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Related to Proclus: Archimedes, Euclid, Plotinus


(prō`kləs), 410?–485, Neoplatonic philosopher, b. Constantinople. He studied at Alexandria and at Athens, where he was a pupil of the Platonist Syrianus, whom he succeeded as a teacher. As a partisan of paganism he was forced to leave Athens, but he returned at the end of a year. A synthesizer of Neoplatonic doctrines, Proclus gave the philosophy its most systematic form. He kept the elements of Plotinus, but introduced a principle of triadic development in the series of emanations; the three stages are an original, an emergence from the original, and a return in a lower form to the original. Proclus differed from Plotinus in regard to the origin of matter, which he held to emerge from the first emanation rather than from the plastic forces. Among his writings are commentaries on several Platonic dialogues and two treatises, On Plato's Theology and Institutes of Theology. See NeoplatonismNeoplatonism
, ancient mystical philosophy based on the doctrines of Plato. Plotinus and the Nature of Neoplatonism

Considered the last of the great pagan philosophies, it was developed by Plotinus (3d cent. A.D.).
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See Fragments of the Lost Writings of Proclus (ed. by R. Navon, tr. by T. Taylor, 1987).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Born circa 410 in Constantinople; died 485 in Athens. Classical idealist philosopher; representative of the Athenian school of Neoplatonism.

The most important of Proclus’ known works include Elements of Theology (most recent edition, Oxford, 1965; Russian translation in A. F. Losev, History of Classical Aesthetics, vol. 3: High Classicism, 1974) and Platonic Theology (most recent edition, Frankfurt am Main, 1960). Also among the most important of his known works are commentaries on the Platonic dialogues Timaeus (vols. 1–3, Leipzig, 1903–06) and Parmenides (most recent edition, 1961).

Proclus is historically important for his universal, constructive dialectical analysis of the entire system of Neoplatonism. All aspects of his philosophy are dominated by the triadic method, which is reducible to the consistent assertion of three elements, the first of which may be described as self-absorption, cause, the absolutely unified One, the existing totality, the paternal principle, or potentiality. The second of the triadic elements is emergence from the self, emanation beyond the limits of the self, causation (activity connecting the self with reality distinct from the self), the transition of the unified One into its many appearances, the principle of disintegration, the maternal principle, or energy. The third triadic element is the return from the world of appearances to the self; the emanation of disintegrated plurality into the absolutely unified One, which is infinitely varied within itself; and the eidos, or eternal, all-inclusive (structural) essence. Using the triadic method, Proclus analyzed each member of Plotinus’ universal triad—Unity (the One), the Intelligence (nous), and the Soul. For example, Proclus distinguishes the absolutely unknowable concept of “the One” from that of a “unity” containing a certain degree of plurality but lacking any qualities. The concept of “unity” refers only to the energy of differentiation and disintegration, which precedes Intelligence (differentiation). Proclus was the first Neoplatonist to assign this concept of “unity” to an independent stage of an “emanation” of the One—the realm of numbers, or “superexisting unities.”

Proclus also differentiated three aspects of the concept of “the Intelligence.” The first aspect is the Intelligence as self-absorption, the “intelligible” Intelligence as “being” or object. The second aspect is Intelligence as emergence from the self, the thinking or “intellectual” Intelligence, or Intelligence as subject. The third aspect is Intelligence as the return into the self, as the identity of being and thought or object and subject, and as “life,” “eternity,” or “life in itself.”

In his dialectic of mythology Proclus established three triads of gods. Owing to the triadic division of its first two members, the third triad constituted a group of seven (a hebdomad), each aspect of which was also divided into seven elements. Thus, the third triad of gods consisted of 49 god-intelligences.

According to Proclus, the world of the Soul is also triadic. There are divine souls (the “reigning,” “absolute,” and “intracosmic” gods), demonic souls (angels, devils, and heroes), and human souls.

As the quintessence of Neoplatonism, Proclus’ system, with its method of thinking, had a comprehensive influence on the development of medieval philosophy, from the Areopagite’s works to Michael Psellus, I. Petritsi, and Nicholas of Cusa.


Opera inedita. Edited by V. Cousin. Paris, 1864.


Rosán, L. J. The Philosophy of Proclus. New York, 1949. (Bibliography.)
Beierwaltes, W. Proklos: Grundzüge seiner Metaphysik. Frankfurt am Main, 1965.
Bastid, P. Proclus et le crépuscule de la pensée grecque. Paris, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


?410--485 ad, Greek Neo-Platonist philosopher
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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As a consequence it has been ascribed at least in part to, among others, Zosimus,(6) Didymus Chalcenterus,(7) Caecilius Calactinus,(8) or Proclus.(9)
His most controversial claim, but quite possibly the inspiration for this entire book, is that "Proclus's praise of Plotinus as leading the way in the exegesis of the Platonic relevation is essentially correct." If the leading Platonist was right about Plato, then Plato was indeed a Platonist.
They include discussions of Plotinus on quality and immanent form, a comparison between Plotinus and Proclus on causality and sensible objects, some fundamental principles of the Neoplatonic philosophy of nature, Proclus on movers and divisibility as the integration of Aristotelian physics in Neoplatonic context, and Proclus on matter and physical necessity.
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He, however, prefers to see al-Kirmani as himself a Neoplatonist and thus to trace the suspect or problematic doctrines to Neoplatonic sources - particularly, for him, the writings of Proclus - rather than admit that al-Kirmani was personally (and solely) responsible for the adjustment necessary between the one system of thought - for the Ismailis a newer and more Aristotelian approach - with an older Neoplatonism.
gives us a helpful look at the antecedent uses of the term "energy" in Proclus, Philo, Didymus, the Cappadocians, and Pseudo-Dionysius.
Concluding that Proclus or his sources had made a mistake in his statement that the main events of the Panathenaia occurred on the 28th of the month ([Unknown Words Omitted] In Ti.
Was not Peter the Fuller the patriarch who not only asserted jurisdiction over Cyprus but also anathematized Chalcedon at his consecration and then, to please Apollinarians, dared to add to the Trisagion, divinely revealed in the time of Proclus of Constantinople: 'Adding to divine oracles is dangerous'?
They were Platonic, mostly concerning Plato himself, but one ventures into Proclus and Plotinus.
The second treats key figures and moments in this broad historical sweep, starting with the dialectics of Plato and Aristotle and moving to the medieval period to place "Plotinus, Proclus, Pseudo-Dionysus, Eriugena, Eckhart, Hegel, and Heidegger all within the same long traditional of dialectical thinking," before closing with a helpful coda on Kant that further underscores the distinctiveness and importance of Hegel's reconstruction of the medieval dialectic.