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Fragments that Remain of the Lost Writings of Proclus, by Thomas Taylor, [1825], at

In Defence of the Timæus of Plato, against the Objections made to it by Aristotle.

Aristotle objects to the very name of paradigm, asserting that it is metaphorical; and he is much more hostile to the dogma which introduces ideas, and particularly to that of animal itself, as is evident from what he says in his Metaphysics. And it appears, that this man is not so averse to any of the dogmas of Plato as he is to the hypothesis of ideas; not only in his Logical Treatises calling ideas sonorous trifles, but also in his Ethics contending against the existence of the good itself. In his Physics, likewise, he does not think it proper to refer the generations of things to ideas: for he says this in his Treatise on

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[paragraph continues] Generation and Corruption. And this his hostility to the doctrine of ideas * is much more apparent in his Metaphysics; because the discussion there is concerning principles: for there he adduces numerous arguments against ideas, in the beginning, middle, and end of that treatise. In his Dialogues, also, he most manifestly exclaims, that he cannot assent to this dogma, though some one may think that he speaks against it for the purpose of contention.


The maker always existing, that which is generated by him likewise always exists. For either God does not always make; or, he indeed always makes, but the universe is not always generated;  for, he always makes, and the universe is always generated. But if God does not always make, he will evidently be [at a certain time] an efficient in capacity, and again an efficient in energy, and he will be an imperfect Demiurgus, and indigent of time. I f, however, he always makes, but the

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universe is generated at a certain time, an impossibility will take place. For when that which makes is in energy, that which is generated will also be generated in energy. Both, therefore, exist always; the one being generated, and the other producing perpetually.

The world is always fabricated; and as the Demiurgus fabricated always, and still fabricates, so likewise the world is always fabricated, and now rising into existence, was generated, and, having been made, is always generated [or becoming to be]; so that the world is always fabricated. And as the Demiurgus always did fabricate, and still fabricates, so the world was always and is fabricated; and while it is becoming to be, was generated, and having been generated, is always generated.

Proclus assents to what is said by Aristotle concerning the perpetuity of the world; but he says it was not just in him to accuse Plato. For to be generated, does not signify, with Plato, the beginning of existence, but a subsistence in perpetually becoming to be. For the natures which are established above time, and which are eternal, have the whole of their essence and power, and the perfection of their energy, simultaneously present. But every thing which is in time has not its proper life collectively and at once present. For whatever is in time, though it should be

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extended to an infinite time, has an existence at a certain time. For that portion of being which it possesses exists in a certain time. For time is not [wholly] present at once; but is generated infinitely, and was not produced at a certain period in the past time. The universe, therefore, was thus generated, as not having a subsistence such as that of eternal beings, but as that which is generated, or becoming to be, through the whole of time, and always subsisting at a certain time, according to that part of time which is present. And again, the universe was generated, as not being the cause to itself of its existence, but deriving its subsistence from some other nature, which is the fourth signification of a generated essence; I mean that which has a cause of its generation.

But if Timæus [in Plato] calls the world a God which will be at a certain time (for perhaps this may give disturbance to some), and induce them to ask whether he gives to the world a generation in a part of time? For the once, or at a certain time, must be admitted by us to be a certain part of time. To this we reply, that every thing which is in time, whether in an infinite or in a finite time, will always exist at a certain time. For whatever portion of it may be assumed, this portion is in a certain time. For the whole of time

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does not subsist at once, but according to a part. If, therefore, any thing is in tine, though it should be extended to an infinite time, it has indeed an existence at a certain time. But it is generated, or becoming to be, to infinity, and is always passing froth an existence at one time * to an existence at another. And it was at a certain time, and is at a certain time, and will be at a certain time.  This existence too, at a certain time, is always different. The world, however, when it exists at a certain time, has a no less [continued] existence. Hence that which has its hypostasis in a part of time, at a certain time is becoming to be, and at a certain time is, and at a certain time will be. But that which exists in every time [or for ever] is 

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indeed at a certain time, but is always generated, or becoming to be; and in perpetually becoming to be, imitates that which always is.

This, therefore, alone ought to be considered, whether it is necessary to denominate a celestial body, and in a similar manner the whole world, a thing of a generated nature. But how is it possible not to assert this from the very arguments which Aristotle himself affords us? For he says that no finite body has an infinite power; and this he demonstrates in the eighth book of his Physics. If, therefore, the world is finite (for this he demonstrates), it is necessary that it should not possess an infinite power. But in the former part of this treatise we have shewn that eternity is infinite power. The world, therefore, has not an eternal subsistence, since it does not possess infinite power. If, however, it has not an eternal hypostasis, (for a thing of this kind participates of eternity, but that which participates of eternity participates of infinite power,) it is necessary that the world should not always be* For to exist always, is, according to Aristotle himself, the peculiarity of eternity, since, as he says, eternity

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from this derives its appellation. For that which is true of eternal being, is not true of that which is always generated [or becoming to be], viz. the possession of infinite power, through being perpetually generated, but this pertains to the maker of it. Hence, too, it is always generated, acquiring perpetuity of existence through that which, according to essence, is eternally being; but it does not possess perpetuity, so far as pertains to itself. So that the definition of that which is generated may also be adapted to the world. Every thing, therefore, which is generated, is indeed itself essentially entirely destructible; but being bound by true being, it remains in becoming to be, and the whole of it is a generated nature. Hence [though naturally destructible] it is not destroyed, in consequence of the participation of existence which it derives from true being. For, since the universe is finite, but that which is finite has not an infinite power, as Aristotle demonstrates; and as that which moves with an infinite motion moves with an infinite power, it is evident that the immovable cause of infinite motion to the universe, possesses itself an infinite power; so that, if you conceive the universe to be separated from its immovable cause, it will not be moved to infinity, nor will it possess an infinite power, but will have a cessation of its motion. It; however,

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you again conjoin this cause with the universe, it will be moved to infinity through it. Nor is there any absurdity in separating by conception things which are conjoined, in order that we may perceive what will happen to the one from the other; and, in consequence of perceiving this, may understand what the inferior nature possesses from itself, and what it derives, from its co-arrangement, from that which is superior to it. For, in short, since, in terrestrial natures, we see that they are partly corrupted through imbecility, and are partly preserved through power, much more will perpetuity and immortality * be inherent in things incorruptible, through infinite power: for every finite power is corrupted.


For the celestial fire is not caustic, but, as I should say, is vivific, in the same manner as the heat which is naturally inherent in us. And Aristotle himself, in his Treatise on the Generation of Animals, says, that there is a certain illumination from which, being present, every mortal

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nature lives. All heaven, therefore, consists of a fire of this kind; but the stars have, for the most part, this element, yet they have also the summits of the other elements. * Moreover, if we likewise consider, that earth darkens all illuminative natures, and produces shadow, but that the elements which are situated between earth and fire being naturally diaphanous, are the recipients of both darkness and light, and yet are not the causes of either of these to bodies, but that fire alone is the supplier of light, in the same manner as earth is of darkness, and that these are at the greatest distance from each other,—if we consider this, we may understand how the celestial bodies are naturally of a fiery characteristic. For it is evident that they illuminate in the same manner as our sublunary fire. If, however this is common to both, it is manifest that the fire which is here, is allied to the fire of the celestial bodies. It is not proper, therefore, to introduce to the universe a celestial nature, as something foreign to it, but placing there the summits of sublunary natures, we should admit that the elements which are here, derive their generation through an alliance to the nature of the celestial orbs.


3:* See my Dissertation on the Philosophy of Aristotle, in which the opposition of Aristotle to Plato's doctrine of ideas is shewn to have been employed for the purpose of guarding from misapprehension, arid not of subverting that doctrine.

3:† Proclus here uses the word γινεται, generated, because the universe, on account of the flowing condition of its nature, is always rising into existence, or becoming to be.

6:* In the original, αλλ᾽ ουποτε εις αλλο αει μεθισταμενον. But the sense requires (and this is confirmed by the version of Mahotius,) that we should read, conformably to the above translation, αϖο του ϖοτε εις αλλο, κ.τ.λ..

6:† The corporeal world is continually rising into existence, or becoming to be, but never possesses real being. Hence, like the image of a tree in a rapid torrent, it has the appearance of a tree without the reality, and seems to endure perpetually the same, yet is continually renewed by the continual renovation of the stream. The world therefore was, and is, and will be at a certain time, in the same manner as it may be said of the image of a tree in a torrent, that it was yesterday, is to-day, and will be to-morrow, without any interruption of the continuity of its flux. Philoponus, not perceiving this, has, with his usual stupidity, opposed what is here said by Proclus.

7:* In the original, αναγκη μη ειναι τον κοσμον αει. For the world is not always, αλλα γιγνεται αει, i.e. but is always becoming to be, or, rising into existence; since it has not an eternal sameness of being, but a perpetually flowing subsistence.

9:* In the original, πολλῳ μαλλον εν τοις αφθαρτοις η αφθαρσια δια δυναμιν δηλονοτι απειρον. But from the version of Mahotius,—which is, "Multo magis his, quæ non intereunt, conveniat perpetuitas, atque immortalitas, propter vires, easque infinitas,"—it appears that, for η αφθαρσια, it is requisite to read η αϊδιοτης και αθανασια, agreeably to the above translation.

10:* Viz. the sublunary elements have, in the stars and in the heavens, a causal subsistence. See more on this subject in the third book of my translation of Proclus on the Timæus of Plato.

Next: Extracts from the commentary of Simplicius on Aristotle