Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2018.08.39 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2018.08.39

Concetta Luna, Alain Philippe Segonds †, Proclus. Commentaire sur le "Parménide" de Platon. Tome VI, Livre VI. Collection des universités de France. Série grecque, 533​.   Paris:  Les Belles Lettres, 2017.  Pp. cxv, 472.  ISBN 9782251006130.  €55,00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Peter Lautner, Pázmány Péter Catholic University​ (

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The book contains a new critical edition of the sixth book of Proclus’ commentary on the Parmenides with translation, introduction and ample annotations.

Book 6 of the commentary (1039.1-1134.1 in Cousin’s edition) deals with the beginning of the first hypothesis (137c4-142a8). On Parmenides’ account, if the One exists, we have to draw five negative conclusions; (i) the One is not many, (ii) it is not a whole and has no parts, (iii) it has no beginning, middle or end, (iv) it is infinite and (v) it has no shape. Luna’s introduction gives a clear overview of the structure of Proclus’ argument, ending with a table showing the attribution of the properties mentioned in Plato’s dialogue of the One to divine classes. The textual notes divide into four sections, on the less significant variants in Σ (the hyparchetype of Greek mss.), on isolated readings in ms. A (Parisinus graecus 1810, a crucial manuscript), on readings in Moerbeke’s Latin translation (13th c.) that deviate from the Greek, and, finally, on the differences in the text in the Budé edition and the OCT (there are quite a few, approximately 385). The volume also contains two sets of scholia, one in Σ (in mss. AFRGP), the other, most interestingly, by Bessarion. They are most useful. Bessarion’s notes have already been studied and partially, on Books 2 and 3, edited as well.1 As for those on this book, they consist mostly of markers. To mention but one exception, he gives a figural presentation to the syllogistic argument that the One is not a whole and does not have parts (1104.21-30). Occasionally, the notes can also be funny; on reading 1075.23 ff., where Proclus arguing that higher hypostasis produces the lower one even without possessing the crucial quality of that (i.e. the One is not multiple, Intellect is not ensouled and soul is not extended), the anonymous scholiast, undoubtedly a devout Christian, has got nothing to add except for this: ἑλληνικὸς ὕθλος ταῦτα· Πρόκλε σοφώτατε.

The divergences from the OCT are due to different assessments about the relation of ms. A (Parisinus graecus 1810) to the other family of manuscripts descending from the hyparchetype Σ, and hence about the value of Moerbeke’s translation. Sometimes, they give considerably divergent meanings. A few samples may be instructive. (1) In 1053.11, Luna gives σύστοιχος with Moerbeke’s coelementale for στοιχειώδης in Σ. The preference is not very well argued for and may not fit the line of argument either. It says that enmattered form is a principle. It goes on, in Luna’s reading, that, if enmattered form is correlated (corrélé), then matter is also a principle. In the preceding lines, however, we do not find any note on correlation. We have instead a list of principles with enmattered form being the last remnant (ὑπόλοιπον, 1053.6) of principles. In the list, enmattered form and matter are not at the same level and therefore cannot be correlated as members of a συστοιχία are. Instead, they constitute an ordered series. In this sense, enmattered form can rightly be called elementary. It is elementary, just as the matter is. Moerbeke’s ‘co-elementary’ may get us closer, although it does not reflect the prior-posterior relations in the series. (2) In 1059.26 Σ gives us ἕν while Luna prefers ὄν. Her choice is based on Moerbeke’s translation (ens). The text thus will say something different; with ὄν it says that if there is no intelligible entity, then what exists (τὸ ὄν) will be perceptible, whereas with ἕν it says that lack of intelligibles entails that the One (τὸ ἕν) is perceptible. The latter option is clearly absurd. Given the status of the soul, the former conclusion, that everything that exists is perceptible, may not follow. (3) In 1076.19 Luna prints μέγα, whereas both Σ and Moerbeke read μέλαν (nigrum). In a separate note (pp. 266-7, n. 1) she explains it by saying that just as λευκόν is contrasted with ἀχρώματον, ἀδιάστατον also requires an opposite. Thus, the text may say that nature is neither white nor big, but colourless and unextended. We cannot rule it out that it might be the case, but if we have in mind that colour is linked to surface, which implies extension, we do not need Luna’s emendation. (4) In 1115.29 she writes οὐκ αὐτό, while both Σ and Moerbeke have οὐ καθ᾽ αὑτό (non secundum se). The passage connects the interpretation of 137d to the Platonic Second Letter (312e). It says that the first principle is beginning, middle, and end of other things, but it (or it in itself) cannot be divided into beginning, middle, and end. So far, the emendation has no obvious reason. Luna justifies it by saying that the point is not that the One does not divide by itself into beginning, middle, and end, but that it does not divide at all (369). To put it otherwise, when we are talking about such phases in respect of the One, we do not mean parts of the One, but the relations that things have towards the One. (5) In 1128.38 she writes ἐξῃρημένος, although both Σ and Moerbeke have ἐξῃρημένη (exaltata). The feminine refers to the ἀρχὴ πάντων (1128.36), the masculine to the νοητὸς νοῦς (1128.33) which is called the principle of all.

The editors have made use of the unpublished conjectures of L. G. Westerink as well.2 On occasion, they prefer it both to Σ and to A (and Moerbeke). Two samples will suffice. In 1120.22, Luna follows Westerink’s conjecture ἐννοήσας for γεννήσας in Σ and Moerbeke (generans). To keep close to the manuscript version, the OCT gives γεννητικήν which goes with αἰτίαν.3 Westerink’s conjecture, just as the version in Σ and Moerbeke, refers to the person who is supposed to go up to the primary source of infinity and look at things from this perspective. As γεννήσας does not make much sense in the context, the emendation is justified. It has been accepted by Dillon, too, who writes ‘cognizing’. In 1047.5 she reads ταὐτόν for the τοιοῦτον in both Σ and Moerbeke’s text (tale). The choice is reasonable because we are working in the context of the Sophist and one line below we read τῶν νοητῶν ταὐτότης. The text thus would say that the single principle of knowledge, the One, is not the same in the way the sameness of the intelligible entities is, which is a sameness implying plurality. With τοιοῦτον we shall have a considerably weaker thesis.

Luna’s translation is clear and runs well, and, except for one case, I have not found anything to disagree with. The notes are detailed. Some of them draws attention to Proclus’ innovations; in the note to 1040.28 (175, n. 3) she mentions that the conclusion saying that the One is both the same and different does not figure in any of the nine hypotheses. It would be interesting to see why Proclus advanced the conclusion. One simple reason is that he wanted to exploit all the logical possibilities to show that it impossible for all the affirmative and negative propositions to be true of the One if we take it in only one sense. Moreover, the syllogistic structure of some of Proclus’ arguments (e.g. 1099.9-14, 1104.23-30, 1125.13-25) has also been emphasized (307-8, 326-8, 400-1), although Proclus may have got some support for such procedure from the Parmenides itself, too (137d4-138a1). Some notes amount to short essays. There is a long discussion (pp. 220-26) of the identification of the ‘philosopher from Rhodes’ (1057.7) with Theodore of Asine (Saffrey)4 or with Thrasyllus the Platonist (Tarrant).5 She rejects both identifications, to my mind persuasively. Luna also points out (230-1, n. 7 to 1059.21-23) that the definition of the objects of hypotheses 6 and 9 comes from Plutarch of Athens who has already made a distinction between absolute not-being and not-being relative to something else. It leads to the conclusion that Syrianus’ innovations, taken over by Proclus, concern the 2nd and 3rd hypotheses only. In all likelihood, the interpretation of the other hypotheses was established by Plutarch.

Proclus’ long report (1106.2-1108.18) on those who felt the need to invest the One with some nature and specific character (ἰδιότης) has received considerable attention from many scholars. He mentions three groups, the first of them establishing the specific character by an analysis of the Intellect. They place νοότης (‘intellectuality’) above the Intellect as being simpler than that. In a way, it is a cause of intellection. Further down the line, they put νόημα as the most partless and closest to the One. Luna devotes a long series of notes to the whole section (330-8) and—rightly, as I see it—expresses reservation about the attribution of this view to Porphyry. The translation intellectification for νόημα (1106.11) is somewhat awkward especially given that the Greek term is widely used in ordinary context as well.6 Furthermore, just like the others referring to the same phenomenon (ἀγάθωμα, κάλλωμα, ταύτωμα and other neologisms mentioned in 1106.16) the term seems to refer to a product, not to thinking or intellection, which is more partless than either the thinking process or the thinker. An easy parallel could be κίνημα (1106.12) which is more partless than the mover itself. Dillon’s ‘thought’ seems to be more appropriate.

Finally, on the method of ἀφαίρεσις in the discussion of the One (1107.22) Luna makes a careful distinction between ἀφαίρεσις and ἀπόφασις, a proper term for negation (346-7). To clarify the method, the reference to in Remp. I. 285.15-286.7 is particularly helpful. On the other hand, if we follow her in translating ἀφαίρεσις as exclusion, we might not pay attention to the usage which is most prevalent in the Euclid commentary, where the term is appropriately translated as abstraction. Still, it is a question whether Proclus had two slightly different methods, both called ἀφαίρεσις, or whether there is only one method.

The volume closes with four indices, of names, places, terms and passages quoted in the introduction or in the notes. It is a fine edition of a highly important text. ​


1.   See C. Macé, P. d’Hoine and C. Steel, ‛Bessarion lecteur du commentaire de Proclus sur le Parménide, avec une édition des ses scholies aux livres II et III’, Byzantion 79 (2009), 241-79.
2.   They are used in the translation by G. R. Morrow and J. M. Dillon as well (Proclus’ Commentary on Plato’s Parmenides, Princeton: Princeton UP, 1987). On the conjectures, see also John Dillon’s review of Concetta Luna and Alain-Philippe Segonds, Proclus. Commentaire sur le Parménide de Platon, vol.3 (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2011), in BMCR 2012.05.26.
3.   In the critical apparatus they refer to Theol. Plat. V.22, p. 81.21 S-W: see Carlos Steel and Leen van Campe (eds.), Procli In Platonis Parmenidem Commentaria vol. 3 (Oxford: OUP, 2009).
4.   H. D. Saffrey, ‘Le “Philosophe de Rhodes” est-il Théodore d’Asiné? Sur un point obscur de l’histoire de l’exégèse néoplatonicienne du Parménide’ in E. Lucchesi and H. D. Saffrey (eds.), Mémorial André-Jean Festugière. Antiquité païenne et chrétienne (Geneva: Patrick Cramer, 1984), 65-76; and ‘Encore Théodore d’Asine sur le Parménide’ in L. Jerphagon, D. Delattre and J. Lagrée (eds.), Ainsi parlaient les Anciens. In honorem Jean-Paul Dumont (Lille: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 1994), 283-9.
5.   H. Tarrant, Thrasyllan Platonism (Ithaca; London: Cornell UP, 1993).
6.   The LSJ gives Iliad 10.104 as one of its first occurrences. ​

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