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PROCLUS COMMENTARY ON THE TIMAEUS THE PREFATORY MATERIAL

STEPHEN GERSH
Thanks to the recent book by Alain Lernould, it seems likely that scholars of later ancient philosophy will return to the study of Proclus Commentary on the Timaeus with a new vigour. Lernould has provided us with a careful analysis of the logical structure of this Neoplatonic text which goes beyond the annotations in A. J. M. Festugihres excellent French translation.* He has also revealed the extent to which Proclus endeavoured to read the Platonic dialogue as simultaneously a treatise on physics and on theology. Lernould sees the Neoplatonic commentary throughout in a rationalistic light. According to him, the method of the work is not symbolic but demonstrative and less geometrical than dialectical, the scientific approach being attested by the manner in which the hypotheses and demonstrations inserted by Proclus before the account of the demiurgy and the account of the demiurgy extrapolated from these hypotheses and demonstrations represent a series of ascents or anagogies to the first causes of the universe. The Neoplatonic commentator seems to be inspired by Platos description of the upward motion from hypotheses to the unhypothetical in the Divided Line, supplementing this teaching with the notion that each ascent or anagogy returns to the original position with a transformed viewpoint and therefore marks out a course which is neither rectilinear nor circular but spiral in character. Lernould draws two general conclusions about Proclus work. The first is that the commentary is Platonic rather than Pythagorean in tendency. The second is that the nature of this commentary shows that the presumed distinction between Proclean exegetical and systematic writings is unnecessary. Now one could certainly argue at greater or lesser length with these final conclusions. However, there is perhaps a more immediate need to add a footnote to Lernoulds fine study or better: a prefatory note. This concerns the hermeneutic horizon for the reading of Proclus Commentary on the Timaeus. Lernould has clearly shown that the commentary for the most part applies a method which might be called - in the Proclean senses of these terms - dialectical or demonstrative. Indeed, the Greek authors comment that whereas the beginning of the dialogue reveals the order of the universe by means of images the middle section of the text instructs us regarding the whole of creation would seem to indicate a contrast between an indirect account of reality through images: the prefatory materials of the Timaeus, and a direct account of things not

A. J. FestugiBre, Proclus. Commentaire sur le Timie, traduction et notes (Paris 1966-8).


Ancient approaches to Platos Timaeus

Alain Lemould, Physique et Thblogie. Lecture du Timke de Platon par Proclus (Villeneuve dAscq 2001).
143

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ANCIENT APPROACHES TO PLATOS TIMAEUS

through images: the main body of the work.3However, a problem is presented by the wellknown passage of Proclus Platonic Theology which states that Plato practises four modes of theological exposition: the entheastic in the Phaedrus, the dialectical in the Sophist and Parmenides, the symbolic in the Gorgias, Symposium, and Protagoras, and the iconic in the Timaeus and P o l i t i ~ u sHow . ~ are we to reconcile the predominantly dialectical tone of the extant portion of Proclus commentary with the apparent association by Proclus of the dialogue with the imagistic mode of exposition? The solution to the difficulty is probably that the Neoplatonist is referring in the passage of the Platonic Theology mainly to the prefatory materials of the Timaeus. To the further question why Proclus should place such emphasis on this introductory portion there are perhaps two answers: one more general and one more specific. The general point is that it is a feature of exegetical works as a whole, whether they are pagan or Christian and ancient or modern, to attach great importance to prologues in establishing the hermeneutical framework for reading a text. Proclus treatise is no exception to this tendency. This is indicated by the scale of its exegesis of the recapitulation of the Republic and the myth of the Atlantians which expands to fill its entire first book. The specific point is that Proclus makes great efforts to argue that the Timaeus is not only a treatise on physics but also a study of t h e ~ l o g yTheology .~ is according to him the topic of the recapitulation and the myth. Therefore, an approach to the dialogue which carefully uses the prefatory materials to guide the exegesis of the main text will reinforce our understanding of the latters more elevated meaning. For these reasons it will be useful to revisit the first section of Proclus Commentary on the Timaeus, In doing so, I shall arrange my observations under three headings - a convenient systematization albeit one implicit rather than explicit in Proclus writing - : 1. remarks about the text qua text of Timaeus discourse; 2. remarks concerning the relation between text and object envisaged by the Platonic dialogue; and 3. remarks about the object qua object of Timaeus discourse. In the first book of his commentary, Proclus has much to say, regarding the Platonic Timaeus, of the status of its text as text. Here, it is important to consider first a certain intertextuality. Plato writes in imitation of Timaeus the Pythagorean6 while the demonic Aristotle writes in imitation of Plato to such a degree that one can discover the Peripatetic doctrines of form, substratum, source of motion, motion, time, and space already in the Timaeus? Platos account of the conflict between the Athenians and the Atlantians parallels Homers description of the battle between the gods and the Titans, the former representing a narrative of a sober and political and the latter a narrative of an inspired and priestly

See below, 146-47. Proclus, Theol. Plat. 1.4, 17.9-23.11. For a full discussion see S. Gersh, Proclus Theological Methods. The Programme of Theol. Plat. 1.4. in Proclus er la Thiologie Plaronicienne (Acres du Colloque International de Louvain (13-16m i 1998) en lhonneurde H.D. Saffrey et L. G. Westerink,ed. A. P. Segonds et C. Steel (Leuven-Paris 2000) 1s-27.

See below, 145-46.

Proclus, In Timaeum Commentaria, ed. E. Diehl, 3 vols, I (Leipzig 1903) 1.8-16. Cf. 8.21-7. Proclus, In Tim.16.21-7.16. Proclus habitually contrasts - in terms of their philosophical authority - the divine Plato and the demonic Aristotle.

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character. Moreover, the textual relation between Platonic and other texts is complemented by the textual relation within the Platonic corpus itself. Given that philosophy is divided into a contemplation of the intelligibles and a contemplation of the intramundane and that the Parmenides summarizes the whole intelligible and the Timaeus the whole intramundane teaching, one can establish analogies between the two dialogues. In the Parmenides, everything is related to the One and in the Timaeus, everything to the Demiurge. The Pamenides prefaces theology with an investigation of the Forms, and the Timaeus prefaces physiology with a contemplationthrough images. The narrative setting of the Parmenides is provided by the Greater Panathenea, and that of the Timaeus by the Lesser Panathenea? These scattered comments on Proclus part could easily escape the attention of a modern reader intent on disengaging the metaphysical teaching of the Neoplatonic commentary. However, the information provided here is of considerable importance. We learn how the Timaeus is situated within the history of philosophy between the Pythagoreans and Aristotle, how what we would term a classic philosophical text relates to what we would term a classic literary text, and how the Timaeus is situated within a pedagogical arrangement of the Platonic corpus. When we turn from intertextuality to textuality - ie. to the text of this Platonic dialogue considered in itself - we have many more Proclean statements to evaluate. It may be useful to divide the latter into comments regarding the aim of the dialogue, remarks implying the division of its text into horizontal segments or into vertical layers, comments orientating the mode of interpretation in relation to its objectivity or its contextualization, and remarks addressing the connotative structure. In the case of the first criterion, we are dealing with a textual question explicitly formulated by Proclus. The other criteria are more external than internal. Nevertheless, I believe that they clarify the outline of an implicit textual practice and are methodologically consistent with that practice. Proclus comments regarding the aim (OKOTC~G) of the Timaeus illustrate the established principle of later Neoplatonic exegetical theory that each dialogue is monothematic in intent. For this reason, he is critical of Porphyrys procedure of interpreting the narrative material at the beginning of the dialogue in a more political and the Timaean exposition forming the main body of the text in a more physical manner. Proclus protests: it is necessary that everything be harmonious with the pre-established aim. The dialogue is physical and not ethical ( 6 ~ i vy&p TQ T C ~ O K E ~ ~ UKOTCQ ~ V C ~ ,ndv~a 06pcpova cfvai. c p u ~ i ~ b62: g b 6id3Loyos, &LA o h 46i~6~). But what precisely is the aim of the Timaeus? Broadly speaking, the answer is to discourse about nature. This intention can be clarified by observing that earlier thinkers in this sphere had distinguished material causes, formal causes, and accessory causes, but that Plato had supplemented physical theory by discussing the efficient,
Proclus, In Tim. 178.12-80.8. Proclus, In Tim. I 12.30-14.3; 184.22-85.30.
lo Proclus, In Tim. I 19.24-29.Cf. 77.28-78.1.For the history of Neoplatonic exegesis of Plato (with special reference to the post-Iamblichean tradition which Proclus represents) see: A. J. Festugikre, Modes de composition des commentaires de Proclus, Mus. Helv. 20 (1963) 77-100; Lordre de lecture des dialogues de Platon aux VNIe sikcles, Mus.Helv. 26 (1969) 281-96; B. D. Larsen, Jamblique de Chalcis. Exigkte et philosophe, 2 vols (Aarhus 1972); J. A. Coulter, The Literary Microcosm. Theories of Interpretation of the Later Neoplatonists (Leiden 1976); E. Lamberz, Proklos und die Form des philosophischen Kommentars, Proclus. Lecteur et Interprite des Anciens = Actes du colloque international du C.N.R.S.,Paris 2-4 oct. 1985 (Paris 1987) 1-20.

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the paradigmatic, and the final cause: these being causes in the fullest sense. By means of

(616) the latter, Plato was able to reveal the demiurgicintellect (vo6< BqpioupytK6<),the intelligible cause (voqtfi aitia), and the Good (hyab6v) respectively. Thanks to
distinctions of this kind, Plato was further enabled to discourse regarding the intelligible, intellectual, and intramundane gods and to render the whole world a god endowed with intellect and soul ( 6 ~ 6 s Evvou~ E p @ q o ~ ) . One might conclude that a conceptual slide has occurred in determining the aim first in a physical and secondly in a theological manner. However, Proclus probably intends to safeguard the monothematic interpretation of the Timaeus by stressing the participatory relation between the lower and the higher sphere. Accordingly, the aim of the dialogue is to discourse about nature but specifically in terms of the latters relation to the divine. There are several notable instances of the extrapolation of supplementary theological conclusions in the early part of the commentary. For example, Platos words one, two, three represent an intimation (Ev~EL[z<) of the triadicity of the divine orders. Proclus envisages a horizontal division of the Timaeus as a whole into three segments: A. Revelation of the order ( T ~ < L <of ) the universe by means of images (61 E ~ K ~ V O at V ) the beginning of tlie text; B. Report of the universal cosmology in the middle section; C. Connection of the partial (T& p e p i ~ 6to ) the wholes ( t o i ~ bAoi<)towards the end of the text.l3 This threefold textual structure of beginning, middle, and end obviously reflects the ontological triple structure of remaining procession, and reversion. It is further subdivided or specified in that A comprises A, the resumption of the discourse in the Republic, and A, the narration of Atlantis; B. the unfolding of the demiurgic, paradigmatic, and final causes; and C the last phases of demiurgy: the heavenly and the earthly, the natural and the unnatural, from which medicine takes its origins.I4The threefold textual structure is further articulated according to its signifieds -the types of object described - in that A, and A, are both concerned with demiurgy although A, deals specifically with the unification ( E v o a ~ < and ) A, specifically with the division (6iaipeai<)of things; A, treats particularly of the heavenly (oGp6vro<) and A, particularly of the sublunary(6x6oeA.7jvqv); and A, deals specifically with the substances(oGaiai)and A, specifically with the powers ( 6 u v k p e ~ of ~ ) things.ls Here, Proclus sustained recourse to the Pythagorean and Neoplatonic principle of the binary arrangement of phenomena is quite noticeable. Finally, the threefold textual structure is articulated according to its signifiers - the kinds of figure employed - in that A, and A, are both concerned with the contemplation of parts and images although A, presents the discourse on the state in the manner of an image ( E ~ K O V L K ~ < and ) A, the story of Atlantis in the manner of a symbol (auppoALKc3<).6The doctrine stated here can be clarified in three ways. First, the contemplation of parts and images in section A is to be contrasted with the contemplation of the whole and paradigms in section B. Secondly, the distinction
I

Proclus, In Tim. I 1.17-4.5. Proclus, In Tim. I 17.9-15.

Proclus, In Tim. I 4.5-11. Proclus, In Tim. 14.11-6.21. Is Proclus, In Tim. 14.11-26. Cf. 72.19ff. and below 152-53. Cf. 78.12-19.
l3

l4

l6

Proclus, In Tim. 130.11-14. Cf. 54.15-55.9; 130.9-13. Proclus, In Tim. 1206.16-19. Cf. 130.4-10.

l7

STEPHEN GERSH:PROCLUS COMMENTARY ON THE TIMAEUS

147

between images and symbols depends upon a greater similarity between signifier and signified in the former and a greater dissimilaritybetween signifier and signified in the latter case, although the Commentary on the Republic makes clear that it is not the image which is to be considered for this reason as the superior mode of representation but the symbol.* Third, the specific nature of the symbol is indicated by a few examples: the paraphernalia of Hephaestus forge, the shields and spears of the various Olympians, and so forth.lg Proclus also envisages a vertical division of the entire Platonic dialogue. This comprises 1. a quasi-formal level of character ( p p a ~ ~ f i p and ) 2. a quasi-material level of hypothesis (hn68cutq). Regarding 1, Proclus notes that the Timaeus a. receives its intuitions from the highest causes, b. mixes the revelatory ( h o c p a v ~ t ~and 6 ~ the ) demonstrative ( ~ ~ I T o ~ E ~ K T ~ and K ~ s c. ) , prepares us to understand physics not only physically but also theologically.The revelatory aspect of the dialogue is associated with its Pythagorean tendency and further specified as that which is mentally elevated, as the intellectual and the inspired, as that which connects all things with the intelligibles, as that which defines wholes in numbers, as that which intimates things symbolically and mystically, as the elevative, and as that which sublates partial intuitions. The demonstrative aspect of the dialogue is associated with its Socratic tendency and further specified as the convivial and the accommodating,as that which contemplates realities through images, as the ethical, and so forth.2o Regarding 2, Proclus notes a. the place and time of the narrative setting and b. the personages who speak in the narrative of the Timaeus. The place is Athens and the time the day after the conversation about the state. The personages are Timaeus, Hermocrates, Critias, and an unnamed individual. These components exhibit various analogies with the higher sphere: for example, Timaeus corresponds to the Demiurge and Socrates together with Hermocrates and Critias to the triad following the Demiurge, while the reduction in the number of speakers from six to four to three corresponds to the elevation of the discourse to a more intellectual level. The character and the hypothesis correlate with one another as a quasi-formal and a quasi-material aspect.21This is not only shown by Proclus substitution of the term form (ci80~) for the term character ( x a p a ~ ~ f iin p the ) Commentary on the Timaeus but also suggested by the similar textual-metaphorical analogy in the anonymous Prolegomena to Plutos Philosophy.22 Orientation of the mode of interpretation in relation to objectivity is another aspect of Proclus reading of the Timaeus which should be noted. According to the Neoplatonist, the Atlantis story could be treated as pure history, as pure fiction, or as history which includes images ( E ~ K ~ V E Sof ) higher oppositions: either of the fixed stars and the planets - the view of Amelius - or of higher and lower daemons - the view of Origen - or of higher and lower souls - not attributed to a specific source - or of daemons and souls - the view of Porphyry - or of oppositions from the One and the Dyad downwards - the view of Iamblichus and our

*Proclus, In Rempublicum commenrurii, ed. W. Kroll, I (Leipzig 1899) 77.19-28;83.26ff.,198.9-24.


l9 Proclus, In

Tim. I 142.14-145.4;156.16-157.7.

2o
21

Proclus, In Tim. 17.17-8.9.

Proclus, In Tim. 18.30-9.24;20.27-21.8.

22 Anonymous, Prolegomena

in Pkzronis Philosophiam, ed. L. G . Westerink (Amsterdam 1962) 5.16.1-5.17.39. This text is reproduced in Proligomtnes d la philosophie de Pluron, texte dabli par L. G. Westerink et traduit par J. Trouillard, avec la collaboration de A. P. Segonds (Paris 1990).

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teacher ( b fipkrepo~ ~a61lyephv Syrianus, ) the final interpretation naturally being accepted as correct.23What is argued concerning the Atlantis story as a whole is also applied to the Phaethon myth embedded in it. This can be understand historically ( ~ u T o ~ I K ~ ) s ) , physically ( c p u u r ~ h ~ or ) , philosophically (cpihouocpi~h)~). In the last case, the account concerns the relation between partial souls and the heavenly bodies.24 Another aspect of Proclus reading of the Timaeus is orientation of the mode of interpretation in relation to contextuality. Here, we should note in the first instance contextuality as the interpretative horizon represented by a specific discipline, since a given passage in the text - for example, the words some things, indeed, I recollect - might be understood ethically as a mediation between irony and arrogance, logically as a pretext for the recapitulation of problems, physically as the remaining and procession of physical reasons, and theologically as the remaining and procession of the higher.25In the second instance, we should here note contextuality as the interpretative horizon represented by a specific author, since a central doctrine of the text - for example, the principle of binary structure - might be understood in an Orphic, Pythagorean, or Platonic manner. In other words, the opposition could be viewed as that between the Olympians and the Titans where the former predominate over the latter. It could also be treated as that between parallel series extended from the highest to the lowest level. The opposition could finally be viewed as that between limit and infinity in the Philebus.26 Proclus comments regarding the aim of the Timaeus are underpinned by his implicit application of the notion that everything is in everything, ... appropriately ( m h a 62 bv nkuiv ... O ~ K E ~ O G )This . idea is mentioned in the context of the Pythagorean threefold division of reality into intelligibles, mathematicals, and physicals where it explains how the middle and the lower are present paradigmatically in the higher, the higher present iconically and the lower present paradigmatically in the middle, and the higher and the middle present iconically in the lower. Application of the notion of appropriate presence is detected by the Neoplatonic commentator in Timaeus employment of mathematical names in describing the souls powers.27However, it is more importantly the basis on which the dialogues aim can be simultaneously physical and theological. When we turn from Proclus remarks about the text as text to those about the relation between text and object, the fundamentally realist nature of Neoplatonic thought becomes apparent. In other words, the notion that the structure of the text - in this case the Platonic Timaeus - reflects the structure of real things begins to prevail. It is perhaps useful to consider this development initially from four viewpoints: that of the relation between language and reality in general, that of parallelism between external narrative order and the metaphysical order, that of parallelism between internal narrative order and the order of demiurgy, and that of specific instances of the relation between language and reality.
Proclus, In Tim. 175.30-78.11. Cf. I 176.22-177.2. Proclus, In Tim. I 108.14-113.7. Proclus, In Tim. I 27.22-28.13.Cf. I 8.2-5. Proclus, In Tim. I 174.12-24.

23
24
25

26 27

Proclus, In Tim. I 8.13-27. For the metaphysical application of this principle in general see Proclus, Elemenratio Theologica, prop. 103.92.13.

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The relation between language and reality in general becomes an issue in certain passages where Proclus considers the stylistic technique of applying various terms to the same things. At one point, a disagreement between Longinus who held that Plato varied his terminology with a view to aesthetic effect and Origen who held that he varied his terminology for purposes of conceptual exactitude is reported. Proclus himself quotes with approval the doctrine of Aristoxenus that the dispositions of philosophers extend as far as sounds (ai rcjv cpihoa6qov 6taOdaei~ &xpi tcjv cp66yyov 6iareivouai) which he compares with the astrological teaching that there are clear images of the radiance of intellections in astral configurations (tfjs rcjv vofjaeov hy3iaia~Ev toiS petaoXqpatiopoiS eiK6veq Evapye i ~ )Moreover, . Iamblichus refers the variegation of language to the higher principles by arguing that the h6yoi occur in various combinations as they descend from intellect to soul to nature and to matter.28 A similar argument occurs in at least one other passage. Here, Proclus explains that different spatial allotments can be placed under the patronage of the single goddess Athene just as it is possible to signify the same things through a plurality of sounds (6i& nhei6vov qovcjv r& aCz& aqpaiveaOai 6uvat6v). This is because sounds are images of the things signified by them.29 The notion that there is a parallelism between the external narrative order of the Republic, Timaeus, and Critias and the metaphysical order is an important element in Proclus interpretative strategy as a whole. This becomes apparent in considering the replies to two questions. The first question is: why is the narrative time of the Timaeus not prior to the narrative time of the Republic? Given that the origin of the world must precede the origin of humanity, one would expect the Timaeus to precede. Proclus reply is that not all hypotheses are based on real things and that, since the hypothesis of the state is in thought only ( h 6 y q y6vov) whereas that of the cosmos concerns things that exist and have come to be (6vra K ~yev6ycva), I the Republic is reasonably placed first.30 The further question is: why is the narrative time of the Cntias not prior to the narrative time of the Timaeus? The reply is that this sequence follows from the order of human life described in the R e p ~ b l i c . ~ The notion that there is a parallelism between the internal narrative order of the Timaeus and the order of demiurgy is another crucial element in Proclus interpretative strategy. Here, the fact that Critias first refrains from telling the story of Atlantis represents a symbol of the preparatory arrangement of natures (adppohov r f j ~ npoeutpeni<opdvq~ napa~~~ufj~ tcjv cpdaeov). The repetition of the narration by the Egyptian priest, by Solon, by Critias the Elder, and by Critias the Younger imitates the reversion to themselves of the demiurgic reasons.32 Moreover, that Critias first describes the war in summary manner and then explains each detail follows from the fact that wholeness everywhere precedes parts (4 6h6rqS navtaxo6 npoqyeirai zcjv pcpbv). In short, the unhypothesized state - recalling the Republic - constitutes an imitation of the first demiurgy described in the Timaeus while the

28

29 Proclus, In

Proclus, In Tim.186.19-87.15. Tim.198.29-99.2.

30

31 Proclus, In 32

Proclus, In Tim.1200.3-201.14. Tim.1201.14-203.10. Proclus, In Tim.I 193.25-194.5.

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hypothesis of the Athenians - anticipating the Critias - represents an indication of the second demiurgy narrated in the T i m ~ e u s . ~ ~ As specific instances of the relation between language and reality one might cite Proclus interpretations of certain phrases in the Platonic text. First, there is the repetition 0Solon, Solon. This phrase has a double significance in suggesting not only a striving beyond measure in what is to be said but also the circulation of all things from the same to the same.34 Secondly, there is the word briefly which represents a synoptic trace of the intellectual partlessness ( u u v o n z ~ ~ b iV6ahpa v zfis v o & p &&p&p&iag). ~ Among further instances of the relation between language and reality one could mention Proclus interpretation of certain names. Thus, the Athenians are associated in the binary structure with the Olympians because Athene was the leader of the Olympians. The Atlantians are associated in that same structure with the Titans because Atlas was a Titan.35 The Neoplatonic realist view of the relation between text and object is documented more extensively in a passage from the second book of Proclus commentary on the Timaeus. In commenting upon Platos teaching that, since words in order to be interpreters (6[qyqrai) of things must be akin ( [ u y y ~ v e i ~ to ) them, the opposition between a relatively stable paradigm and a relatively unstable image must be paralleled by an opposition between two similarly contrasted modes of discourse, Proclus develops an elaborate argument first concerning the twofold relation between things and words, and secondly concerning the threefold relation between things, perceptions, and words - this part of the discussion including further subdivision within the three classes.36 Taking his starting-pointfrom Platos statement regarding the kinship of words and things, Proclus asks why the speaker in the Timaeus found it necessary to specify the character of his discourse before unfolding the demiurgy. The answer depends on analogies. Just as the Demiurge first produces the invisible principles of life and then brings the visible into existence, so does Timaeus first apply himself to the contemplation of things and then adapt the character of his words to the things.37 A similar point is made in a different register. Just as the multiplicity of intramundane things arises from the One and then proceeds to its appropriate number, so does Timaeus exposition - rendering itself similar to reality as he himself teaches - arise from the single axiom and the universal and then introduce division into the discourse.38 However, Proclus commentary immediately moves from the duality of things and words to the triplicity of things, perceptions,and words and thereby supplements the ontological and the linguistic with an epistemological component.39

33 Proclus, In Tim. I 196.4-29.Festugikre ad loc. correctly interprets the relation between the unhypothesized and the hypothesis as that between la dpublique sans fondement historique and la supposition actuelle oh nous prenons les Athkniens.
34 35
36

Proclus, In Tim. I 102.1-10.Cf. 103.13-17. Proclus, In Tim. I 148.25-149.8;173.15-28. Proclus, I n Tim. I 340.1~ff. Proclus, In Tim. 1339.21-29. Proclus, In Tim. 1340.16-21. Proclus, In Tim. 1339.14-16.

37 38 39

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151

Regarding things, the Neoplatonic commentator notes that Plato sometimes contrasts the two levels of being and becoming and sometimes the two levels of paradigm and image! Proclus here subdivides becoming - in order to produce agreement with statements in the Protugorus and Republic - into four levels: i. image ( E ~ K ~ v apparently ), equivalent to sensible form; ii. imitation ( ~ K ~ u T ~a vnatural ) , but derivative thing; iii. manufactured object ( ~ e x v q t 6 v )for example: a bed; and iv. manufactured object ( T E X V ~ T ~ V )for , example: a drawing of a bed. Discourses concerning types i, ii, and iii have probability ( ~ o I K E v ~ ~ those ); concerning types ii, iii, and iv involve conjecture (ei~cireiv)! Regarding words, Proclus explains that the two levels of stable (p6vtpoi) and probable (E~K~TC words ~ ) correspond to the two levels of things!* However, these must be understood in relation to a more complex hierarchy. First, among the gods there is the angel of Zeus: a word which, in relation to the intellect of the father, announces the fathers will to the secondaries; secondly, there is among beings the soul which is the word of the intelligibles (A6yoG TOVvoqzOv) and reveals the unified cause of its own words; and third, among the kinds superior to us there is the angelic order: a word which, deriving its existence from the gods, interprets directly and transmits their ineffability. Because of this hierarchy it is reasonable for our word of things (66e 6 A6yoc 6 TOV~ ~ p a y p b t oto v) be akin to things as their offspring so to speak.43 Regarding perceptions - which now appear as a third term between words and things - the situation is more complex. Here, the Neoplatonic commentator explains that to the two levels of things correspond sometimes the two levels of intellection (v6qaic) and opinion (66[a),sometimes the two levels of truth (&h48ew) and belief (TCCUTI~), and sometimes the two levels of knowledge (67ciarljpq) and probable discourse (ekaToAoyia). But truth is further subdivided.u Its highest level is unitary truth: the light proceeding from the Good which supplies purity - according to the Philebus - and unification - according to the Republic - to the intelligibles. The next level of truth is that which comes from the intelligibles and illuminates the intellectual order: this is received primarily by the substance without shape, colour, or tangibility and the plain of truth described in the Phaedrus. The third level is truth naturally joined to souls: the truth grasping being through intellection and the knowable through kn~wledge.~ This doctrine of truth which Proclus finds in Plato has two major implications: that truth is relative, since what is irrefutable(&vdbyKzoc) on the level of our soul or understanding is refuted (6AdyXeTat) on the level of intellect or the object itself;46 and that truth is a continuum, since light from the intelligible fills the intellectual space and light from the intellectual fills the psychic s p a ~ e . Belief 4 ~ also is further subdivided. On the one hand, there is the mode of perception included in the divided-line of
40 Proclus, In 41

Tim.1344.28-345.1. Proclus, In Tim.I 343.18-27. Festugikre rightly notes ad loc. that Proclus envisages two levels of manufactured object in his classification. 42 Proclus, In Tim.1339.14-16.
Proclus, In Tim.I 341.9-24 (reading hdyov with Diehl in 1. 15). Proclus, In Tim.1339.14-16;1344.28-345.1;1345.28-346.3. 45 Proclus, In Tim.1347.20-348.7. Proclus, In Tim.1342.25-343.15. 47 Proclus. In Tim.1347.20-28.
43

152

ANCIENT APPROACHES TO PLATOS TIMAEUS

the Republic. This is essentially an irrational (&Aoyos) knowledge. On the other hand, there is the mode of perception which the Timaeus contrasts with truth. This is a rational (AoytKfi) knowledge although, in employing sensation and conjecture, it is blended with irrational knowledge (auppiyvurat 6E npbs r&q hA6you< yvcjo~ts).~ To what epistemologicalconclusion does all this lead? That the visible cosmos of Platos dialogue is perceived as a soul characterized by both truth and belief: truth of the third level coextensive with belief of the rational kind. In the first book of his commentary on the Timaeus, Proclus has finally to deal, regarding this Platonic dialogue, with the status of its object as object. In fact, the Neoplatonic writer envisions three such objects. The first object is nature (cpduts). As the commentator explains, nature was a controversial issue among earlier thinkers since Antiphon had identified it with matter and Aristotle with form. Plato, however, had placed it between soul and the corporeal and considered it as the last of the causes fabricating the corporeal and the sensitive and as the limit of the realm of incorporeal essences. Like other principles in the Proclean system, nature subsists through participation in a number of levels. It is a god by being divinized but not having divinity through itself ( 6 ~ ... 6t@ ~ 66 h&&OfiUbat ~ a06 i , a6z66&vexovoa t b d v a t 6 ~ 6 s) a mode of divinity which is also attributed to the heavenly bodies and to the statues of the gods. To employ the language of the Orphic religion, nature has proceeded from the life-giving goddess (npoeAfiAubev Q x b tqg Cqoy6vou O.E&C) Rhea. It is alternatively viewed as a third demiurge (6qptoupy65) and as a third demiurgic art (rdxvq 6 q p t 0 ~ p y t ~ f i the ) , first demiurge and demiurgic art being the Demiurge himself, the second demiurge and demiurgic art being the intellectual soul. This doctrine represents a reading of certain Chaldaean oracles. Although nature can be defined according to Plato as an incorporeal substance, inseparable from bodies and containing their reasons, not capable of seeing itself (06uia Qa6paro<,a x 6 p t o r o ~ oopbrov, A6youS e ~ o u a a aGr3v, Cavrfiv bp&v06 6uvapdvq), the fact that its more divine aspect had been noted by Orphic and Chaldaean texts is of great importance to students of the Timaeus. On this basis, the reading of the dialogues must be simultaneously physical and the0logical.4~ The second object described by the text of the Timaeus is the demiurgy (bqptoupyia) itself. The commentary on this description extends to many pages and Proclus understands the production of the cosmos as divided into two phases: the first demiurgy which is the work of the Demiurge Zeus - according to the Proclean metaphysical hierarchy the third member of the first triad in the hypostasis of Intellect - and includes the making of the body of the world and the making of the soul of the world together with the fashioning of Time and

48
49

Proclus, In Tim. 1346.3-347.2.

Proclus, In Tim. I 10.5-12.25. Cf. In Tim. I 8.9-13. For Proclus mapping of the spiritual world on the basis of religious texts see L. Brisson, Proclus et IOrphisme, Proclus. Lecreur et Interprtk above n.lO, 43-104; and La place des Oracles Chaldalques dans la Thkologie Platonicienne,Proclus er la Thkologie Pluronicienne, above n.4, 109-62.
50 Proclus, In

Tim. 1355.16-458.11.

STEPHEN GERSH: PROCLUS COMMENTARY ON THE TIMAEUS

153

- according to the Proclean hierarchy of reality the third level within the hypostasis of soul

of the encosmic gods5;and the second demiurgy5which is the work of the encosmic gods

- and includes the making of individual mortal lives.53 In order to find detailed information

about these processes one can now benefit from the excellent analyses of L e r n ~ u l d . ~ ~ The third object is binary structure ( ~ u ~ t o t ~ i kAs x ) .the commentator explains, a structure extends from the highest-to the lowest level of reality whereby pairs of terms are somehow both united to one another and have acquired opposite status (K& qvorai TCWC all$.ots K& kvriberov &lax& cp60tv).~~ The resulting binarities can be understood according to individual levels of being: for example, on the level of the gods the Olympians are opposed to the Titans, on that of Intellect sameness is opposed to otherness and rest to motion, and on that of Soul the rational is opposed to the i r r a t i ~ n a lThe . ~ ~ binarities are understood in different ways by different groups of thinkers since the opposition of monad and dyad or of superior and inferior is Pythagorean, that of limit and unlimited goes back to Plato, while that of Ether and Chaos or of Olympians and Titans is or phi^.'^ Moreover, the structural binarities can be understood according to combinations of levels of being: for example, in relation to the opposition of incorporeal and corporeal there is within the incorporeal an opposition of more intellectual and more materiate and within the corporeal an opposition of celestial realm and realm of be~oming.~ Proclus finds all this symbolized in the recapitulation of the Republic and the myth of the Atlantians, the uniting of the pairs of terms being more especially the signified of the former and the opposition of those pairs more particularly the signified of the latter.59However, the binary structure is an underlying feature of the cosmology described throughout Platos great dialogue.
University of Notre Dame

51 For the body of the world see Proclus, In Tim. II 5.31-102.3, for the soul of the world In Tim. I1 102.5-316.4, for 1 1 1.4-96.32, and for the encosmic gods In Tim. III 97.1-199.12. Time In Tim. 1

Proclus, In Tim. III 199.13-356.28.


53

For individual mortal Lives see Proclus, In Tim. 1 1 1304.3-356.28. The second demiurgy also includes the Demiurge Zeus production of individual immortal souls. 54 See especially Lernould, Physique et Th6ologie.above n. 1.44-5 1. 55 Proclus, In Tim. 177.25-80.10. 56 Proclus, In Tim. I 174.3-6. 57 Proclus, In Tim. I 174.12-22. 58 Proclus, In Tim. 178.19-26. 59 Proclus is very explicit in relating different parts of the Timueus to different metaphysical objects. He maintains the following: 1. The recapitulation of the Republic, the myth of the Atlantians, and the main cosmology all describe one demiurgy (In Tim. 172.19-26);2. The recapitulation of the Republic and the myth of the Atlantians both describe the binary structure, although the former is concerned with the unification and the latter with the opposition within the a s as right for Plato to describe the production of the world first in its multiplicity pairs (In Tim. 178.14-19); 3. It w a s for him to describe its production first in images and then in paradigms (In Tim. I and secondly in its unity as it w 79.22-6). Of course, multiplicity and images are associated with the recapitulation and the myth, and unity and paradigms with the main cosmology. See above, n. 13.

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