94 - The Platonic Successor: Proclus

Proclus’ system, presented in original works and in commentaries on Plato and Euclid, integrates Neoplatonic philosophy with pagan religious belief and practice.

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Further Reading: 

• W. Beierwaltes, Proklos: Grundzüge seiner Metaphysik (Frankfurt am Main: 1965).

• R. Chlup, Proclus: An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

• E.R. Dodds, Proclus: The Elements of Theology (Oxford: 1933).

• S. Gersh, Kinesis Akinetos: a Study of Spiritual Motion in the Philosophy of Proclus (Leiden: 1973).

• J. Opsomer and C. Steel (trans.), Proclus: On the Existence of Evils (London: 2003).

• J. Opsomer, “Proclus vs Plotinus on matter (De mal. subs. 30–7),” Phronesis 46 (2001), 154-88.

• M. Martijn, Proclus on Nature (Leiden: 2010).

• M. Perkams and R.M. Piccione (eds), Proklos. Methode, Seelenlehre, Metaphysik (Leiden: 2006).

• L. Siorvanes, Proclus: Neo-Platonic Philosophy and Science (New Haven: 1996).

• C. Steel, “Breathing thought. Proclus on the innate knowledge of the soul,” in The Perennial Tradition of Neoplatonism, ed. J. Cleary (Leuven: 1997), 293–309.

Stanford Encyclopedia: Proclus

Online Proclus bibliography

Glenn Russell's picture

Proclus and Plotinus

Hi Peter,

I listened to your podcast on Proclus a couple of times but still would like some help on the distinctions made by Gnostics, Plotinus and Proclus on the existence of evil. My understanding, stated in brief, is:

The Gnostics think matter itself is evil
Plotinus thinks matter isn’t evil but is the cause of evil
Proclus thinks matter is good but matter in conflict can result in evil

The Gnostic view is clear and clean-cut. Is there a clearer, more complete way of understanding the difference between Plotinus and Proclus? Conflict seems to be simply a fancy way of saying cause.


Peter Adamson's picture

Neoplatonists on evil

Hi Glenn,

That's a very good summary. The difference between Plotinus and Proclus is, as you say, that for Proclus matter is in a sense actually good because it has a potentiality to take on form and thus cooperate in the realization of the good. Whereas Plotinus thinks that matter cannot ever take on form, it remains "dead" and inert underneath form and is not actualized. So its only contribution is to impede the realization of form (not directly, since it is too featureless actively to oppose the good as the Gnostics think -- but insofar as form will be less perfectly realized once it appears as "decoration" on the "corpse" of matter). Proclus by contrast thinks that matter gives rise to evil by making it possible for various goods to come into conflict, which cannot happen in the intelligible realm.

Does that help?


Glenn Russell's picture

Thanks --

Thanks for your clarification, Peter. Apologies for taking a year and a half to say thanks and your post does indeed help. -- I missed your reply back then.

Peter Adamson's picture

You're welcome

Better late than never! And thanks for the other post about music and yoga on episode 133.

Rory Grant's picture

Intellective gods

Hi Peter,

First of all, thank you for a somewhat more accessible companion to this subject than battling through the Elements of Theology by oneself.

You mention in the podcast the use of a triumverate of classes of Gods to ensure, without gaps, an account of intellect (nous?). That is: Intelligible gods - intelligible/intellective gods - intellective gods.

My question is, is it only the 'lowest' class of gods who Proclus equates with the traditional Hellenic Pantheon (the intelligible gods being of a higher, unknowable, order); or, are some deities of the pantheon intelligible gods, some intelligible/intellective and finally some intellective (e.g. Zeus being of a higher order than, say, Hestia)?

Please correct me if any of the context of my question is misunderstood.