Proclus: Neo-Platonic Philosophy and Science

Philosophical Review 107 (4):600 (1998)
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Proclus Platonic Academy) is undoubtedly one of the most influential figures in the history of western philosophy; his writings did more to shape pre-twentieth-century understandings of Plato than any other person. But today few students of ancient philosophy would cite Proclus as an authority on Plato, and only a few scholars and certain people whom many would identify as enthusiasts or mystics are likely to have read a whole work of Proclus, even in translation. And although there are some passages which can be read as original philosophical investigations, most notably—but perhaps this reflects my own philosophical interests—Proclus's discussion of the role of imagination in geometrical reasoning, even those passages have to be abstracted from their intellectual context to be made palatable to contemporary academic philosophical taste. The context is an elaborately triadic hierarchical metaphysics ranging between the limits of a One which is neither describable nor apprehensible because it is above being and a matter which is neither describable nor apprehensible because it is below being. But the metaphysics is also a representation of a pagan theology in which all the gods of fifth-century Greco-Roman religion find their place or places, and it is accompanied by a serious belief in practices standardly labeled magical.



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