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Title: Studies on the 5th and 6th essays of Proclus' Commentary on the Republic
Author: Sheppard, Anne D. R.
ISNI:       0000 0001 2277 7177
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1976
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Introduction: After a brief statement that Proclus' 5th and 6th essays deal with Plato's discussions of poetry in the Republic, some remarks are made about the continuing interest and relevance of Platonic and Neoplatonic attitudes to art, the background to Proclus' work and the problems of studying Neoplatonic commentaries. The contents of the thesis are summarised and related to these remarks and some important recent bibliography is mentioned. Chapter 1. The Form of the Essays and their Scholastic Context: The chapter opens with a discussion of C. Gallavotti's view that Proclus' Commentary on the Republic is a heterogeneous collection of essays and that the 5th and 6th essays differ in their nature and purpose. This view is essentially accepted and the two essays are then examined separately as regards their form and their scholastic context. The 5th essay ia related to the " genre" of problems in the exposition of a philosophical authority exemplified by Πλτινικ of Plutarch and some of the Quaestiones of Alexander of Aphrodisias. It goes together with eleven of the other essays in the collection to form an introductory course on the Republic for students in the Platonic school. The 6th essay is similarly related to this "genre" of philosophical problems and also to the tradition of exposition of problems in Homer. It is shown to be the written up version of a lecture delivered to the Platonic school on Plato's birthday. After dealing with the question why Proclus wrote no continuous commentary on the Republic the chapter concludes with a discussion of the dating of the two essays. Chapter 2. The Text of Homer and the Text of Plato: Proclus' quotations from Homer and Plato are analysed in order to discover whether his text of these authors differed from ours. Our knowledge of the history of the text of Homer suggests that Proclus' Homer was essentially the vulgate text. This is borne out by the detailed examination of his quotations. Problems and variants are found principally in those quotations which also occur in Plato and examination of Proclus' Plato quotations reveals that his text of Plato differed significantly from ours and agrees with no one branch of the medieval tradition. This is fitted in with the general conclusions drawn by modern scholars about the Neoplatonic text of Plato. Chapter 3. Proclus' debt to Syrianus: This chapter is divided into five sections. In section (i) the problem of the relationship between the ideas of Proclus and those of Syrianus is set out and some views of it are discussed. Proclus' references to Syrianus in the 6th essay are examined and it is shown that Syrianus did not write anything of precisely the same format as Proclus' essay. Section (ii) analyses the four interpretations of Homer which Proclus refers explicitly to Syrianus, the Theomachy, Agamemnon's dream, the union of Zeus and Hera on Mount Ida and the unseemly behaviour of Achilles. In section (iii) conclusions are drawn from these analyses: Syrianus developed allegory of Homer in terms of transcendent metaphysical entities and Proclus was largely taking this over, adding some refinements and adaptations. Some more of Proclus' interpretations of Homer are attributed to Syrianus on the basis of these conclusions. Section (iv) deals with Proclus' debt to Syrianus in the interpretation of Plato. More passages of the 6th essay are analysed: pp. 155.25-156.9; 166.12-167.9; 168.3-169.24 (with 117.27-122.20); 169.25-170.26; and 173.4-177.3. The conclusion is drawn that Proclus is again following and adapting Syrianus, who in this sphere was closely following earlier interpretation. In section (v) it is argued that the theory of three types of poetry, developed at the end of the 6th essay, is Proclus' own. Syrianus had distinguished between two types, inspired and uninspired, and Proclus splits inspired poetry in two to create a new classification of inspired, didactic and mimetic. Chapter 4. Proclus' interpretation of Plato: The 5th and 6th essays are examined separately to see what kind of problems Proclus deals with in interpreting Plato and how he resolves them. Much of the 5th essay is analysed in detail and it is shown how Proclus' interpretation there is related to the criticisms of Plato made by Aristotle and his followers, and to the rhetorical concepts and terminology of Proclus' own time. Proclus' attitude to irony in Plato and his belief in the unity of Plato's thought are also discussed. The 6th essay is then examined, particularly Book II (pp. 154-205). As in the 5th essay, Proclus expounds Plato by means of his own words in other contexts, displays knowledge of rhetoric and literary criticism and takes up earlier criticism of Plato. His view that Plato and Homer agree is discussed and related to the belief in one authoritative tradition which is expressed by different writers in different ways. Finally Proclus' interpretations in the 6th essay of the Cratylus and the Ion are discussed. Throughout the chapter Proclus 1 interpretation is evaluated and some comparisons are drawn with modern interpretations of Plato. Chapter 5. Allegory. Symbols and Mysteries: This chapter examines the terms Proclus uses for allegory. Most of them are taken from mystery religion and from theurgy. The traditional use of mystery-language in Greek philosophy is surveyed and it is argued that in Proclus the mystery metaphor forms a meaningful part of an organised philosophical terminology. Some discussion of Proclus' attitude to theurgy, including the problem of the relationship in later Neoplatonism between theurgy and the Plotinian ideal of intellectual contemplation, reinforces the point that Proclus is revitalising the traditional mysterylanguage. At the end of the chapter further aspects of Proclus' use of mystery-language are briefly considered: the distinction between inspired and educational myths and their respective audiences; the danger of misunderstanding both myths and mysteries; the part played in both by the demons; and the application of mystery-language to the interpretation of individual passages of Homer. Chapter 6. The Theory of Three Types of Poetry: An account of pp. 177.7-199.28 of the 6th essay is followed by discussion of the passages where Proclus gives Homeric examples of his three types of poetry and claims that Homer knew his poetic theory. Proclus' use of Homer here is related to the tradition of Homeric interpretation. The three concepts of inspired, didactic and mimetic poetry are then considered individually. Proclus' interest in inspired poetry itself rather than the psychological state of its creator and his definition of inspired poetry in terms of its content are contrasted with other views of inspiration, ancient as well as modern. A discussion of the relationship in Heoplatonic thought between poetic and prophetic inspiration leads to an examination of Proclus' different uses of the concept of inspiration and the view which he shares with Hermias that inspiration is a kind of mystical cognition, though at a lower level than full mystical union. This view is made possible by Proclus' theory of mysticism, in which divine assistance plays a more important role than in Plotinian mysticism. Proclus' didactic poetry is distinguished from the modern concept of didactic poetry as a genre, its subject-matter is discussed and it is contrasted with some eighteenth century views of didactic poetry. Proclus' mimetic poetry is shown to be based on Republic X and subdivided into eikastic and phantastic on the basis of Sophist 235d ff. His interpretations of the Sophist passage and of Laws II 661 c ff. are discussed. The final part of the chapter considers the theory of three types of poetry as a whole.
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Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
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