Not quite medieval, not quite logic: Proclus’s commentary on Euclid

Earlier this week I was following up on some notes I’d scribbled down over a month ago in a meeting with a colleague, one of which was “Proclus: Image in the water”.

A bit of googling later, and I found myself with a translation into English of Proclus’s commentary on the first book of Euclid’s Elements, along with, per the title page, “A History of the Restoration of Platonic Theology” by the later Platonists, and a translation of Proclus’s “Theological Elements”, courtesy of googlebooks. (Thanks, googlebooks!) Cool! On the face of it, it’s neither medieval nor logic, but it’s definitely something related to both and thus of interest to me.

Someone asked me on twitter who the translator was, and the answer turns out to be…I have no idea. The translator does not name himself on the title page, despite the fact that the publication info is given as “London, printed for the author” and I’m sure that the ‘author’ here isn’t Proclus!, and that there is an extensive preface, where the translator discusses the “great difficulty and labour” that attended his work, arising from the problematic state of his sources. (He laments the “great incorrectness” of the Greek edition and notes that he was substantially assisted by the translation into Latin by Francis Barocius the Venetian, done in 1560. There is otherwise no evidence as to the translator in the frontmatter, and there isn’t much out there elsewhere on google about 18th C translators of Proclus, so I thought I’d take a skim through the book to see if I could find any other clues.

Following the preface there is a “Dissertation on the Platonic Doctrine of Ideas” and after that a “Dissertation on the Demonstrative Syllogism” (!) which includes as part of it a substantial epistemological discussion. This is followed by a third discussion, “On the Nature of the Soul”, and a fourth on “The True End of Geometry”.

These four dissertations concluding, we next have a translation of Marinus’s “Life of Proclus, Or, Concerning Felicity”, and at this point I’m half-way through the PDF and am beginning to wonder just exactly when we’re going to get to the actual texts of Proclus. After Marinus’s biography, the translator gives us a bibliography of Proclus’s works, both available (whether fragmentary or not) and lost. (One of the lost books is a commentary on On Interpretation, which would’ve been really interesting!). Finally, nearly 2/3 of the way through the PDF, we get to Proclus’s commentaries, which comprise the rest of the volume. One can only hope that the next volume has the answer — I shall have to see if I can find it. Meanwhile, I might devote a future post to a discussion of the Dissertation on the Demonstrative Syllogism because it appears to be quite interesting.

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3 Responses to Not quite medieval, not quite logic: Proclus’s commentary on Euclid

  1. George Boys-Stones says:

    Might it be Thomas Taylor? (A. Colleague)


    • George Boys-Stones says:

      PS: Proclus, /On the Timaeus/ iii. 330. 10-24 Diehl: “It is as if someone standing on a promontory should cause his image and shape to appear in a flowing river, keeping his face still while the stream as it moved changed his image every which way so that it presented it in different ways at different moments — skewed and straight, fragmented and whole, as chance would have it. Seeing this, the man might think that he was really undergoing these things, though he was only looking at his shadow in the water; and the thought would make him anguished, disturbed, perplexed, frustrated. The soul is in the same case when it sees its image in the body being carried along in the river of becoming and changed all the time by passions arising from within and by external forces. The soul is actually unchanged, but it thinks itself changed because it does not know itself and thinks that it is its own image. It becomes disturbed, perplexed and bewildered.” [my tr.]

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thomas Taylor it is! Someone on twitter found this for me:


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