoplatonism. Wallis 1995 and Lloyd 1990 are monographs covering topics in Neoplatonism. Wallis 1995 is particularly good for undergraduates, as it is short and easy to understand, while directing students to texts and authors for further study. Lloyd 1990 is more difficult and would be more useful for the more advanced student, particularly those interested in or trained in modern philosophy. Sorabji 2006 (cited under Readers) provides a range of thinkers and texts on the topic of time and is a good resource for research, but may not be as helpful in a classroom setting. Whittaker 1984 is a collection of articles by prominent scholar on various topics in Platonism and Christian Platonism. International Journal of the Platonic Tradition (cited under Reference Resources) is an open-access journal which publishes scholarly articles on Platonism and a searchable index. O’Meara 1989 is an overview of mathematics in Neoplatonic metaphysics. Watts 2006 gives an historical account of the Neoplatonic schools.

  • Armstrong, A. H., ed. 1967. The Cambridge history of later Greek and early medieval philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CHOL9780521040549Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Eight articles arranged chronologically outlining major thinkers and works from the Neoplatonic movement. Unlike Gerson 2010, this one-volume book consists of lengthy articles on general movements in Neoplatonism, including early Neoplatonism, late Neoplatonism, Arabic Neoplatatonism, Christian Neoplatonism, and so on. Although the bibliography is out of date, the articles are very helpful, especially for undergraduates.

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  • Gerson, Lloyd, ed. 2010. The Cambridge history of philosophy in late antiquity. 2 vols. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Two-volume encyclopedia of philosophy from the later Roman Empire until the Scholastic movement. Features forty-eight excellent articles on both particular thinkers and movements from experts in the field. Some of the articles are basic overviews, others delve into sophisticated debates on their topic. The bibliography is excellent and is highly recommended as a starting point for someone researching in the area of Neoplatonism.

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  • Lloyd, A. C. 1990. Anatomy of Neoplatonism. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Detailed introduction to Neoplatonic thought. Particularly strong in the areas of Neoplatonic logic and semantics. More suitable than Wallis 1995 for upper-level undergraduates.

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  • O’Meara, Dominic J. 1989. Pythagoras revived: Mathematics and philosophy in late antiquity. Oxford: Clarendon.

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    On Neopythagoreanism in Iamblichus, Hierocles, Syrianus, and Proclus.

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  • Remes, P. 2008. Neoplatonism. Stocksfield, UK: Acumen.

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    A general introduction to Neoplatonism useful for undergraduate students. Treats metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of self in the thought of the predominant Neoplatonic philsophers.

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  • Tuominen, M. 2009. The ancient commentators on Plato and Aristotle. Stocksfield, UK: Acumen.

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    Introduction to the method and thought of the ancients reading texts, particularly Aristotle.

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  • Wallis, R. T. 1995. Neoplatonism. 2d ed. London: Gerald Duckworth.

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    A short introduction to Neoplatonism (112 pages), originally published in 1972, updated in 1995. It introduces many complexities and it is particularly good about citing original texts. The three main chapters include the thoughts of Plotinus, Porphyry, and Iamblichus, followed by a chapter on the Athenian school (which combines Proclus and Damascius).

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  • Watts, E. J. 2006. City and school in late antique Athens and Alexandria. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520244214.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    History of the Athenian and Alexandian schools of Platonism from the 2nd through the 6th centuries CE. Covers the rise of the school and the closing of the Athenian school under Justinian, the role of predominant figures, such as Proclus and Damascius, as well as interactions between pagans and Christians.

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  • Whittaker, J. 1984. Studies in Platonism and patristic thought. London: Variorum Reprints.

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    Collection of articles by notable scholar.

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Readers

Of the readers listed here, Dillon and Gerson 2004 is the one most useful for introducing students to the thought of Neoplatonism, and is particularly good for use in a classroom setting. The selections provide students with a nice range of thinkers on key topics, and the notes, while short, are helpful in guiding readings and discussions. Sorabji 2004 is excellent for the purposes of research. The selections are fairly short, but there are a great many selections on any given topic, giving the reader an idea of which readers and what texts to turn to for further study. Sambursky 1982 and Sambursky and Pines 1971 are much older books, but they are both on one specific topic, which may make them helpful for those interested in the topics of time or place. Sorabji 2006 treats the topic of time and eternity in the thought of various Neoplatonists.

  • Dillon, John, and Lloyd Gerson, eds. and trans. 2004. Neoplatonic philosophy: Introductory readings. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.

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    A collection of texts, some complete, some abridged, of major Neoplatonic works freshly translated by Dillon and Gersh. Includes selections from Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Proclus. Each section contains a short paragraph by the editors introducing the selection. This is an excellent reader for undergraduate students who want an introduction to the essential thought and primary thinkers of the Neoplatonic movement.

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  • Sambursky, S. 1982. The concept of place in late Neoplatonism. Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

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    Texts with translations illustrating trends regarding “place” in late Neoplatonism. Includes an introduction to the topic, but only very brief footnotes.

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  • Sambursky, S., and S. Pines. 1971. The concept of time in late Neoplatonism. Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

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    Texts with translations illustrating trends and topics regarding time and eternity in late Neoplatonism. Includes an introduction, but only slim notes.

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  • Sorabji, R. 2006. Time, creation, and the continuum: Theories in antiquity and the early middle ages. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Greek treatment of time from 500 BCE to 550 CE, including reception of discussions by medieval Christian and Islamic thinkers. This text is dense; it is very helpful to the ancient philosopher who has already given some consideration to questions on timelessness and the beginning of the universe, among others, but with references to ancient texts that will be of use to nonphilosophers or students.

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  • Sorabji, R. 2004. Philosophy of the commentators, 200–600 A.D.: A sourcebook. 3 vols. London: Duckworth.

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    Thematic arrangement of short excerpts of the later Platonists on various topics related to issues in psychology (Volume 1), physics (Volume 2), logic and metaphysics (Volume 3). All excerpts are in English, most have been translated by Sorabji. Sections are introduced by short commentaries. An excellent resource for those looking for a parallel passage, citation, and so on.

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Reference Resources

The Ancient Commentators on Aristotle Project, housed in the Department of Philosophy in King’s College London under the guidance of Richard Sorabji, aims to translate Greek commentators on Aristotle into English. The website lists series publications, as well as a bibliography of secondary studies on the commentators. The De Wulf Mansion Centre, housed in the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, under the guidance of Carlos Steel, conducts major research projects on Proclus. Their website maintains up-to-date bibliographies on Proclus and Damascius. The Plotinian Bibliography is a thorough, helpful online resource of works on Plotinus, from 2000 to 2012. International Journal of the Platonic Tradition is a scholarly journal on Platonism, available open access.

Plotinus

Plotinus (b. 204–d. 270) is considered the first Neoplatonist. His work, the Enneads, is a series of teachings written and organized by his student, Porphyry, who also wrote a biography of him. In the Enneads, Plotinus identifies the three first principles of the universe as the One, the unified principle which eternally emanates the universe and to which the universe seeks to “revert,” or return; Intellect, which “houses” the forms; and Soul, which derives from Intellect and gives life, structure, and unity to the world and body. Soul projects itself and gives rise to the production of the world and the individual soul in the world. For Plotinus, matter, the last product in the chain of reality, lacks form, and the One, for that matter, and is an absolute evil. Man, comprised of a material body and soul, ultimately reverts to the One via Intellect when it recognizes form in perceptible beauty, similar to what is described by Plato in the Symposium. Reverting to the ineffable, unknowable One can occur in a tentative, mystical state through the Intellect. Plotinus’s doctrine of the total transcendence of the One was considered a great innovation.

Texts and English Translations

The two major English translations of Plotinus’s Enneads, Plotinus 1989 and Plotinus 1991b, are perfectly readable and suitable for students. Plotinus 1991b is available in an inexpensive paperback, but it is abridged. Plotinus 1991a is the standard Greek text, revised from Plotinus 1951–1973. Porphyry 2000 is a translation of Porphyry’s life of Plotinus.

  • Plotinus. 1951–1973. Plotini opera. Vols. 1–3. Edited by P. Henry and H.-R. Schwyzer. Paris: Desclee de Brouwer.

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    This is the “editio maior” of which the Oxford Classical Texts (OCT) by P. Henry is the “editio minor.” Text by P. Henry is the revised version.

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  • Plotinus. 1991a. The Enneads. Vols. 1–3. Edited by P. Henry. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Standard Greek text.

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  • Plotinus. 1989. The Enneads. Vols. 1–7. Translated by A. H. Armstrong. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    Standard English translation with accompanying Greek. Translation by leading scholar on Plotinus. Readable and pleasing, accurate to the Greek.

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  • Plotinus. 1991b. The Enneads. Translated by Stephen MacKenna. New York: Penguin.

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    Inexpensive book, readable, elegant translation, that aims toward the sense of the text, rather than the letter. Suitable for use in an undergraduate classroom setting. This translation was done in the 1920s; present edition includes a helpful, thorough introduction to Plotinus’s thought by John Dillon. The translation features minor footnotes, which are primarily references to Plato’s works as used by Plotinus. Note that this translation is abridged.

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  • Porphyry. 2000. On the life of Plotinus and the arrangement of his works. In Neoplatonic saints: The lives of Plotinus and Proclus by their students. Translated by Mark Edwards, 55–115. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool Univ. Press.

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    Readable, modern translation of Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus with an appendix that treats the chronology of Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus. Translation is heavily footnoted with explanations of historical and philosophical references. Edition features a general introduction and lengthy bibliography. Intended for use by historians of late antiquity, but suitable for philosophers as well.

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English Translations of Select Enneads

Corrigan 2005 has the beginning student as his audience. Plotinus 2006 and Plotinus 1995 are scholarly studies offering commentaries of particular treatises. Plotinus 2012 is the first in a new series which aims to provide English translations and commentaries on individual treatises in an accessible, affordable way. Plotinus 1983 is a full, scholarly monograph on Enneads V.1.

Book Series

There are two major series in French which translate and provide commentaries on Plotinus’s Enneads. Les écrits de Plotin and Plotin both dedicate one volume for each of Plotinus’s Enneads. The former is more geared toward scholars, the latter toward students.

  • Plotinus. 1987–2009. Les écrits de Plotin. Paris: Les Editions du Cerf.

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    This French series provides introductions, commentaries, and notes on various tractates of the Enneads. It is a scholarly production, under the guidance of P. Hadot. Series includes commentaries on Enneads I, 1; III, 1; IV, 2; IV, 1; I, 6; I, 5; IV, 7; I, 7.

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  • Plotinus. 2002–2012. Plotin. Paris: Éditions Flammarion.

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    This French series, under the direction of Luc Brisson and Jean-Francois Pradeau, offers scholarly translations, with few annotations. These books are small, inexpensive paperbacks, designed with students in mind. The series is now complete in nine volumes. The books are affordable, readable, but still take into consideration difficulties in Plotinus’s texts.

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Bibliographies

There is a bibliography of Plotinus in print (Dufour 2002), updated in Dufour 2009, which is available online, free of charge, through the Plotinian Bibliography.

General Studies

General introductions to Plotinus which may be most suitable to the beginning student include O’Meara 1993 and O’Meara 2010, the former of which outlines very clearly Plotinus’s universe, the latter gives a general introduction. Armstrong 1940 and Smith 2004 show Plotinus’s relationship to other philosophers. Gerson 1994, Hadot 1993, and Rist 1967 are monographs that are written for an audience perhaps trained in philosophy, or at least philosophically minded. Gerson 1996 offers articles on major themes in Plotinus.

  • Armstrong, A. H. 1940. The architecture of the invisible universe in the philosophy of Plotinus. London: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Excellent, short overview of Plotinus’s cosmos, as delineated by the three hypostases of One, Intellect, and Soul. The book is divided into sections on the One, Intellect, and Soul, which are then broken into even shorter sections, as outlined in a detailed table of contents. Looks to the historical origins of Plotinus’s system, particularly as found in Stoic, Neo-Pythagorean, and Middle Platonic thought.

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  • Gerson, Lloyd. 1994. Plotinus. London: Routledge.

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    A thorough and philosophical overview of Plotinus’s system. Chapters are divided according to the topics of the One, Intellect and Soul, Truth and forms, Categories, metaphysics, and ethics, among others. This book is a general study, but it is sophisticated and steeped in modern interpretations of Plotinus—it may be more appropriate for the advanced student.

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  • Gerson, Lloyd, ed. 1996. The Cambridge companion to Plotinus. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521470935Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Eighteen articles by commissioned scholars on a range of topics: metaphysics, evil, time, epistemology, and ethics. Helpful for students with some familiarity of Plotinus due to range and level of articles, which presupposes some knowledge of Plotinus.

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  • Hadot, Pierre. 1993. Plotinus or the simplicity of vision. Translated by Michael Chase. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    A philosophical introduction to the mysticism of Plotinus originally written in French in 1989. A philosophical work in and of itself.

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  • O’Meara, Dominic J. 1993. Plotinus: An introduction to the Enneads. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    A short overview (142 pages) of the thought of Plotinus geared toward undergraduate students. Includes chapters on Plotinian metaphysics, while steering clear of controversial topics in the field. This book is clear and concise, written by one of the foremost experts in Plotinian studies.

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  • O’Meara, Dominic J. 2010. Plotinus. In The Cambridge history of philosophy in late antiquity. Vol. 1. Edited by Lloyd P. Gerson, 301–324. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Introduction to the thought of Plotinus. An excellent starting point for those just learning about Plotinus.

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  • Rist, J. M. 1967. Plotinus: The road to reality. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    More sophisticated than an introductory text, this book treats Plotinus’s philosophy as a whole by delving into various problems, including Plotinus’s notion of the soul.

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  • Smith, Andrew. 2004. Philosophy in late antiquity. London: Routledge.

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    This book traces the development of ideas in the thought of Plotinus, including the individual soul, the One, Intellect, and the world Soul, and the return of the soul. The second half of the book deals with reception of Plotinus’s ideas by Porphyry, Boethius, and in the East, Pseudo-Dionysius.

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Plotinus on Intellect

The One and its relationship to the Intellect is a topic of great importance. On this, see the major study in Bussanich 1988 and Emilsson 1999. See the more general discussion of Intellect in Emilsson 2007.

  • Bussanich, John. 1988. The one and its relation to intellect in Plotinus: A commentary on selected texts. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    Features commentaries on sections of Plotinus’s Enneads addressing aspects of the One and Intellect: Enneads V.4 [7].2; V.1 [10]; V.6 [24].5; III.8 [30].8; V.5 [32].7; VI.7 [38].16; VI.7 [38].35; VI.8 [39].16; V.3 [49].11. These selections primarily address aspects of the One’s transcendence, how Intellect comes from and returns to the One. Each commentary includes an introductory note, a translation, and then a commentary which provides analysis of lines in the Greek text. Commentaries are philological and philosophical.

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  • Emilsson, Eyjólfur Kjalar. 1999. Remarks on the relation between the One and Intellect in Plotinus. In Traditions of Platonism: Essays in honour of John Dillon. Edited by John J. Cleary, 271–290. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

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    On the conversion and actualization of the Intellect. Article takes on arguments made by Bussanich and Lloyd regarding the Intellect and the knowability (or unknowability) of the One.

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  • Emilsson, Eyjólfur Kjalar. 2007. Plotinus on intellect. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199281701.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Four chapters that are somewhat independent of one another: chapter 1 is on emanation and activity, which includes a discussion of Plotinian hierarchy and emanation as the cause of the hierarchy, and the “double act” doctrine; chapter 2 addresses questions relating to the derivation of Intellect from the One; chapter 3 is on the internal structure of Intellect; chapter 4 looks at nondiscursive thought. An advanced, philosophical study.

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Other Studies

Emilsson 1988 is the standard text on sense perception, Slaveva-Griffin 2009 is a recent study of mathematics and Plotinus which is clearly written with a thorough bibliography, Corrigan 1996 treats preexistence and substance in ancient thought and Plotinus studies; Strange 1987 remains the major article on Plotinus and the Categories, although it has a bibliography that is no longer up to date. Wildberg 2009 treats Plotinus on nature, a subject which is gaining interest recently. Blumenthal 1993 is a series of essays by Blumenthal on aspects of soul in Plotinus. Clearly 1997 is a collection of articles by major scholars of Platonism on various topics; there are many fine articles on Plotinus.

  • Blumenthal, H. J. 1993. Soul and intellect: Studies in Plotinus and later Neoplatonism. Aldershot, UK: Variorum.

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    Collection of eighteen articles, the bulk of which deal with some aspect of Plotinian psychology, including the individual soul, the world soul, and Plotinus’s use of Aristotle in the development of his concept of soul. Articles are highly technical.

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  • Clarke, Emma C. 2001. Iamblichus’ De mysteriis: A manifesto of the miraculous. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

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    On the religious practices of Iamblichus, including his views on animal sacrifices, oracles, and theurgy. A nice introduction to late antique religion.

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  • Clearly, John, ed. 1997. The perennial tradition of Neoplatonism. Papers presented to an international conference in July 1995 at Maynooth, Ireland. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven Univ. Press.

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    Conference proceedings; nearly thirty articles on various aspects of Platonism, particularly strong in Plotinian studies.

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  • Corrigan, Kevin. 1996. Essence and existence in the Enneads. In The Cambridge companion to Plotinus. Edited by Lloyd Gerson, 105–129. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521470935Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explains the difference between preexistence and substance. Argues that the distinction between determinate essence and unrestricted existence is real. Article offers a good starting point for students interested in this important subject in late antique philosophy.

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  • Emilsson, Eyjólfur Kjalar. 1988. Plotinus on sense-perception: A philosophical study. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511720017Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This monograph covers Plotinus’s view of the sense, sensory affection, and visual perception. Sense perception is understood in light of the role of the intellect and Plotinian metaphysics. High level philosophical study, but much of this should be understandable to an advanced undergraduate student or master’s level student.

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  • Slaveva-Griffin, Svetla. 2009. Plotinus on number. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195377194.001.1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Study of Plotinus’s theory of the role of number in the universe. Includes Plotinus’s use of Neopythagoreanism, and Plotinus’s reading of Plato’s Timaeus. Chapters 4 and 5 are a detailed analysis of Plotinus’s account of number in the intelligible world.

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  • Strange, S. 1987. Plotinus, Porphyry, and the Neoplatonic interpretations of the “Categories.” In Aufsteig und Niedergang der Römischen Welt (ANRW): Geschichte und kultur Roms im spiegel der neueren forschung: II, Principat. Vol. 36.2. Edited by Wolfgang Haase and Hildegard Temporini, 955–974. Berlin: de Gruyter.

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    Puts forth the thesis that Plotinus and Porphyry’s attitudes toward the Categories are close and that Porphyry’s position on the categories has been influenced by Plotinus.

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  • Wildberg, Christian. 2009. A world of thoughts: Plotinus on nature and contemplation (Enn. III.8 [30] 1–5). In Physics and philosophy of nature in Greek Neoplatonism: Proceedings of the European Science Foundation Exploratory Workshop, Il Ciocco, Castelvecchio Pascoli, 22–24 June 2006. Edited by R. Chiaradonna and F. Trabattoni, 121–143. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    Article arguing that Plotinus’s philosophy of nature makes nature an external aspect of the ideal world. There are very few articles on Plotinus’s theory of nature.

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Porphyry

Porphyry (b. 234), born in Tyre, studied with Plotinus for five years. In addition to editing and arranging Plotinus’s Enneads, an activity for which he is probably best remembered, Porphyry authored many works of philosophy, logic, religious, and exegetical scholarship. As with Plotinus, Porphyry believes that there is a transcendent One which emanates Intellect—however, he also explains that there is a close connection between the One and Intellect by identifying the One with “the Father of the Intelligible Triad.” Porphyry’s complex view of the soul—the descent of the soul, transmigration of souls, the role of philosophy in the soul’s return to the One—is set out in a number of places, including the Sentences and his treatise On the Powers of the Soul. He is also well known for his criticisms against Christianity, primarily in his work Against the Christians, which exists in fragmentary remains.

Texts and Translations

Porphyry 1994 is the standard Greek text and collection of Porphyry’s fragments; Barnes 2002 (cited under Logical Works) is a monograph with a lengthy commentary; Libera and Segonds 1998 (cited under Logical Works) is a scholarly commentary on the Isagoge; Porphyry 1993 is a text and translation of Porphyry’s Homeric questions. Porphyry 2000a and Porphyry 2000b are translations without commentaries. Brisson 2005 is a very important edition of Porphyry’s Sentences, which includes lengthy articles by scholars on the work. Berchman 2005 makes accessible Porphyry’s Against the Christians, a text of interest to scholars and students of early Christian history. This work has been heavily criticized, however, partly because some scholars are skeptical as to whether Porphyry in fact wrote a work under that title. Porphyry 2011 is a translation of ad Gaurum with introduction and notes.

  • Berchman, Robert. 2005. Porphyry against the Christians. Translated by Robert M. Berchman. Studies in Platonism, Neoplatonism, and the Platonic Tradition 1. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    Translations and commentary of the testimonia of Porphyry’s lost Against the Christians. This is not a reconstruction of the text, but an assembly of all known fragments and testimonia arranged in chronological order. Includes introductory chapters on dating, structure of the work, and cultural background.

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  • Brisson, Luc. 2005. Porphyre: Sentences: Etudes d’Introduction, texte Grec et Traduction Française. 2 vols. Paris: J. Vrin.

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    Two volumes on Porphyry’s Sentences, series of short philosophical teachings. Volume 1 begins with a series of articles by scholars on Porphyry followed by Greek text, French translation, and commentary. Volume 2 features a bibliography and an English translation with footnotes and several pages of commentary by John Dillon.

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  • Porphyry. 1993. The Homeric questions. Edited and translated by R. Schlunk. New York: Lang.

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    Greek text and translation of Porphyry’s Homeric Questions. Translation includes frequent references to Greek that is not transliterated, which may make its use somewhat difficult for those who do not use Greek.

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  • Porphyry. 1994. Porphyrii philosophi fragmenta. Edited by A. Smith. Stuttgart and Leipzig: Teubner.

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    Greek text of the fragments of Porphyry collected in numerous sources by foremost Porphyry scholar Andrew Smith.

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  • Porphyry. 2000a. On abstinence from killing animals. Translated by Gillian Clark. London: Duckworth.

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    Volume in Sorajbi’s Ancient Commentators on Aristotle series. Includes introduction, translation, and notes.

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  • Porphyry. 2000b. On the life of Plotinus and the arrangement of his works. In Neoplatonic saints: The lives of Plotinus and Proclus by their students. Translated by Mark Edwards, 55–115. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool Univ. Press.

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    Readable, modern translation of Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus with an appendix that treats the chronology of Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus. Translation is heavily footnoted with explanations of historical and philosophical references. Edition features a general introduction and lengthy bibliography. Intended for use by historians of late antiquity, but suitable for philosophers, as well.

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  • Porphyry. 2011. To Gaurus on how embryos are ensouled and on what is in our power. Translated by James Wilberding. London: Bristol Classical Press.

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    Volume in Sorabji’s Ancient Commentators on Aristotle series. Includes English translation, introduction, and notes.

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Logical Works

Porphyry 1992 is a translation with no commentary, but a helpful introduction. Porphyry 1998 and Porphyry 2002 include translations with scholarly notes and commentaries.

  • Porphyry. 1992. On Aristotle’s categories. Translated by Steven K. Strange. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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    Volume in Sorabji’s Commentators on Aristotle series. Includes English translation, with introduction and notes.

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  • Porphyry. 1998. Isagoge. Translated by A. de Libera and A.-Ph. Segonds. Paris: J. Vrin.

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    Important commentary on Aristotle’s Categories by Porphyry. Lengthy introduction by A. de Libera describes Porphyry’s use of Plotinus, outlines and explains the commentary itself, and briefly shows its reception by medieval thinkers. Greek text has Latin translation underneath with facing French translation.

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  • Porphyry. 2002. Introduction. Translated by Jonathan Barnes. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Dense philosophical commentary on Porphyry’s great logical work. Includes extensive footnotes and thorough bibliography. Knowledge of Greek is helpful, but not essential.

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Reference Resources

International Journal of the Platonic Tradition is an open access, searchable scholarly journal on Platonism; Proclus Bibliography is a comprehensive bibliography on Proclus, which includes works on Porphyry, as well.

General and Special Studies

General studies include the important monograph Smith 1974 and the shorter, general article Smith 2010. Collections of articles found in Karamanolis and Sheppard 2007 and Smith 2011 are scholarly and address specific aspects of Porphyry’s thought. There has been recent interest in Porphyry, although the three most prominent scholars on the thinker remain Hadot, Smith, and Brisson. Brisson, et al. 2008 is a collection of papers on ad Gaurum, or the ensouling of embryos, a text recently gaining in scholarly attention. Evangeliou 1988 is a clear monograph outlining Porphyry’s teachings on Aristotle’s categories. Hadot’s theory on Porphyry’s authorship of the Anonymous Commentary on the Parmenides remains controversial (see Hadot 1968 and Hadot 1965).

  • Brisson, Luc, Marie-Hélène Congourdeau, and Jean-Luc Solère, eds. 2008. L’embryon: Formation et animation: Antiquité grecque et latine, traditions hebraique, chrétienne et islamique. Proceedings of the international conference “L’embryon (constitution et animation) dans l’antiquité et au moyen âge,” held at the Collège de France, Paris, 30 June–2 July 2005. Paris: J. Vrin.

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    Proceedings from a conference in 2005 on Porphyry’s To Gaurus. Papers provide a context for Porphyry’s ad Gaurum by comparing Porphyry’s understanding of the embryo to that of Galen, the Stoics, and the early Christian Fathers, among others.

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  • Evangeliou, C. 1988. Aristotle’s categories and Porphyry. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    Systematic study of Porphyry’s interpretation of Aristotle’s doctrine of categories. The first half treats Porphyry’s understanding of the categories, the second half treats Plotinus on the categories and Porphyry’s reaction to Plotinus.

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  • Hadot, Pierre. 1965. La métaphysique de Porphyre. In Porphyre: Huit Exposés Suivis de Discussions. Edited by Heinrich Dörrie, Jan-Hendrik Waszink, Willy Theiler, et al., 127–163. Geneva, Switzerland: Vadoeuvres-Genève.

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    Description of the intellectual triads in Porphyrian metaphysics. Contains a controversial discussion of the relationship between Porphyry and the Anonymous Commentary on the Parmenides.

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  • Hadot, Pierre. 1968. Porphyre et Victorinus. 2 vols. Paris: Études Augustiniennes.

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    Lengthy project that argues that arius Victorinus relies upon Porphyry in his Trinitarian doctrine. Volume 1 outlines the intelligible triad of being, life, and mind as found in Plotinus and Porphyry, and Marius Victorinus. In this volume, Hadot traces Porphyry’s thought as outlined in his lost Commentary on the Parmenides; Hadot argues that Porphyry is the actual author of the Anonymous Commentary on the Parmenide. Volume 2 shows parallel texts between The Anonymous Commentary on the Parmenides and Marius Victorinus’s Adversus Arium. Hadot’s argument is highly controversial. As not everyone accepts that Porphyry is the author of the Anonymous Commentary.

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  • Karamanolis, George, and Anne Sheppard, eds. 2007. Studies on Porphyry. Proceedings of a conference held at the Institute of Classical Studies, London, in July 2004. London: Institute of Classical Studies.

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    Conference proceedings on the philosophy of Porphyry. Includes articles on Porphyry’s metaphysics, doctrine of the First Principle, and perception, among others.

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  • Smith, Andrew. 1974. Porphyry’s place in the Neoplatonic tradition: A study in post-Plotinian Neoplatonism. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

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    Key work on the thought of Porphyry, particularly on his doctrine of the soul and theurgy. One of the few major studies on the whole thought—metaphysics, religion, psychic doctrine—of Porphyry.

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  • Smith, Andrew. 2010. Porphyry and his school. In The Cambridge history of philosophy in late antiquity. Vol. 1. Edited by Lloyd P. Gerson, 325–357. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Introduction to the thought of Porphyry. Includes a detailed and sophisticated summary of Porphyry’s doctrine of the Intellect and Soul. Takes up controversial subjects.

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  • Smith, Andrew. 2011. Plotinus, Porphyry, and Iamblichus: Philosophy and religion in Neoplatonism. Edited by A. Smith, 33–41. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

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    Collection of reprinted articles on Porphyry by noted Porphyry scholar.

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Iamblichus

Iamblichus (b. 245), a native of Chalcis, set up his own school in the city of Apamea after leaving Porphyry. His writings are many and include a certain religious treaty, On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, which is a defense of theurgy. He is also noted for a number of works on Neopythagorean teachings, including The Pythagorean Life, The Exhortation to Philosophy, a treatise on the General Science of Mathematics, and a commentary on the Introduction to Arithmetic. Also included are portions of a treatise On the Soul, and testimonia of commentaries on Plato’s dialogues and the several works of Aristotle, including the Categories, De Interpretatione, Prior Analytics, De caelo, and De anima. Iamblichean metaphysics closely resembles Plotinus’s universe, with additional complexities. Iamblichus introduces a second, totally ineffable One to counter the One which is the creator of the universe. The second One presides over Limit and Unlimitedness, which, in turn, generate the Unified, which contain the forms. The Unified, furthermore, connects to Intellect. Intellect is divided into a triad of Being, Life, and Intellect, followed by a set of three intelligible gods, three triads of intelligible-intellective gods and a hebdomad of intellective gods. Eternity follows these intellective gods, and the Paradigm is the lowest “part” in the realm of Intellect. Iamblichus’s theory of the soul makes a distinction between the unparticipated soul, as the monad of the psychic realm, and the participated soul.

Texts and Translations

There are a number of fine Greek texts, with translations and commentaries: Iamblichus 2002, Iamblichus 2004, Iamblichus 1973, and Iamblichus 1966. Iamblichus 1991 and Iamblichus 2009 are translations without text. Iamblichus 1973 is a key text for understanding Iamblichus’s metaphysics.

  • Iamblichus. 1966. Les Mystères D’Égypte. Translated by Édouard Des Places. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

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    Greek text with facing French translation and general introduction on Iamblichus’s great treatise on theurgy, The Mysteries. The general introduction provides an outline of Iamblichus’s argument, as well as a discussion on the influences of the Chaldean Oracles on his work.

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  • Iamblichus. 1973. Iamblichi Chalcidensis: In Platonis Dialogos Commentariorum Fragmenta. Edited and translated by John Dillon. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    One of the first major modern studies on Iamblichus. Consists of general introduction, followed by Greek text, facing English translation, and commentaries of Iamblichus’s fragments from Plato’s First Alcibiades, Phaedo, Sophist, Phaedrus, Philebus, Timaeus, and Parmenides. The bulk of the fragments are on the Timaeus and Parmenides; many of the fragments come from the works of Proclus and Damascius.

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  • Iamblichus. 1991. On the Pythagorean way of life. Translated by John Dillon and Jackson Hershbell. Atlanta: Scholars.

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    Translation with facing Greek text of Iamblichus’s biography of Pythagoras and his teachings. Contains a general introduction outlining the history of Pythagorean communities, and the form and structure of Iamblichus’s On the Pythagorean Way of Life.

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  • Iamblichus. 2002. De Anima. Translated by John F. Finamore and John M. Dillon. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    A collection of fragments of the surviving portions of Iamblichus’s De Anima from the writings John of Stobi, Pseudo-Simplicius, and Priscianus. Includes Greek text with English translation and lengthy commentary on each fragment, as well as a general introduction by Finamore and Dillon outlining Iamblichus’s theory of the soul. The collection is useful to scholars in the field, particularly those with knowledge of Greek.

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  • Iamblichus. 2004. De Mysteriis. Translated by Emma C. Clarke, John M. Dillon, and Jackson P. Hershbell. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    Greek with facing English translation. There is no commentary, but the text features lengthy footnotes and the introduction is ample. Includes index of Greek names and terms. Knowledge of Greek is helpful, as the footnotes frequently refer to Greek technical terms.

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  • Iamblichus. 2009. Iamblichus of Chalcis: The letters. Translated by John Dillon and Wolfgang Polleichtner. Atlanta: Society for Biblical Literature.

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    Collection of twenty letters attested to Iamblichus with Greek text, a facing English translation, and a short title stating the nature of the letter. Each letter is given a commentary. Letters touch briefly on a range of philosophical topics. Of interest to Neoplatonist scholars and scholars of ancient epistolography.

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General Studies and Collections of Articles

Dillon 2010 is an article that gives an overview of Iamblichean thought, written by the leading scholar in Iamblichean studies. Shaw 1995 focuses on Iamblichus’s concept of theurgy, but it gives an overview of Iamblichus’s cosmos in the process of explaining theurgy. Blumenthal and Clark 1993, Blumenthal and Finamore 1997, and Saffrey 2000 are excellent collections of articles on Iamblichus.

  • Blumenthal, Henry J., and E. G. Clark, eds. 1993. The divine Iamblichus: Philosopher and man of gods. Proceedings of a conference held at the University of Liverpool on 23–26 September 1990. Bristol, UK: Bristol Classical Press.

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    Proceedings from conference on Iamblichus. Includes fifteen papers on various topics on Iamblichus by experts in the field.

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  • Blumenthal, Henry J., and John F. Finamore, eds. 1997. Iamblichus: The philosopher. Vol. 8. Iowa City: Univ. of Iowa Press.

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    Fifteen articles on Iamblichus from a 1995 conference in Liverpool (Syllecta Classica. Vol. 8: Papers from the 1995 International Lamblichus Conference, University of Liverpool). Includes Steel on Iamblchus and the theological interpretation of the Parmenides, Dillon on Iamblichus on Aristotle’s Categories, van Riel on Iamblichus and the Philebus, among others.

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  • Dillon, John. 2010. Iamblichus of Chalcis and his school. In The Cambridge history of philosophy in late antiquity. Vol. 1. Edited by Lloyd P. Gerson, 358–374. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Introduction to the thought and writings of Iamblichus.

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  • Saffrey, H. D. 2000. Le Néoplatonisme après Plotin. Paris: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin.

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    Collection of articles on Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus, and Pseudo-Dionysius. There are four articles on Iamblichus, all of which focus on Iamblichean religion as found in his De Mysteriis. All articles in French.

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  • Shaw, Gregory. 1995. Theurgy and the soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus. University Park: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press.

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    Despite the title, this monograph outlines theurgy not only in the thought of Iamblichus, but also in Plotinus, Porphyry, and Proclus. Explains the metaphysical theories behind theurgy and describes its ritual elements.

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Special Studies

International Journal of the Platonic Tradition is a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal, published by Brill and overseen by the International Society for Neoplatonic Studies, which prints many articles on Iamblichus. It is online, open access with a search function. Gersh 1978 and Steel 1978 are excellent, highly philosophical studies which outline Iamblichus’s metaphysics and religion, particularly in the case of the latter. Steel 1978 and Finamore 1985 are both good descriptions of Iamblichus’s theory of the soul. Dillon 1993 discusses Iamblichus and henads, an important topic of debate in Iamblichean studies. O’Meara 1989 discusses the role numbers play in Iamblichus’s universe. See Struck 2004 on theurgy.

  • Dillon, J. 1993. Iamblichus and Henads again. Paper presented at a conference held at the University of Liverpool on 23–26 September 1990. In The divine Iamblichus: Philosopher and man of gods. Edited by H. J. Blumenthal and E. G. Clark, 48–54. Bristol, UK: Bristol Classical Press.

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    Controversial argument on whether the theory of the henads originated with Iamblichus. This article is a response to Dillon’s own argument in Phronesis 17 (1972), which received much attention.

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  • Finamore, John. 1985. Iamblichus and the theory of the vehicle of the soul. Chico, CA: Scholars.

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    On the vehicle of the soul as a median between the incorporeal soul and the corporeal body. This book puts the vehicle of the soul in the larger context of Iamblichus’s theory of the soul, and it looks at Iamblichus’s use of Plato’s Timaeus and Aristotle’s De Anima.

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  • Gersh, Stephen. 1978. From Iamblichus to Eriugena: An investigation of the prehistory and evolution of the Pseudo-Dionysian tradition. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    A dense and sophisticated book that traces Neoplatonic metaphysics, beginning with Iamblichus.

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  • International Journal of the Platonic Tradition.

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    Scholarly journal that regularly publishes articles on Iamblichus. Online, open access with user friendly search mechanism.

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  • O’Meara, Dominic J. 1989. Pythagoras revived: Mathematics and philosophy in late antiquity. Oxford: Clarendon.

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    Offers a detailed look at Iamblichus’s On Pythagoreanism and the reception of Iamblichus’s Pythagoreanism in the Athenian school of Platonism by Hierocles, Syrianus, and Proclus. A very clear study that is accessible to both the beginning scholar and the expert.

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  • Steel, Carlos G. 1978. The changing self: A study on the soul in later Neoplatonism: Iamblichus, Damascius, and Priscianus. Brussels: Paleis der Academiën.

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    Traces the Platonic tradition on the soul in late antiquity, including in the thought of Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus, Damascius, and Priscianus. Focuses on the doctrines of the descended and undescended souls and the implication for the psychic theories of Neoplatonists. Abundant references to primary sources.

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  • Struck, Peter. 2004. Birth of the symbol: Ancient readers at the limits of their text. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    Chapter 6 discusses Iamblichus’s onomastic theurgy (ritualistic use of divine names and words) and how Iamblichus bases theurgy on the structure of his hierarchical universe. This chapter is part of the author’s larger thesis of ancient allegory and its relationship to magic. Also includes a chapter on Proclus.

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Syrianus

Syrianus (d. 437) is probably best known for being the teacher of Proclus. Originally from Alexandria, he came to Athens to study under Plutarch, upon whose death in 431, Syrianus became head of the Athenian School. Syrianus authored a commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Books III, IV, XIII, XIV, and a rhetorical commentary, On Hermogenes. Additionally, his teachings on Plato are known through the notes of his pupils, particularly Hermias’s commentary on the Phaedrus (thought to be notes on Syrianus’s teachings on the Phaedrus) and testimonia, the comments set in the texts of Proclus and Damascius and others attributing certain teachings to Syrianus, their “spiritual grandfather.”

Texts and Translations

Syrianus 2006 and Syrianus 2008 provide an English translation to Syrianus’s only known extant philosophical writing. Wear 2011 collects his “teachings” on the Timaeus and Parmenides from testimonia found in Proclus’s Commentary on the Timaeus and Parmenides. This work includes lengthy commentaries and a general introduction.

  • Syrianus. 2006. On Aristotle’s metaphysics 13–14. Translated by John Dillon and Dominic O’Meara. London: Duckworth.

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    See entry On Aristotle Metaphysics 3–4. Introduction outlines Syrianus’s life and works, and philosophy of mathematics. Lengthy discussion of Syrianus’s view of the forms and universals.

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  • Syrianus. 2008. On Aristotle metaphysics 3–4. Translated by Dominic O’Meara and John Dillon. London: Duckworth.

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    English translation with introduction and notes on Syrianus’s commentary on Books 3 and 4 (Syrianus’s commentary survives only on Books 3, 4, 13, and 14 of the Metaphysics), with a brief introduction outlining Syrianus’s conception of metaphysics.

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  • Wear, Sarah Klitenic. 2011. The teachings of Syrianus on Plato’s Timaeus and Parmenides. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    This text collects the fragments of Syrianus the Platonist on Plato’s Timaeus and Parmenides. It includes the Greek text, facing English translation, and lengthy commentaries directly after each translation. A general introduction treats the life, works, and metaphysical structure and innovations of Syrianus’s thought. This book is appropriate for scholars in the field of Platonism.

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General and Special Studies

The bulk of secondary literature on Syrianus deals with Syrianus on Aristotle’s Metaphysics (see Cardullo 1995 and Longo 2005). For a general overview of Syrianus, a good place to begin is Longo 2010, which also has the best bibliography; Longo 2009 has a broad collection of technical articles. Works focusing on Syrianus’s metaphysics includes D’Ancona 2000, Luna 2000, and Sheppard 1982. On Syrianus and textual interpretation of Homer, see Manolea 2004.

  • Cardullo, R. L. 1995. Siriano esegeta di Aristotele. Vol. 1. Florence: La nuova Italia.

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    Volume 1 contains a collection of the fragments of Syrianus on Aristotle with an Italian translation; Volume 2 includes commentaries on these fragments. Scholarly account of Syrianus’s commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics. In Italian.

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  • D’Ancona, C. 2000. La doctrine des principes: Syrianus comme source textuelle et doctrinale de Proclus: 1st Partie: Historie du Probleme. In Actes du Colloque International de Louvain (13–16 mai 1998) en l’honneur de H.D. Saffrey et L.G. Westerink. Edited by A.-Ph. Segonds and C. Steel, 189–225. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven Univ. Press.

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    Important article outlining Proclus’s use of Syrianus in the development of his metaphysics.

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  • Longo, Anglea. 2005. Siriano e I principi della scienza. Naples, Italy: Bibliopolis.

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    Focuses on Syrianus on Aristotle’s Metaphysics.

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  • Longo, Angela. 2010. Syrianus. In The Cambridge history of philosophy in late antiquity. Vol. 2. Edited by Lloyd P. Gerson, 616–629. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Introduction to the thought of Syrianus. Particularly strong in Syrianus’s commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics.

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  • Longo, Angela, ed. 2009. Syrianus et la Métaphysique de l’antiquité tardive: Actes du Colloque International, Université de Genève 29 Septembre–1 Octobre 2006. Naples, Italy: Bibliopolis.

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    Proceeding from the first major colloquium on Syrianus’s thought. Includes twenty articles from important scholars in the field, including the late Michael Frede, John Dillon, Jonathan Barnes, Carlos Steel, Dominic O’Meara, Luc Brisson, Claudio Moreschini, and Angela Longo. Articles are in English, French, and Italian. The volume includes a lengthy bibliography on Syrianus. These articles are lengthy and fairly technical and would be of interest to scholars in the field of Platonism.

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  • Luna, C. 2000. La doctrine des principes: Syrianus comme source textuelle et doctrinale de Proclus: 2nd Partie: Analyse des Texte. In Actes du Colloque International de Louvain en l’honneur de H.D. Saffrey et L.G. Westerink. Edited by A.-Ph. Segonds and C. Steel, 227–278. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven Univ. Press.

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    Important article examining Proclus’s use of Syrianus.

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  • Manolea, C.-P. 2004. The Homeric tradition in Syrianus. Thessalonika, Greece: Ant. Stamoulis.

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    Syrianus’s treatment of Homer, particularly in his In Hermogenem, In Phaedrum, and In Metaphysica.

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  • Sheppard, A. D. H. 1982. “Monad and dyad as cosmic principles in Syrianus.” In Soul and the structure of being in late Neoplatonism: Syrianus, Proclus, and Simplicius; Papers and discussions of a colloquium held at Liverpool, 15–16 April 1982. Edited by H. J. Blumenthal and A. C. Lloyd, 1–17. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool Univ. Press.

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    Outlines the role of two major metaphysical entities, the monad and dyad, which are creative forces in Syrianus’ cosmos. Outdated bibliography.

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Proclus

Proclus (b. 412–d. 485), whose life we know about through the biography of his student Marinus, was head of the Athenian school of Neoplatonism for nearly fifty years. He is regarded as the great systematizer of Iamblichean and Plotinian metaphysics. A prolific writer, Proclus wrote commentaries on Plato’s Republic, Timaeus, Parmenides, Alcibiades, and Cratylus, as well as a treatment of metaphysics, entitled The Platonic Theology, and the Elements of Theology, which laid out first principles of late Platonic philosophy. He also has a treatise on evil, among other writings. Proclus’s metaphysics is distinguished by a certain propensity for adding levels and triads to the universe. As with Plotinus, he makes the One the principle of unification and the first cause from which all beings proceed. However, the One, for Proclus, emanates all of creation, even matter, which contains divine unity. In order to preserve continuity in his description of the universe, Proclus adds intermediaries to Plotinus’s first and second hypostases. Each effect preexists in its higher level or cause, allowing the effect to revert upon its cause. In this way, the mark of Proclus’s metaphysics is a tightly woven universe, where each level flows from the next through systems of intermediaries.

Texts and Translations: Parmenides

Plato’s Parmenides was considered, along with the Timaeus, to be one of the greatest theological works. The text has received much attention of late: Proclus 2007–2011 is the culmination of the Bude text, translation, and commentary and Proclus 2007–2009 is the Oxford edition. Proclus 1992 is an English translation printed with short footnotes on the text and introductions explaining philosophical matters in various sections of the text.

  • Proclus. 1992. Proclus’ commentary on Plato’s Parmenides. Translated by G. R. Morrow and John M. Dillon. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    An English translation of the first seven books of Proclus’s Commentary on the Parmenides, one of the most important texts for understanding Platonic metaphysics. Edition includes an extremely helpful and clear, lengthy general introduction, along with notes and introductions to each of the individual books by Dillon. Does not require knowledge of Greek.

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  • Proclus. 2007–2009. Procli in Platonis ‘Parmenidem’ Commentaria, tomi I–III, libros I–VII et indices continens. Edited by Carlos Steel. Oxford Classical Texts. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Scholarly Greek text with critical apparatus. This edition was produced by a great team of scholars in Leuven, led by Carlos Steel. It is the first modern edition of Proclus’s Commentary on the Parmenides.

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  • Proclus. 2007–2011. Commentaire sur le Parménide de Platon. 3 vols. Notes by C. Luna and A.-Ph. Segonds. Paris: Les Belles.

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    Lengthy introductions for each volume. Controversial project; Greek text follows a different manuscript than Proclus 2007–2009 (Oxford edition).

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Texts and Translations: Alcibiades

Plato’s Alcibidades was regularly used as an introduction to Plato by the Athenian Neoplatonists. Proclus 1971 is an English translation with minimal notes, Proclus 1954 is the standard Greek text; Proclus 2011 contains Proclus 1971 and Proclus 1954 in one volume.

Texts and Translations: Other Commentaries on Platonic Works

Proclus 1970 is a commentary on Proclus’s commentary on the Republic with lengthy notes and introduction; Proclus 1966–1969 is a French translation, Greek text, with notes and introduction to Proclus’s commentary on the Timaeus; Proclus 2011 is an English translation of the Proclus’s commentary on Timaeus; Proclus 2007 is an English translation of Proclus’s commentary on the Cratylus; and Proclus 1908 is the standard Greek text of Proclus’s commentary on the Cratylus.

  • Proclus. 1908. Proclus Diadochus in Platonis Cratylum Commentaria. Edited by G. Pasquali. Leipzig: Teubner.

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    Standard Greek text.

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  • Proclus. 1966–1969. Commentaire sur le Timée. Vols. 1–5. Translated by A. J. Festugière. Paris: J. Vrin.

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    Excellent French translation. The notes and introduction are extremely helpful, even though the bibliography is dated.

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  • Proclus. 1970. Commentaire sur la République. Vols. 1–3. Translated by A. J. Festugière. Paris: J. Vrin.

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    Excellent French translation. The notes and introduction are the most thorough available on this book.

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  • Proclus. 2007. On Plato Cratylus. Translated by B. Duvick. London: Duckworth.

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    Translation with introduction and notes. Volume in Ancient Commentators on Aristotle series.

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  • Proclus. 2011. Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus. 4 vols. Vol. 1. Translated with Edited and translated by Harold Tarrant. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Readable, modern translation to Proclus’s commentary on Plato’s Timaeus. In four volumes: Volume 2, by David T. Runia and Michael Share, 2008; Volume 3, by Dirk Baltzly, 2007; and Volume 4, by Dirk Baltzly, 2010. Each volume features a general introduction to the sections of Proclus’s Commentary on the Timaeus covered in a particular volume, with footnotes offering interpretations, citing other Platonist readings, etc.

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Texts and Translations: Other Works

Proclus 1970 is an English translation of his commentary on Euclid’s Elements; Proclus 1992 is Dodds’s landmark edition and commentary on Proclus’s Elements of Theology; Proclus 2003 is an English translation of On the Existence of Evils; Proclus 1968–1997 is a very important French translation, commentary, and Greek text of the Platonic Theology; Proclus 1982 is a French translation and commentary on On the Existence of Evils; van den Berg 2001 is a commentary, text, and translation of Proclus’s hymns.

  • Proclus. 1968–1997. Théologie Platonicienne. 6 vols. Translated by H.-D. Saffrey and L. G. Westerink. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

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    Greek text with French translation. Lengthy introductory articles in each volume outline Proclus’s theological system and hierarchies, complementary notes give further explanations to details in the text.

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  • Proclus. 1970. A commentary of the first book of Euclid’s elements. Translated by G. R. Morrow. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    English translation with introduction and brief notes.

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  • Proclus. 1982. Trois etudes sur la providence, III: De l’existence du mal. Edited by D. Issac. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

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    Greek text and French translation. Notes by Steel on Proclus in Pseudo-Maximus Confessor’s florilegium.

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  • Proclus. 1992. The elements of theology: A revised text. Translated by E. R. Dodds. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    First published in 1933, this is a classic volume of scholarship in the field of Neoplatonism. Consists of a general introduction, followed by Greek text with facing English translations of Proclus’s propositions, ending with a commentary on each proposition at the back of the book. Proclus’s Elements of Theology is a concise summary of Neoplatonic metaphysics.

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  • Proclus. 2003. On the existence of evils. Translated by Jan Opsomer and Carlos Steel. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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    Modern translation; heavily footnoted with philosophical explanations of Proclus’s arguments, as well as references to Proclus’s use of Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus. A lengthy general introduction gives both a basic outline of Proclus’s argument, as well as a scholarly study of the history of the text, and the history of evil as a concept in Neoplatonic thought.

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  • van den Berg, R. M. 2001. Proclus’ hymns: Essays, translation, and commentary. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    Lengthy introduction, Greek text, translation, and commentaries on Proclus’s hymns.

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Studies

The Proclus bibliography, d’Hoine, et al. 2002, is an excellent print and online resource. It is inclusive and exhaustive. Steel 2010 provides an article-length introduction to Proclus. Chlup 2012 offers a very important lengthy study of Proclus that is excellent for the student or scholar. Siorvanes 1997 is an introduction to Proclus with a bent toward Proclus’s understanding of astronomy. Beierwaltes 1979 is an important monograph on the Procline universe.

Metaphysics

Much scholarly attention has been given to Procline metaphysics in the past decade. As for the structure of the universe, Dillon 2000, Gersh 1973, and Opsomer 2000 describe the structure of the universe (see the introduction to Proclus 1968–1997 cited under Proclus: Texts and Translations: Other Works for a very clear outline of Proclus’s universe). Kutash 2011 and O’Meara 1989 (cited under General Overviews) lay out Proclus’s understanding of the creation of the universe, the former looking particularly at the Timaeus commentary, the latter at the role of mathematics in creation. Steel 1997 treats Proclus’s doctrine of the individual soul. Steel 1992 examines Proclus’s exegesis of Plato’s Sophist. Martijn 2010 is one of the few full-length treatments on Proclus’s philosophy of nature, an important and somewhat neglected area in the field of Neoplatonic studies. Steel 1999 is an important article on Proclus and negative theology.

  • Dillon, John. 2000. The role of the Demiurge in the Platonic theology. In 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. Edited by A.-Ph. Segonds and C. Steel, 339–349. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

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    Article that provides an analysis of the demiurge in Proclus’s metaphysical structure, particularly in light of the tradition of the demiurge in Middle Platonism. Article focuses on chapter 13, Book V of the Platonic Theology in order to show the demiurge’s role and its relation to being.

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  • Gersh, Stephen. 1973. Kinesis Akinētos: A study on spiritual motion in the philosophy of Proclus. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    Short (129 pages) study on remaining, procession, and return as activities of creation and contemplation in the thought of Proclus. This study is scholarly and will be of interest to experts in the field of Neoplatonism or graduate students; knowledge of Greek is helpful.

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  • Kutash, Emilie. 2011. Ten gifts of the Demiurge: Proclus on Plato’s Timaeus. London: Bristol.

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    Treats the formation of the cosmos, the World Soul, and the demiurge in Proclus’ Commentary on the Timaeus.

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  • Martijn, Marije. 2010. Proclus on nature: Philosophy of nature and its methods in Proclus’ Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004181915.i-362Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Lengthy treatment of Proclus’s philosophy of nature as dependence of nature on the gods and the division of nature into different strata.

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  • Opsomer, Jan. 2000. Deriving the three intelligible triads from the Timaeus. In 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. Edited by A.-Ph. Segonds and C. Steel, 351–372. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

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    Account of Proclus’s intelligible triad, Being, Life, and Intellect. Article outlines the role of each triad as found in Timaeus 28c–29A2 and described by Proclus in Platonic Theology III 15–19.

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  • Steel, Carlos. 1992. Le Sophiste comme texte théologique dans l’interprétation de Proclus. Paper presented at a symposium held 7–8 Sept. 1989 at the University of Leiden. In On Proclus and his influence in medieval philosophy. Edited by E. P. Bos and P. A. Meijer, 51–64. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    Shows how Proclus uses Plato’s Sophist as a model of scientific theology, and how he relates the Sophist to the Parmenides, a more rigorous and systematic theological text.

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  • Steel, Carlos. 1997. Breathing thought: Proclus on the innate knowledge of the soul. Paper presented to an international conference in July 1995 at Maynooth, Ireland. In The perennial tradition of Neoplatonism. Edited by John Cleary, 293–309. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven Univ. Press.

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    Highly technical article on Procline epistemology.

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  • Steel, Carlos. 1999. “Negatio Negationis”: Proclus on the final lemma of the first hypothesis of the Parmenides. In Traditions of Platonism: Essays in honour of John Dillon. Edited by John J. Cleary, 351–368. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

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    On the conclusion of the first lemma of the Parmenides—that the One is not—and, more generally, on negative theology. In addition to Proclus, Steel discuses Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Syrianus on this section; also includes a discussion of Proclus’s Platonic Theology II, 10, regarding negations and the One.

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Mathematics

See the collection of articles in Bechtle and O’Meara 2000, as well as the monographs on mathematics in late antiquity: Charles-Saget 1982 on mathematics and number in Proclus, Breton 1969 on philosophy and mathematics, and O’Meara 1989, a book on mathematics in late antiquity generally, with chapters on Proclus. Lernould 2010 is specifically on Proclus’ commentary on Euclid.

  • Bechtle, G., and D. O’Meara 2000. La philosophie des mathématiques de L’Antiquité tardive: Actes du colloque international, Fribourg, Suisse, 24–26 septembre 1998. Fribourg, Switzerland: Editions Universitaires.

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    Collection of articles on late antique mathematics, including studies on Proclus and mathematics.

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  • Breton, S. 1969. Philosophie et Mathématique chez Proclus. Paris: Beauchesne.

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    Older but highly influential study of Proclus’s use of mathematics in his philosophical doctrines.

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  • Charles-Saget, A. 1982. L’architecture du divin: Mathématiques et philosophie chez Plotin et Proclus. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

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    A detailed study of Plotinus’s theory of number and the role of mathematics in Proclus’s ontological theory. A clear text for those just setting out in a study of ancient mathematics.

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  • Lernould, A., ed. 2010. Études sur le Commentaire de Proclus au premier livre des Éléments d’ Euclide. Paris: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion.

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    Collection of twelve essays on various topics on Proclus’s Commentary on Euclid’s Elements, including: Iamblichus and Syrianus as Proclus’s sources, the representation of mathematics, dialectic, rhetoric, and metaphysics and mathematics in Proclus’s Commentary on Euclid’s Elements.

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  • O’Meara, Dominic J. 1989. Pythagoras revived: Mathematics and philosophy in late antiquity. Oxford: Clarendon.

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    Includes a treatment of Proclus’s use of Neopythagoreanism in his metaphysics. Examines his commentary on Euclid and mathematics in the Elements of Theology.

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Other Special Studies

There are far too many important works on Proclus to list in this limited space. See d’Hoine, et al. 2002 cited under Proclus: Studies in this article for a complete list of publications. For Proclus on religion, see Brisson 1995, which focuses on Proclus’s use of Orphism, Saffrey 2000, a collection of articles, many of which fall in the category of Proclus on theurgy and religion, and van den Berg 2001, which treats Proclus’s use of theurgy in his hymns. Proclus’s mode of exegesis is discussed in Sheppard 1980 which treats Proclus reading Plato, especially as found in his commentary on Plato’s Republic; finally, van den Berg 2008 treats the issue of naming and reading in Proclus’s Cratylus commentary. Marinus 2000 translates Marinus’s biography of Proclus. Phillips 2007 treats Proclus on evil. Trouillard 1972 treats Proclus’s doctrines on the soul.

  • Brisson, Luc. 1995. Proclus et l’Orphisme. In Orphée et l’Orphisme dans l’Antiquité gréco-romaine. By Luc Brisson, 43–103. Aldershot, UK: Variorum.

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    Includes a list of references of Chaldean Oracles, as found in the works of Proclus, as well as a reconstruction of the Sacred Discourses as found in Proclus, and a discussion of how Proclus coordinates his own theology to that of the Chaldean Oracles.

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  • Marinus. 2000. “The Suda of Marinus” and “Marinus of Neapolis: Proclus, or on happiness.” In Neoplatonic saints: The lives of Plotinus and Proclus by their students. Translated by Mark Edwards, 55–115. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool Univ. Press.

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    Readable, modern translation of Marinus’s life of Proclus. Translation is heavily footnoted with explanations of historical and philosophical references. Edition features a general introduction and lengthy bibliography. Intended for use by historians of late antiquity, but suitable for philosophers, as well.

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  • Phillips, John. 2007. Order from disorder: Proclus’ doctrine of evil and its roots in ancient Platonism. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004160187.i-281Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This monograph collects and interprets selections of Proclus’s writings on evil, particularly those that interpret seminal passages in Plato on evil. Phillips argues that Proclus formulates his doctrine on evil from his reading of Plato, rather than as a response to Plotinus.

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  • Saffrey, H. D. 2000. Le Néoplatonisme après Plotin. Paris: J. Vrin.

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    Collection of articles on Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus, and Pseudo-Dionysius. There are nine articles on Proclus, particularly on Procline religion, including his devotion to the sun, use of the Chaldean Oracles, and theurgy. All articles in French.

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  • Sheppard, A. D. R. 1980. Studies on the 5th and 6th essays of Proclus’ commentary on the republic. Göttingen, West Germany: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht.

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    This book analyzes Proclus’s writings on poetry as found in Plato’s Republic Books II, III, and X. Proclus defends the passages of Homer against Plato’s admonitions. Sheppard details Proclus’s method of allegory.

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  • Trouillard, Jean. 1972. L’un et l’ame selon Proclos. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

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    Proclus on the Soul.

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  • van den Berg, R. M. 2001. Proclus’ hymns: Essays, translation, and commentary. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    Philosophical reading of Proclus’s hymns, including the role of hymns in theurgy, a discussion on Procline poetry and Neoplatonic allegory.

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  • van den Berg, R. M. 2008. Proclus’ commentary on the Cratylus in context: Ancient theories of language and naming. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004163799.i-244Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Monograph focuses on Proclus’s Commentary on the Cratylus, but the first half of the volume includes remarks on Plato’s Cratylus and Aristotle’s De Interpretatione, Middle Platonic doctrines on theory of language (includes Alcinous, Antiochus of Ascalon, Plutarch of Chaeroneia, Philo of Alexandria, and Galen), and Porphyry’s Aristotelian semantic theory. Detailed and high level.

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Pseudo-Dionysius

Pseudo-Dionysius’ Christian theology displays a heavy use of Proclus and late Neoplatonic metaphysics. The citations included here address Pseudo-Dionysius’ place in the Athenian school of Platonism—in particular, his use of Platonic metaphysics, language, and mystical theology. Despite the best efforts of scholars, the identity of Pseudo-Dionysius remains unclear; it is likely that he is a 5th- or early-6th-century Syrian Christian. The extant writings of Pseudo-Dionysius include the treatises: Divine Names, On Mystical Theology, On the Celestial Hierarchy, and On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, and ten letters. In his treatises, Pseudo-Dionysius establishes that God is the transcendent creator of all things and to which all things will one day revert. By using creation, as poured forth by God, man can come to know God and return to God through the hierarchical layers of the universe. Pseudo-Dionysius displays a certain reliance on Proclus, most notably in his discourse on evil as found in Divine Names, which is, at times, a word for word rendering of sections of Proclus’s work On Evil.

Texts and Translations

Pseudo-Dionysius 1987 is the most accessible, readable translation of the Pseudo-Dionysian corpus. To fully understand Pseudo-Dionysius’ Neoplatonism, one should read him in Greek. See Pseudo-Dionysius 1990 and Pseudo-Dionysius 2011; van den Daele 1941 is extremely helpful for tracing Greek technical words in Pseudo-Dionysius’ corpus.

Studies

For an overview of Pseudo-Dionysius’ Neoplatonism, see the article Perl 2011. For longer, but still general treatments of Pseudo-Dionysius’ place in the Neoplatonic tradition see Wear and Dillon 2007. De Andia 1996a outlines his use of Neoplatonic thought, but emphasizes his Christian theology. For scholarly articles focusing on narrow aspects of Pseudo-Dionysian Platonism, see de Andia 1997, Saffrey 2000, and Perczel 2000. Gersh 1978 is difficult, but well worth the time and effort. Lilla 1996 exhibits how Pseudo-Dionysius adopts some aspects of his negative theology from Proclus and Damascius.

  • de Andia, Ysabel. 1996a. L’Union à Dieu chez Denys l’Aréopagite. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    Lengthy monograph on contemplation and return in the thought of Pseudo-Dionysius. Contains a thorough description of the Dionysian cosmos, including its Platonist foundations. Features a near-complete bibliography on Pseudo-Dionysius.

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  • de Andia, Ysabel, ed. 1997. Denys l’Aréopagite et sa postérité en Orient et en Occident: Actes du Colloque International: Paris, 21–24 septembre 1994. Paris: Études Augustiniennes.

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    Proceedings from significant, international conference on Pseudo-Dionysius. Contains a number of articles on the Platonism of Pseudo-Dionysius, including Carlos Steel on Pseudo-Dionysius’ Platonist understanding of evil and Salvatore Lilla’s article on Pseudo-Dionysius’ use of Porphyry and Damascius.

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  • Gersh, Stephen. 1978. From Iamblichus to Eriugena: An investigation of the prehistory and evolution of the Pseudo-Dionysian tradition. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    Lengthy, scholarly study of the pagan philosophical foundations of Pseudo-Dionysius’ Platonism. Includes a thorough study of Platonist metaphysical principles (120 pages), followed by two large sections on Pseudo-Dionysius’ adaptation of these principles. Also treats the Christian interpreters of Pseudo-Dionysius, including, among others, Maximus and Eriguena. Copious references to primary sources. Knowledge of Greek helpful, but not essential.

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  • Lilla, Salvatore. 1996. Pseudo-Denys l’Aréopagite, Porphyre et Damascius. In Denys l’Aréopagite et sa postérité en Orient en Occident: Actes du Colloque International, Paris, 21–24 September 1994. Edited by Ysabel de Andia, 117–152. Paris: Institut d’Études Augustiniennes.

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    Argues for Pseudo-Dionysius’ use of Damascius in his development of a negative theology.

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  • Perczel, István. 2000. Pseudo-Dionysius and the Platonic theology. In 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. Edited by A.-Ph. Segonds and Carlos Steel. 491–532. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

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    Exhibits textual parallels between the fifth book of Proclus’s Platonic Theology and Pseudo-Dionysius’ Divine Names in order to show Dionysius’ reliance on the Platonic Theology. Article shows where Dionysius differs from Proclus and what this means for Dionysius’ Christian Platonism.

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  • Perl, Eric. 2011. Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. In The Cambridge history of philosophy in late antiquity. Vol. 2. Edited by Lloyd P. Gerson, 767–787. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Introduction to the thought of Pseudo-Dionysius. Emphasis is placed on Pseudo-Dionysius’ Platonism. Incorporates many of the important ideas in Perl’s 2007 book, Theophany: The Neoplatonic Philosophy of Dionysius the Areopagite (Albany: State Univ. of New York Press), which is highly recommended for those interested in Pseudo-Dionysius’ Platonism.

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  • Saffrey, H.-D. 2000. Le lien le plus objectif entre le Pseudo-Denys et Proclus. In Le Néoplatonisme Après Plotin. By H.-D. Saffrey, 239–252. Paris: J. Vrin.

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    Outlines two scholia of John of Scythopolis which show similar expressions between Proclus and Pseudo-Dionysius. A continuation of Saffrey’s older article, “Nouveaux liens objectifs entre le Pseudo-Denys et Proclus,” Revue des Sciences philosphiques et théologiques 63 (1979), pp. 3–16, reproduced in Recherches sur le néoplatonisme après Plotin (Paris: J. Vrin, 1990), pp. 227–248. Here he makes a connection between Pseudo-Dionysius and Proclus based on similar terminology.

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  • Wear, Sarah Klitenic, and John Dillon. 2007. Dionysius the Areopagite and the Neoplatonist tradition: Despoiling the Hellenes. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

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    Short introductory study to the Neoplatonism in the thought of Pseudo-Dionysius. Focuses on Dionysius’ use of the Parmenides commentary tradition and his use of the Neoplatonic terminology of “theourgia” in his sacramental theology. Fine for undergraduates and graduate students.

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Damascius

Damascius (b. 462–d. 538) studied in Alexandria under Ammonius and became scholarch of the Athenian academy in around 515. In 529 when Justinian closed the doors of the Academy, Damascius, along with Simplicius, went into exile to the court of king Chosroës of Persia. Damascius was a prolific writer, although the bulk of his writings appear lost. The extant works include: On First Principles, his great metaphysical treatise; commentaries on Plato’s dialogues, such as Commentary on the Parmenides, Commentary on the Phaedo, and Commentary on the Philebus. Life of Isidore is an anecdotal account of the Athenian Academy. Damascius’ metaphysics, in some ways, show a return to Iamblichus’s thinking, particularly on the One, the creator of the universe and source of all unity. As with Iamblichus, Damascius posits two “Ones”: an ineffable first One and a transcendent second One, the source of all creation. In addition to his first One, Damascius develops a sophisticated negative theology which shows what cannot be said of the One. Damascius’ innovations occur in the realms of the One and the Intelligible, insofar as he introduces levels of complexity at a third level of creation called the Unified, where unity and plurality are combined—here the One is participated in by lower levels. This is followed by Life and Intellect.

Texts and Translations

Texts and translation: Damascius 1997 is an excellent scholarly edition with lengthy introduction that helps contextualize the thought of Damascius; Damascius 1959 was one of the first monographs on Damascius in English. It has a helpful introduction which explains the exegetical practice of Damascius; Damascius 1976 is a text and translation of Damascius’ Phaedo commentary; Damascius 1999 is a well-written translation of Damascius’ Philosophical History. Damascius 2010 is translation only, but with an up-to-date bibliography. Sorabji 2004 contains some selections of Damascius, among other writers.

  • Damascius. 1959. Damascius: Lectures on the Philebus wrongly attributed to Olympiodorus. Translated by L. G. Westeirnk. Amsterdam: North-Holland.

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    Text, introduction, and translation by Westerink.

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  • Damascius. 1976. The Greek commentaries on Plato’s Phaedo: Damascius. Vol. 2. Edited by L. G. Westerink. Amsterdam and New York: North-Holland.

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    Greek text, with parallel translation, notes, and introduction.

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  • Damascius. 1997. Commentaire du Parménide de Platon. 3 vols. Translated by Joseph Combès. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

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    Text by L. G. Westerink, introduction, translation, and annotations by Joseph Combès. Greek text, French translation, notes, and general introduction to Damascius’ Commentary on the Parmenides. This is the standard text on Damascius’ great commentary. Each volume features a lengthy introduction outlining Damascius’ arguments; includes helpful charts laying out Damascius’ metaphysics in a systematic, clear way.

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  • Damascius. 1999. The philosophical history. Translated by Polymnia Athanassiadi. Oxford: Oxbow.

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    Greek text with facing English translation. Features a lengthy introduction outlining Damascius’ life and thought. While this text does not have a commentary, the English translation has footnotes that elaborate on historical details, in particular. Damascius’ Philosophical History is a kind of ancient biography, comprised of anecdotes, stories, and gossip regarding the philosophers of the Athenian School.

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  • Damascius. 2010. Damascius’ problems and solutions concerning first principles. Translated by Sara Ahbel-Rappe. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Translation of Damascius’ great work on reality and how reality can be known by man. Features brief endnotes which focus on Damascius’ relationship to his predecessors, Iamblichus and Proclus, and a lengthy introduction which outlines the life and philosophical system of Damascius.

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  • Sorabji, R. 2004. Philosophy of the commentators, 200–600 A.D.: A sourcebook. Vols. 1–3. London: Duckworth.

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    Contains numerous selections from Damascius on various philosophical topics. The selections in the book are organized according to topic and contextualized along with the thought of other authors on the same topic. Sorabji’s insightful commentaries make this a very helpful book.

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Studies

Van Riel 2010 is an excellent starting point for research into Damascius. The Bibliography Damascius is online, comprehensive and continually updated. The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition is a scholarly journal that regularly publishes articles on Damascius.

Metaphysics

Includes collection of articles in Combès 1996, Combès 1992 on existence, Combès 2000 on Damascius’ and Proclus’ Platonic Theology; Dillon 1997a is on procession and return; Dillon 1997b treats Damascius’ concept of the First One; and Dillon 1997c treats Damascius’ understanding of dynamis. Steel 1978 discusses Damascius on the soul.

  • Combès, Joseph. 1992. Hyparxis et Hypostasis chez Damascius. In Hyparxis e hypostasis nel neoplatonismo: Atti del I Colloquio internazionale del Centro di ricerca sul neoplatonismo, Università degli studi di Catania, 1–3 ottobre 1992. Edited by Francesco Romano and Daniela Patrizia Taormina, 131–147. Florence: Leo S. Olschki.

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    Proceedings from a conference on the role of existence and substance in the thought of Plotinus, Porphyry, Damascius, and Pseudo-Dionysius.

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  • Combès, Joseph. 1996. Études Néoplatoniciennes. Grenoble, France: Millon.

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    A collection of articles which include Damascius’ negative theology, doctrine of procession and return, among others.

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  • Combès, Joseph. 2000. La théorématique de la Théologie platonicienne de Proclus d’après Damascius. In 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. Edited by Alain-Philippe Segonds and Carlos Steel, 445–458. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven Univ. Press.

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    Outlines Damascius on the Platonic Theology. Article part of important conference proceedings on Proclus and his Platonic Theology.

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  • Dillon, John M. 1997a. Damascius on procession and return. Paper presented to an international conference in July 1995 at Maynooth, Ireland. In The perennial tradition of Neoplatonism. Edited by John Cleary, 369–379. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven Univ. Press.

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    Highly technical discussion of Damascius’ doctrine of procession and return in De Principiis chapters 72–75.

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  • Dillon, John M. 1997b. Damascius on the ineffable. In The great tradition: Further studies in the development of Platonism and early Christianity. By John M. Dillon, 120–129. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

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    A discussion of Damascius’ principle of the ineffable first One, which is not the cause of anything. Dillon describes the philosophical implications of Damascius’ first principle.

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  • Dillon, John M. 1997c. Some aspects of Damascius’ treatment of the concept of Dynamis. In The great tradition: Further studies in the development of Platonism and early Christianity. By John M. Dillon, 139–148. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

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    Damascius’ understanding of dynamis as the force which generates multiplicity and life. Article highlights Damascius’ mode of looking at problems.

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  • Gertz, Sebastian Ramon Philipp. 2011. Death and immortality in late Neoplatonism: Studies on the ancient commentaries on Plato’s Phaedo. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    Study of the commentaries on Plato’s Phaedo; primarily focuses on the writings of Damascius and Olympiodorus, although chapter 3 concerns Syrianus on the Phaedo and Damascius’ subsequent critique of Syrianus. Organized according to sections of the Phaedo.

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  • Steel, Carlos. 1978. The changing self: A study on the soul in later Neoplatonism: Iamblichus, Damascius and Priscianus. Verhandelingen van de Koninklijke. Brussels: Paleis der Academiën.

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    Traces doctrines of the soul in Iamblichus, Damascius, and Priscianus in light of each author’s metaphysics. Scholarly, major study.

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Commentary Tradition

Gertz 2011 (cited under Damascius: Studies: Metaphysics) discusses Damascius on Plato’s Phaedo, van Riel 2000 is a monograph on Damascius’ commentary on the Philebus particularly the role of sense perception in the life of the soul.

  • van Riel, Gerd. 2000. Pleasure and the good life: Plato, Aristotle, and the Neoplatonists. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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    Discusses Damascius’ Commentary on the Philebus. Van Riel also takes Proclus’s views into account when discussing Damascius; earlier part of the book gives a history of the interpretation of the Philebus by Epicureans, Stoics, and Plotinus.

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Other Studies

Brisson 1995 discusses Damascius use of Orphic terminology; Rappe 2000 discuses Damascius’ exegesis as a kind of philosophical practice.

Olympiodorus

Olympiodorus (fl. 565), the student of Ammonius the son of Hermias, was an Alexandrian commentator. Olympiodorus’s works, all of which survive as lecture notes by his students, are commentaries on Aristotle and Plato’s dialogues, including: Categories, Meteorologica, Alcibiades I, Gorgias, Phaedo. Olympiodorus is known for his exegetical style, a division in praxeis (lectures), beginning with a discussion of the text (theōria), and a close analysis of the words in the text (lexeis). The works of Olympiodorus provide us with fine examples of Alexandrian pedagogy and school curriculum.

Texts and Translations

Olympiodorus 1998 is an introduction, text, and translation to Commentary on Plato’s Gorgias; Olympiodorus 1976 is an important edition and introduction to Olympiodorus on the Phaedo.

Studies

Gertz 2011 is a monograph on Olympiodorus’s commentaries on the Phaedo; see Opsomer 2010 for a general introduction into the thought of Olympiodorus. International Journal of the Platonic Tradition is an online journal on Platonism, which includes articles on Olympiodorus, with a searchable index.

Simplicius

Born in Cilicia, he was educated by Ammonius in Alexandria (fl. 490 CE) and then Damascius in Athens (fl. 520 CE). Simplicius is thought to have authored at least seven major works, including four commentaries on Aristotle, on the Categories, Physics, and On the Heavens, and possibly on Metaphysics, and on De Anima, as well as a Handbook and a summary of Theophrastus’ Physics. He is well known for his philosophical and scientific writings, as well as his careful exegesis of Aristotle’s works, which include vast summaries of his predecessor’s opinions on various topics.

Texts and Translations

For translations of Simplicius’ works with a listing of Greek texts, see Ancient Commentators on Aristotle Project.

Studies

Baltussen 2008 is a monograph on Simplicius’ treatment of his predecessors in his exegesis of Aristotle. Baltussen 2010 is a good starting point; it features a recent bibliography.

  • Baltussen, H. 2008. Philosophy and exegesis in Simplicius: The methodology of a commentator. London: Duckworth.

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    Scholarly monograph on Simplicius’ use of predecessors and their treatments of Aristotle. Includes Simplicius and the Presocratics, Theophrastus, Eudemus, Alexander of Aphrodisias, and John Philoponus. One of the first extensive studies of Simplicus.

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  • Baltussen, H. 2010. Simplicus of Cilicia. In The Cambridge history of philosophy in late antiquity. Vol. 2. Edited by Lloyd P. Gerson, 711–732. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Provides an overview of Simplicus’ work and thought. Includes a recent bibliography.

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John Philoponus

John Philoponus (b. AD 490–d. 570) was a Christian Alexandrian who studied under Ammonius. Philoponus produced commentaries on Aristotle, philosophical treatises, and scientific treatises (see Ancient Commentators on Arisotle Project cited under John Philoponus: Texts and Translations for a list). He is known for his Christian polemic, including an attack against the Platonic doctrine of the eternity of the world.

Texts and Translations

The Ancient Commentators on Aristotle Series has produced twenty-three volumes on Philoponus, each of which includes a bibliography citing pertinent texts.

Studies

Sorabji 1987 contains helpful articles for studies on Philoponus on creation and space, while Wildberg 1988 is a lengthy, scholarly study on Philoponus’s view of ether. Sorabji 1990 likewise contains several articles on various topics regarding Philoponus, particularly his method of commentary making and his thought. For those just beginning to study Philoponus, see Verrycken 2010 for an overview of Philoponus’s thought and a recent bibliography.

LAST MODIFIED: 08/26/2013

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195389661-0201

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