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THE NEW AND IMPROVED

PLATONIC THEOLOGY

PROCLUS ARABUS AND ARABIC ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY

Gerhard ENDRESS

Le sentiment de Proclus face la monte en puissance du


christianisme qu'il ne connaissait que par les administrations im-
priale et ecclsiastique, tait que cela ne pouvait pas durer bien
longtemps. La religion traditionnelle que Platon avait exprime
avec tant de bonheur, ne pouvait pas disparatre jamais, elle de-
vait revenir et connatre une complte renaissance. [...] Si devant la
socit de son temps, Proclus ressent "un renversement de la pi-
t", cela ne lui donne pas seulement la nostalgie du pass, mais
plutt l'espoir d'un retour des choses et la confiance dans l'avenir.
H. D. Saffrey, Proclus, diadoque de Platon , dans Proclus, lec-
teur et interprte des Anciens (Paris : CNRS, 1987), p. XVIII.

In an article published in 1973, Leendert Gerritt Westerink pre-


sented a summary made by the 6th century Latin grammarian
Priscianus of Proclus' treatise, lost in the Greek, on Plato's three
proofs of the immortality of the soul 1 An essentially identical,
though abbreviated version of the same text happened to be found
in a work of the tenth-century Arabie author Miskawayh, who re-
fers to the book of Proclus which he devoted especially to this
subject ; this was described and translated by Franz Rosenthal in

!. L. G. Westerink, Proclus on Plato's three proofs of immortality , in Zetesis :


Album amicorum, door vrienden en collega's aangeboden aan Prof. Dr. E. de Stry-
cker [...] ter gelegenheid van zijn vijfenzestigste verjaardag (Antwerpen, Utrecht :
. De Nederlandsche Boekhandel, 1973), p. 296-306, repr. in Westerink, Texts and
studies in Neoplatonism and Byzantine literature. Collected Papers. Amsterdam 1980,
p. 345-355. Proclus' treatise is the direct source of a passage in Priscianus' Solu-
tiones ad Chosroem, ed. I. Bywater, Supplementum Aristotelicum, 1, 2 (Berlin :
Reimer, 1886), c. XII, p. 47-49 (as announced by the author, p. 42. 19).
554 GERHARD ENDRESS

an earlier article 2, but authenticated and identified by Westerink


on the evidence of Priscianus. After comparing the testimonies of
the two sources, he concludes that the Arabie text does not add
much to our knowledge of Proclus' monograph; yet it is of interest
as a specimen of the vicissitudes of Greek philosophy in the Is-
lamic tradition 3 .
Indeed, the question may be put forward to an Arabist who will
face the challenge of historians of Neoplatonism, and of Hellenis-
tic thought in general : What can students of Ancient and Helle-
nistic Philosophy expect to learn from the Arabie tradition?
Not many texts lost in the original Greek have been retrieved
from Arabie translations. The most important discoveries in this
respect, some of which are remarkable indeed, are in the fields of
medicine and the mathematical sciences. The text discussed by
Westerink might be regarded as a case in point. But would schol-
ars have taken it seriously, or even identified its source, on the
evidence of Miskawayh's Arabie quotation ,al one? The first propo-
sition of Proclus' De aeternitate mundi, extant in two Arabie ver-

2. Franz Rosenthal, On the knowledge of Plato's philosophy in the Islamic


world , Jslamic Culture (Hyderabad: Da'iratu'l-Ma'arifi'l-Othmaniyya, 1940),
p. 387-422, repr. in Rosenthal, Greek philosophy in the Arab world (London : Vario-
rum, 1990), no. II, p. 398-40 !. The text is found in the philosophical theology of
Abl:i 'Ali Miskawayh (<lied in A. D. 1030), al-Fawz al-a?gar (Bayrt, A.H. 1319/A.D.
1901), quaestio 2, sections 6-7, p. 53-59. On the Cairo printing and the mss. used
by Rosenthal for his translation of the section, see his article, p. 398; English
translation, p. 397ff. A translation of the whole treatise, based on the Beirut print-
ing, is found in J. Windrow Sweetman, Islam and Christian theology: a study of the
interpretation of theological ideas in two religions (London, 1947-55), part 1, vol. 1,
p. 93-185. An excerpt from Miskawayh's Fawz (here under the title, " The three
questions comprehending ail of the sciences , cf. Rosenthal, I.e., p. 398 n. 1), was
edited from a Teheran ms. by 'Abd-al-Ral:imn Badawi, Aflafl:m fi 1-Islti.m, Wisdom
of Persia Series, 13 (Tehran : McGill University, Institute of Islamic Studies, and
Tehran University, 197 4), p. 334-36. - An Arabie translation of the Proclean trea-
tise is also attested by the 1Oth century bibliographer Ibn al-Nadim in his Fihrist
(Catalogue), ed. G. Flgel (Leipzig, 1871-72), p. 252. 15-16 = ed. Ril Tagaddud
(Tehran, 1971 ), p. 313. 1, among the works of Proclus under the title
Commentary of Plato's statement that the soul is immortal, in three treatises .
Miskawayh's Fawz al-a?gar has been edited, on the basis of mss. Istanbul, Aya
Sofya, Ahmet III, no. 3287, and Damascus, iahiriyya, no. 4871, by $lil:i 'Ulayma:
al-Fawz al-a?gar li-Miskawayh, Bayt al-J:iikma, Silsilat !J:iy' al-tur! al-falsafi (Tunis :
al-Mu'assasa al-wataniyya lil-targama wa-1-taJ:iqiq wa-1-dirst, 1987), and two
others, accompanied by an annotated French translation by Roger Arnaldez ( Le
Petit Livre du Salut ). The passage quoted is found p. 81 f. (Arabie text), and p. 47
(French translation). On this, and related texts in the Arabie tradition, see now:
Ahmed Hasnaoui, Deux textes en arabe sur les preuves platoniciennes de
l'immortalit de l'me , Medioevo, 23 (1997), p. 395-408.
3. Westerink, Proclus on Plato's three proofs , p. 306.
THE NEW AND IMPROVED PLATONIC THEOLOGY 555

sions but acephalous in the unique Greek manuscript, is another


example, but the essential argument could be reconstructed from
Philoponus' refutation alone.
The Greek text of Proclus has survived in a unique manuscript of
Philoponus' Contra Proclum (Marcianus gr. 236), lacking Proclus' first
argument. This has been preserved in two Arabie versions, one of which
was published by 'Abd-al-Rai)man Badaw, al-Afltniyya al-mul:zdafa 'ind
al-'Arab (Cairo, 19), p. 34-42, French translation by the same, La transmis-
sion de la philosophie grecque au monde arabe, tudes mdivales, 56
(Paris : Vrin, 1968), p. 1 l 9f. See also Endress, Proclus Arabus, p. 15-18, and
infra, p. 564. - The identity of another Arabie text ascribed to Proclus,
unattested in the Greek tradition, is still to be examined : a collection of
Quaestiones naturales on various topics, ed. by 'Abd-al-Rai)man Badaw,
al-Afltniyya al-mul:zdafa 'ind al-'Arab (Cairo, 1955), p. 43-49.
Textual criticism may also profit from the Arabie translations
as being witnesses of a manuscript tradition which in many cases
is earlier than the oldest extant copies of the Greek. In the case of
Neoplatonic texts, the paraphrastic nature and the exegetical ten-
dency of the Arabie versions forbid precise conclusions about the
readings of the original Greek which is once or even twice re-
moved from the Greek author through an intermediate reworking,
both linguistic and doctrinal.
But the most direct and illuminating evidence that may indeed
be gleaned from the Arabie versions and from the works of their
Arab readers concerns what Westerink calls the vicissitudes of
Greek philosophical texts in the Islamic tradition. In giving some
examples of such vicissitudes, I would like to point that there is
more to this than a more or less bizarre caricature of a doctrine
fallen out of its original context, of vestiges from a declining
teaching tradition, and of stray fragments. In many respects, these
texts are the only witnesses left to us for reconstructing what hap-
pened to Greek philosophy after the time of the last Alexandrian
commentators of Aristotle.
The Arabie version of a selection of texts from the Elementatio Theo-
logica to be presented here has been edited, translated and analyzed in
my Proclus Arabus: Zwanzig Abschnitte aus der Jnstitutio theologica in ara-
bischer bersetzung, Beiruter Texte und Studien, Band 10 (Beirut, Wiesba-
den: Steiner, 1973); see infra, p. 561, for further references. - For an
inventory of Arabie texts of Proclus, translated, quoted or mentioned by
title by the Arabie authors and bibliographers, see Proclus Arabus, p. 15-
30. The Elementatio Physica was also known to Arabie authors, and quo-
ted by the Christian Arab theologian, philosopher and translator Yai)ya
ibn 'Ad; v. G. Endress, Yai)ya ibn 'Ad's critique of atomism: three
treatises on the indivisible part, ed. with introduction and notes '" Zeit-
556 GERHARD ENDRESS

schrift fr Geschichte der Arabisch-Islamischen Wissenschaften, 1 (Frankfurt


a. M. : IGAIW 1984), p. 155-79. The same author quotes - from a Syriac
source? - Pro cl us' De decem dubitationibus; v. Proclus Ara bus, p. 30, and
S. Pines, A tenth-century philosophical correspondence , Proceedings
American Society for Jewish Research, 23 (1954), p. 103-36. Furthe;
fragments were identified by S. Pines, Hitherto unknown Arabie extracts
from Proclus' Stoicheisis Theologik and Stoicheisis Physik , in Pines
Studies in Greek Versions of Greek Texts and in Medieval Science, Collected
Works, vol. 2 (Jerusalem: Magnes Press; Leiden: Brill, 1986), p. 287-93.

II
The society of late Hellenism changed in intellectual and relig-
ious orientation, and in the focus of interest put upon the Ancient
heritage. Philosophy came to find a different readership, and was
taught in a different context. In late Alexandrian teaching, the Pla-
tonic theology was the final objective, the graduate seminar; Aris-
totelian logic and physics served as an introduction to, and were
made compatible with, the Neoplatonic reading of Plato. The Pla-
tonic theology assumed the role of Aristotle's metaphysics. This
curriculum was reduced again to the reading of Aristotle in a
Christian environment, but an Aristotle transformed and made
compatible with Christian theology.
Although the Christian authorities, after the closing clown of the
Academy of Athens in A. D. 529, at first did not enforce a reform or
any incisive reduction of the programme, the society enforced a
departure from the militant anti-Christian Platonism of the Athe-
nian teachers. Plato, whose works used to crown the curriculum of
studies in the Athenian Academy as well as in the successor school
of Alexandria, remained an authority only by name, and the
stream of a living tradition had ebbed out into the trickle of
popular gnomologia. The last teachers of the school may have
been Platonists at heart, but bent their energies on commenting
Aristotle - the commentary, based on the lecture courses of the
school, being the principal medium of philosophical teaching and
discourse since the fourth century 4 . The growing insistence on the
essential unity of philosophial truth, on the harmony between
Plato's and Aristotle's doctrine - above all in the question of crea-
tion and the eternity of world - is indicative of an attitude of
compromise which made philosophy fit to serve as a scientific

4. L. G. Westerink, The Greek commentators on Plato's Phaedo, vol. 1 : Olympio-


dorus (Amsterdam [etc.] : North Holland Pub!., 1976), p. 9; 1. Hadot, Le commen-
taire philosophique continu dans !'Antiquit , Antiquit tardive, 5 (Turnhout,
1997), p. 169-76.
THE NEW AND IMPROVED PLATONIC THEOLOGY 557

interpretation of monotheistic and creationist religion. In the fur-


ther development, the undisputed master of philosophy, for the
Christian transmitters of late Hellenism as well as for the Muslim
recipients of this tradition, was Aristotle : founder of the para-
digms of rational discourse, and of a coherent system of the physi-
cal world.
From the eighth century onwards, this same philosophical
paradigm was received into the increasingly Muslim milieu of
astronomers-astrologers, geometers, and physicians of the Near
East.
The questions which were submitted to the philosophical tra-
dition, and which yielded a specific selection of philosophie read-
ings, were guided by a new identity of the epistemic community,
defending itself and defending Islam. After the arabization of the
urban centres, we can observe the result of this process in the
translations from Greek and from Aramaic : a corpus of writings
representing the choice of the late Hellenistic schools, and their
interpretation through harmonisation and compromise both with
respect to each of its conflicting components and with respect to
religious doctrine. The Platonic ethics of knowledge vindicated the
pursuit of the rational sciences, but also the practice of the
learned professions, and was guided by the gnostic and Neopla-
tonic vision of the ascent of the immortal soul to the Upper World,
the world of intellect - a religion for intellectuals. On the other
hand, the contents of such knowledge - apart from the specific
professional knowledge found in the writings of Galen, Euclid,
Ptolemy and other basic works of science - was provided exclu-
sively by the Aristotelian encyclopaedia.
Here again, and even more radically than in Christian Helle-
nism, Aristotle was elevated to the rank of absolute philosopher,
al-J:i.akim the Wise or al-faylasf the Philosopher in Arabie 5,
while Plato was shoved aside into the domain of popular wisdom
and Hermetic gnosticism. Not the philosophers, but the learned
doctors of medicine, disciples of Galen, continued to cherish the
Platonism of Galen's school, as did the mathematicians with re-
gard to the Platonic programme of number theory and of mathe-
matical knowledge in general. Most famous is the rle of the
Sabian mathematicians of I:Iarrn (the ancient Carrhae), a

S. The epithet al-mu'allim al-awwal the first teacher does not seem to occur
before Avicenna, but al-Kind already calls Aristotle mubarriz al-Ynniyyin the
foremost of the Greeks ; v. Al-Kind, al-Falsafa al-l, p. 102f.
558 GERHARD ENDRESS

mainstay of pagan astral religion deep into the Islamic period. The
name of the Sabi'a became synonymous with the respectable
remnants of ancient pagan thought, so much so that a summary of
Neoplatonic cosmology, going back to al-Kind or his school, is
presented as a doxography of the Sabians .
The earliest school of philosophy in Islam, the school of the
Arab scientist al-Kind forming in the first half of the 9th century,
yet had recourse to a wider range of sources, where a selection of
Platonic dialogues, Aristotelian physics and metaphysics, were
accompanied by commentaries of the Alexandrian Neoplatonists,
and by a Neoplatonic Theology based on Plotinus and Proclus,
but transmitted under the name of Aristotle, and were integrated
into a Weltbild of gnostic religion. Among the Platonic dialogues
available to the Sabian mathematician Tabit ibn Qurra was the
Mena, the first exposition of the doctrine of anamnesis; al-Kind's
own reading list included several of the Socratic dialogues : the
Symposium, the Apologia, and the Phaedo., as also some apocryphal
texts from popular wisdom literature 6 . But a part from a testimony
among Tabit's list of writings, the myths of the Phaedo and of the
tenth book of the Republic, which had been the key texts of Athe-
nian Platonism, have left hardly any traces in the Arabie tradition.
A number of Arabie fragments from Proclus In Timaeum (one of
which, commenting upon a quotation in Galen's De moribus, represents a
passage lost in the Greek) are found, not in the philosophical, but in the
medical tradition and in al-Brn's work on India (early 1 lth century).
The bibliographer Ibn al-Nadm (died in 990, cf supra, n. 2) mentions,
among the works of Proclus, only Syriac translations of a treatise on the
myth in Plato's Gorgias, on the tenth book of the Republic, and of the
commentary In Phaedonem; adding that a small part of the latter had
been translated into Arabie by the Christian author 'sa ibn Zur'a. (Cf.
Proclus Arabus, p. 24-26, 28f.)
As an authority of philosophical doctrine, al-Kind's Plato is not
the author and authority of the Academic tradition. Christian
Hellenism had eliminated Plato because and in so far as he occu-
pied_ the field of theology; Platonism lived on in the Neoplatonic
interpretation of Aristotle. Al-Kind's Plato, where he is named,
stands for the Platonism of the gnostic, Hermetic subculture of
popular Hellenism, a religion for intellectuals like the one upheld
by the Sabians. But this is only one side of his philosophical pro-
gramme. On the other hand, al-Kind was an heir to the Academic

6. See D. Gutas, Plato's Symposium in the Arabie tradition , Oriens, 31 (1988),


p. 36-60.
THE NEW AND JMPROVED PLATONJC THEOLOGY 559

tradition surviving at the hands of commentators with a Neopla-


tonic orientation, notably in the school of Alexandria and its By-
zantine offshoots, and offering the whole of the Aristotelian ency-
clopaedia. In this early period of translation and adaptation, both
sicles compete, at times in a striking contrast of style. Al-Kind's
Aristotle is not yet the master of logic and of demonstrative sci-
ence, styled the First Teacher by al-Farab's school in the next cen-
tury, emancipating philosophy from the applied arts, relegating
Plato to an inferior rank restricted to sharing out practical, politi-
cal wisdom. But already, Aristotle had taken on the rle of super-
philosopher, the foremost (mubarriz) of the Ancients who, in al-
Kind 's words, for luminous, harmonious souls will lead the way
toward the highest spiritual rank 7 Al-Kind's Aristotle, albeit
platonized in matters of theology and cosmology, is representing
the encyclopaedia of the rational sciences; he is the undisputed
authority on the physical world, and the creator of a unifying, co-
herent system of the intelligible cosmos. In his Metaphysics, trans-
lated by commission for al-Kind, his original First Philosophy of
the principles of being, thinking and first movement had been
preserved. In a translation of the De Caelo, made in the same cir-
cle, an attempt at harmonization is being made, rendering TO 8dov
the divine of A 9 as the spiritual entity - an attribute given
regularly by the translator to the celestial body - and making it
the First Cause : the First Mover of the Metaphysics 8 .
The philosophical Theology which was given Aristotle's name
brought this into a Neoplatonic system, which in its turn had been
the final result of a long process of harmonisation. Based on ex-
cerpts from the Enneads of Plotinus, augmented by copious notes
and comments, and accompanied by pieces from Proclus, the great
systems engineer of Neoplatonism, this conveyed the cosmic
model of procession and reversion, and of participation of all be-
ing in the One and First. But this UJlgiya according to Aris-

7. Al-Kindi, al-Falsafa al-/a, ed. Abu Rida, p. 103. 1; cf. the English translation
of Alfred L. Ivry, Al-Kindi's Metaphysics (Albany, N. Y.: State University of New
York Press, 1974), p. 58.
8. On the eircle of translators around al-Kindi, and the sources from whieh he
drew his own philosophy, v. G. Endress, The Circle of al-Kindi : early Arabie
translations from the Greek and the rise of Jslamie philosophy , in The Ancien!
Tradition in Christian and Is/amic Hel/enism : studies on the transmission of Greek
philosophy and sciences dedicated to H. J Drossaart Lulofs on his ninetieth birthday,
ed. by G. Endress and R. Kruk (Leiden: CNWS, 1997), p. 43-76. On the tendencies
of interpretation in the Arabie version of De Caelo, see G. Endress, Avermes De
Cae/o : Ibn Rushd's eosmology in his eommentaries on Aristotle's On the Heavens ,
Arabie Sciences and Philosophy, 5 (Cambridge, 1995), p. 9-49, p. 15.
560 GERHARD ENDRESS

totle was transmitted in a form simplified and made acceptable


for the adherents of a monotheistic and creationist religion : of
belief in a God who was both First Cause and First Intellect, and
who had willed at the beginning of time to create the physical
world from nothing. Both in his immediate sources and in his own
philosophical paradigm, the influence of Johannes Philoponus is
prominent : the Christian philosopher of Alexandria who in the
very year of the closing of the Academy (A D. 529) had written his
refutation of Proclus' On the Eternity of the World, and who had
driven the pagan Gods, hypostatized in the Neoplatonic cosmos,
from the divine heavens.
The state of research on the Theology of Aristotle has been presented
by Maroun Aouad, La Thologie d'Aristote et autres textes du Plotinus
Arabus '" in Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques, publi sous la direction
de Richard Goulet, 1 (Paris : CNRS, 1989), p. 541-90; for some details of
the transmission, v. F. W. Zimmermann, The origins of the so-called
Theology of Aristotle '" in Pseudo-Aristotle in the middle Ages : the Theology
and other texts, ed. by J. Kraye a. o. (London : Warburg Institute, 1986),
p. 108-240. An English translation is available in Platini Opera, edd. Paul
Henry et Hans-Rudolf Schwyzer, t. II: Enneades IV-V; Plotiniana arabica
ad codd. fidem anglice vertit Geoffrey Lewis (Paris : Descle de Brouwer,
Bruxelles: L'dition universelle, 1959). The doctrine of the text in relation
to the philosophy of Plotinus has been outlined by Cristina D'Ancona,
Per un profilo filosofico dell'autore della Teologia di Aristotele '" Medioe-
vo, 17 (Padova : Antenore, 1991 ), p. 83-134; see also C. D'Ancona's more
recent contributions, infra, n. 22 and 23.
The result of al-Kind's reading is, in more than one respect, a
compromise between the obvious contradictions apparent in the
Corpus Aristotelicum itself, between the Platonic and the
Peripatetic Aristotle, and between the tendencies of the Greek
commenta tors.

III
Al-Kind's treatise On the First Philosophy legitimates the ra-
tional sciences by demonstrating their consistency with the true
creed : the taw/:zd Allah, the unicity of God. In the third chapter, he
sets out to prove in a long dialectic deduction that no attribute
or category may contain plurality without unity - so there is no
absolu te plurality; further, that no unity can be found without
plurality; and in a third series of arguments, he establishes the
existence of the One and First Cause, superior to and different
from everything beneath it. The communion (Kmvwvia) between
the One and the many in the world of sensible forms cannot be
THE NEW AND IMPROVED PLATONIC THEOLOGY 561

spontaneous (rr mrnarnu), but needs the absolute One as its


cause; everything that is one in this world is one by participation,
Km 8El;1v, in virtue of the absolu te One.
The structure of al-Kind's argument has been shown to be
closely modelled on Proclus' argument in the Theologia Platonica,
first section of book II9. We do not know al-Kind's immediate
textual source; there are some textual parallels to Proclus' text,
but these can hardly be called translations. It is true that the Arab
bibliographers know of a Theology of Proclus 10, but there is no
trace of a full translation of Proclus' magnum opus. I would rather
presume that al-Kind found an epitome of the relevant passages
in the corpus of Neoplatonic Theologica provided by the transla-
tors of his circle.
On the other hand, such excerpts from Proclus were indeed
available to al-Kind, and have been found in the Arabie tradition,
but going back to the Elementatio Theologica. They form part of a
bundle of texts designed as excerpts from the Theology of Aris-
totle; and they are closely related, bath in interpretation and in
the choice of terminology and phrasing, to the Arabie Plotinus
source (the Theologia Aristotelis proper). The twenty-two proposi-
tions extant in Arabie translation caver the relationship of the One
and the many (El. Theo!. 1-3, 5, 21 ), the properties of the imma-
terial forms ( 15-17), eternity and time ( 54), being, forms, and
the whole ( 62, 72, 73, 74), unmoved and moving causes ( 76),
perfect and imperfect potency ( 77-79), bodies and incorporeal
agents ( 80, 86, 91), the transcendence and immanence of sepa-
rate causes( 98), and the hierarchy of intelligences( 167).
Apart from prop. 77 and 98, the twenty remaining propositions have
been transmitted as a whole under the title What Alexander of Aphro-
disias has excerpted from the book of Aristotle entitled Theologia, i. e. the
discourse on the Lordship along with five other Alexandrian treatises.
Also under the name of Alexander, and in the vicinity of other such trea-
tises, prop. 77 and 98 have been found in translations originating from
the same source; on these v. F. W. Zimmermann in Arabie Sciences and
Philosophy, 4 (1994), p. 9-51. On the attribution to Alex., occasioned by the
company of other (authentic) treatises by Alexander on problems of phy-
sics and metaphysics, see also F. W. Zimmermann, The origin (as quo-
ted supra, p. 560).

9. See Jean Jolivet, Pour le dossier du Proclus arabe : al-Kindi et la Tholo-


gie platonicienne , Studia Jslamica, 49 (1979), p. 55-75.
1O. Ibn al-Nadim, al-Fihrist, ed. Flgel, p. 252. 16 Theologia, i.e., on the Lord-
ship (K. al-T'ulgiy wa-hiya l-rubbiyya); cf. Proclus Arabus, p. 52ff.
562 GERHARD ENDRESS

The Arabie version of this selection of propositions contains a


number of considerable additions and alterations against the
original Proclean texts. While some of these are merely explana-
tory glosses, most of the corollaries, insertions and modifications,
and also a few omissions, involve a deliberate revision of the
author's metaphysical system 11 . Essentially, this revision consists
in reducing the Neoplatonic hierarchy of hypostases, monads and
forms, unto a simplified structure : While Being and Intelligence
are subordinated to the transcendent First Cause - the Plotinian
One - in Proclus' system, in the Arabie version the First Cause,
though absolute, unqualified One, is called at the same time pure
Being and highest Intelligence. Thus the two aspects of Plotinus'
second hypostasis, divided by Proclus, are transferred to the One;
also the notion of divine henads is eliminated. The First Cause is
now put at the head of a simple trias : Between the One and the
forms-in-matter only one intermediate stratum of immaterial,
spiritual forms is retained. This doctrine of three principles,
God-ideas-matter, can be traced back to the Nos-theology of
Middle Platonism; even after Plotin us, Porphyry recognized the
idea of being and intelligizing in the pure potentiality of the
One. But while later Greek Neoplatonism tends to telescope
rather than reduce the series of hypostases between the One and
the physical world, this revision of Proclus suggests, above all, a
tendency to harmonize Neoplatonic metaphysics with monotheis-
tic theology 12 . In fact, two particular points are closely connected
with the Christian teachers of the school of Alexandria :
- The doctrine that God's absolute knowledge constitutes its
own object, therefore is cataphatic knowledge (the Greek
Ke<Tacpam is transliterated in an Arabie corollarium to El. Theol.
16 7), is found in Stephan us Alexandrin us [Ps.-Johannes Phi-
loponus ], Comm. in De Anima JJ/ 13
- The distinction between God's creatio ex nihilo and the activ-
ity of Nature, producing new things out of previously existing sub-
stances, a distinction expounded in connection with prop. 76, goes
back to Stephanus' master, to Johannes Philoponus' work De Ae-
ternitate Mundi (contra Proclum !) 14 .

11. Also into this category falls an additional paragraph following prop. 167,
which agrees with the doctrine of the shorter additions; v. Proclus Arabus, p. 220-
26, transi. p. 293f.
12. V Pruclus Arabus, p. 202ff
13. Proclus Arabus, p. 148, 220-26; translation, p. 294.
14. Proclus Arabus, p. 227-32.
THE NEW AND IMPROVED PLATONIC THEOLOGY 563

- The treatment of Matter, finally, rather follows Aristotelian


concepts : Prime Matter, originating from the First Cause, is distin-
guished from secondary matter, the substratum of natural proc-
esses. The First Cause itself, though called the efficient cause of
creation, is styled, on the other hand, the unmoved potency that
endows Nature with the principle of movement - recalling Aris-
totle's Unmoved Mover. 15
There is every appearance that these interpretamenta already
belonged to the Greek selection of propositions underlying the
Arabie version. Though they cannot be traced back to a definite
Greek source, they correspond with some of the familiar tenden-
cies of late Greek philosophy : The intention to reconcile Plata and
Aristotle, which has already been mentioned, had been common
with the commentators of Aristotle since Ammonius and Sim-
plicius, and gained new import in a Christian environment. On the
other hand, some Christian Neoplatonists, while taking up the
Neo-Aristotelian tendencies of the Alexandrian school, came to
abandon the rigorously negative theology of the Athenians.
It is difficult to determine under what circumstances Proclus conti-
nued to be read after the closing of the Athenian Academy by Justinian in
A. D. 529 and the appearance, in the same year, of Philoponus' Con/ra
Proclum. The most prominent Christian interpretation of Proclus - or, for
that malter, its Neoplatonic interpretation of Christian theism and the
Trinity - made its appearance in the sixth century under the pseudonym
of Dionysius Areopagita, the disciple of St. Paul; but this is much doser
to the subtleties of Proclus' original system, and - while translated into
Syriac - cannot be traced in the Arabie tradition as a transmitted text; its
influence upon the Christian Arab philosopher and theologian Yai).ya ibn
'Adi (t 974) is probable, but cannot be proven through textual links to the
Syriac tradition 16. But the very existence of the Arabie excerpts from the
El. Theo!. may suffice to bear out the survival of a specifically Christian
reading of Proclus' Neoplatonic school, cross-linked with a germane in-
terpretation of Plotinus in the Theologia Aristotelis.
It is the Neoplatonism of these texts which shaped al-Kind's
philosophical theology. On the one hand, it served him to demon-
strate the competence of philosophy in advocating the monothe-
ism essential to the Muslim creed. His dependence on the extant
Arabie version of some Proclean propositions (viz., prop. 1-3, 5)
can be shown from a number of close quotations 17 On the other

15. Proclus Arabus, p. 232-35.


16. Apart from a reference ta the Book of the Holy Hierotheos by the al-
leged teacher of the Areopagita, v. G. Endress, The Works of Yal:zya ibn 'Adi
(Wiesbaden : Reichert, 1977), p. 121 f.; on Ibn 'Ad's christology, v. ibid. p. 9911.
17. Proclus Arabus, p. 242-45.
564 GERHARD ENDRESS

hand, he found here a philosophy of created being made com-


patible with one and transcendent God. While the antinomy be-
tween the unity and transcendence of God and the multitude of
created beings had to be resolved differently in a monotheistic
context, the symbolism of the Neoplatonic model, although sim-
plified, survived and was transformed to serve a new paradigm.
While this view of creation can be connected with the Christian
paradigm of Johannes Philoponus 18, the link between him and this
school can be established, not through texts transmitted under the
name of Yal).ya al-Nal).w 19 , but through a tradition sailing under
the guiding star of Aristotle and Aristotelianism.
Another testimony of this tradition is found in two excerpts from
Philoponus' Contra Proclum under the very name of Alexander of Aphro-
disias 20 . Even more significant is an early Arabie paraphrase of the De
Anima, dependent on the commentary of Philoponus, and translated in al-
Kindi's circle, which emphasizes strongly that the soul is a simple subs-
tance, separable from the body, and eternal (v. infra, p. 568). The school of
Islamic philosophy founded in the l Oth century by al-Farabi not only
emancipated philosophy from the practical sciences, but discarded the
theology of creation, in favour of the uniform paradigm of Aristotelian
physics, defending the concept of eternal creation for the price of a break
with the traditional view of a creation willed by God at the origin of time.
While the Neoplatonic cosmology of progression and reversion, of ema-
nation and intellection was maintained and harmonized with Aristotelian
epistemology and physics, the critique of Philoponus against Aristotle's De
Caelo was refuted by al-Farabi in a sharp invective 21 . Not the philoso-
phers, but the theologians of Islam took up the arguments of Philoponus.
The Neoplatonic hierarchy of the intelligible world, where the
One is above Intellect and Being, is more faithfully - but in no
way consistently - retained in the so-called Theology of Aristotle, a
collection of excerpts, in the form of a paraphrase-commentary,
from the second half of Plotinus' Enneads (books IV-VI). Yet we
find the same tendencies towards reduction and harmonization

18. Walzer, New studies on al-Kind >>, in Walzer, Greek into Arabie (Oxford :
Cassirer, 1962), p. 17 5-205.
19. Ya):iy al-Na):iw, Ioannes Grammatikos '" is the usual Arabie name of
Philoponus. Under his own name, important excerpts from his commentary on
Aristotle's Physies appear in an Arabie compilation of hypomnemata along with
Aristotle's text; v. P. Lettinck, Aristotle's Physies and its Reception in the Arabie
World (Leiden : Brill, 1994), p. 5f. and index locorum.
20. Ahmad Hasnaoui, Alexandre d'Aphrodise vs Jean Philopon : notes sur
quelques traits d'Alexandre "perdus" en grec, conservs en arabe , Arabie Sci-
ences and Philosophy, 4 (1994), p. 53-109.
21. Muhsin Mahdi, Alfarabi against Philoponus >>, Journal of Near Eastern
Studies, 26 (Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1967), p. 233-60.
THE NEW AND IMPROVED PLATONIC THEOLOGY 565

that can be observed in the Proclus Arabus, yielding an overall


character of indecision, and even contradiction. Even here, the
Plotinian One is made into an Aristotelian First Principle, being
given the character of VOTJ01 vo~<JEW. First knowledge and
transcendent to knowledge corne to mean the same; the First is
the knowledge which is above all knowledge (KKEtva yvw<Ji::w)
precisely because it is the first knowledge 22 .
The higher degree of complexity of the Neoplatonic paradigm is
still apparent in al-Kind's own theory of the One and the Intel-
lect : Here, the First Intellect is different from the First Cause,
which is the absolute One. Against this, the First Intellect - which
is conceived as the eternal forms thinking themselves - is declared
the first multiple with regard to the multiplicity of the forms : it is
the 1fPWTOV 1fE1fTJ8U<Jvov. From al-Kind's reading and interpreta-
tion of his Neoplatonic sources, we can find our way to a secon-
dary Arabie synthesis of the original Proclus Arabus (which had
more than the twenty-two propositions from the El. Theo!. surviv-
ing in manuscripts) : the Book of the Pure Good , the Liber de
Causis of the medieval Latin tradition 23 .

IV
In closing, I will present a specimen of the Arabie selections
from the Elementatio Theologica in order to illustrate how the text
was interpretated, how this interpretation conforms with related
sources of the Theology canon brought together by al-Kind,
and how this was handled in the transmission of his school.
In El. Theo!. 15-1 7, Proclus prepares the way for the proof
that the soul is incorporeal and independent of the body, and
therefore imperishable. The soul is capable of reverting upon
itself (Kp auT m<JTprnnK~) in the sense that it can be an ab-
ject of consciousness to itself 2 4 . The three propositions prove, suc-

22. This was shown in connection with Theo/. Arist. [Risa/a fi 1-'i/m a/-ilah]
98-138, p. 175f. Badawi, trans. Lewis, p. 321-23, as compared with Plotin us, Enn. V
3 [49], and other instances, by Cristina D'Ancona, Divine and human knowledge
in the Plotiniana arabica , in The Perennial Tradition of Neoplatonism, ed. by John
J. Cleary (Leuven : Leuven University Press, 1997), p. 419-42.
23. This development and interrelationship of the Arabie Neoplatonica has
been pointed out, and discussed in convincing detail, by Cristina D'Ancona in a
number of articles, collected in her tudes sur le Liber de Causis (Paris : Vrin, 1995),
esp. p. 121-53, La doctrine noplatonicienne de l'tre entre l'antiquit tardive et
le Moyen Age : le Liber de Causis par rapport ses sources , and p. 155-94, Al-
Kindi et l'auteur du Liber de Causis .
24. E. R. Dodds (ed.), Proclus, The Elements of Theology: a revised text (Oxford :
Clarendon Press, 1963), commentary, p. 202.
566 GERHARD ENDRESS

cessively, that all that is capable of reverting upon itself is incor-


poreal (El. Theo!. 15), that all that is capable of reverting upon
itself has an existence separable from all body (El. Theo!. 16), and
that everything originally self-moving is capable of reversion upon
itself (El. Theo!. 17)2s.
In a number of corollaries added in the Arabie, the tmcrTprTIK
rrpo founx are defined as ~uwar rl:zniyya, spiritual forms .
According to the common title given to the three propositions, the
existence of such forms shall be proven : On the proof [for exis-
tence, iJbt] of the spiritual forms . The concluding formulas, also
added in the Arabie to each of the sections, state the existence of
such forms (hypothetical in Proclus) with the predicates under
discussion : Hence it has become evident and proven that there
exist spiritual things which are but forms and have no matter at
all , endowed with the predicates under discussion : reverting
upon themselves, self-moving, and separable from all bodily matter.
The expression spiritual forms , with the predicate having
no matter (f..TJ) , added in the Arabie inscription, interprets the
c'rnwarn of the Greek as immaterial forms, &:fa 5T]. This is Pro-
clean doctrine in so far as not everything incorporeal is capable
of reverting upon itself (rrpo fouTo mcrTprrnK6v), but only the
self-constituent (a8urr6crrnTOv), such as soul - the Ka8' :auTo
aTOKtVT]TOV of prop. 17 - and above all the Platonic ideas, the in-
tellectual forms (voi:;p 5TJ) of prop. 176 (not translated in the
extant Arabie selections) 26
It is doubtful, however, if the author of the immediate Greek
source of the Arabie was using the concept of spiritual forms in
the sense of Proclus' voi:;p 5T]. The Arabie version of prop. 21 -
giving a general formula which governs the structure of each stra-
tum of being, generated by the monad which is its first member 27
- shows that the concept of spiritual forms is meant to com-
prise the whole realm of immaterial forms between the First
Cause and the material forms (vuf..a '>TJ). What we find here is
not Proclus' complex hierarchy of forms (as explained in El. Theo!.
176-178, not found in the Arabie), but the fondamental dicho-

25. Proclus Arabus, Arabie text, p. 13-18; annotated German translation,


p. 260-66; for a detailed presentation, and textual references, of the following
analysis, see the commentary, p. 196-200, 202-13.
26. The same attribute of spiritual ,, (rf:ianl) is used in the cognate and con-
temporary version of Aristotle's De Caelo for the divine celestial body; v. supra.
p. 559.
27. Dodds, Elements, p. 208.
THE NEW AND IMPROVED PLATONIC THEOLOGY 567

tomy between the Platonic itm and the Aristotelian EOT]. This
goes back to the authors of Middle Platonism, as represented by
Albinus, who distinguished two classes of VOT]TcX : the separate
ideas on the one hand, and the EVt>a EOT] on the other. Galen, a
disciple of Albinus, implements this division in his interpretation
of the Platonic Timaeus 28 . And after Albinus had grouped those
two classes of intelligibles with two classes of cognition, Alexander
of Aphrodisias founded his re-interpretation of Aristotle's noetic
on the difference between aa E0T] - which in his doctrine are
the transcendent universals - and l::vua E0T], immanent forms of
the sensible world; the aa EOTJ are the true objects of the Agent
Intellect (vo rro1T]nK6), and intelligible in actu, while the l::vua
EOTJ are only potentially intelligible.
Alexander is well represented, not only in the Arabie transmission of
Peripatetic metaphysics and noetic in general, but also in the group of
early translations to which the Proclus Arabus itself belongs. Both au-
thentic and pseudepigraphical texts under his name, where the Neopla-
tonic authors join ranks with the arch-Peripatetic as commentators of
Aristotle, provided the scientists of al-Kind's generation with a suitable
interpretation of Aristotelian philosophy : a philosophy of compromise
and of harmonization between the strands of late Hellenistic thought, and
with the monotheism and creationism of Islam. The resulting cosmology
and noetic can be studied in al-Kind's treatise on the First Philosophy as
also in his epistles on the Intellect and on the Recollection of the soul (v.
infra, p. 569).
A substantial addition in the Arabie of prop. 16 shows the point
of interest which drew Arabie readers such as al-Kind to these
texts. The author of this interpretation shifts the focus, as we saw,
on proving the existence of incorporeal substances. His addition at
the end of the proposition belongs to the context of a further dis-
cussion : if the soul may have an ooia xwpwT) rravTo crwaTo, it
acts without a corporeal intermediary, and subsists without a cor-
poreal substance :
" We add further, that a corporeal substance can exercise its activ-
ity only by touching the object upon which it is acting - either by
pushing it, or by being pushed. Therefore it is impossible that this
substance and its activity should be without a bodily intermediary.
But we do find a substance different from this which acts without
touching the object it acts upon, without pushing it or being pushed.
Hence it acts on its object at a distance. If this is the case and if the

28. Galen's epitome has been preserved in an Arabie version; v. Paul Kraus,
Richard Walzer (eds.), Compendium Timaei Platonis aliorumque dialogorum synopsis
quae extant fragmenta, Plata Arabus, 1 (London : Warburg Institute, 1951 ), esp.
p. 11 O.
568 GERHARD ENDRESS

activity of a thing occurs separately from the body, then also the sub-
stance exercising this activity must be separate from the body, and
hence 29 it reverts upon itself as a whole upon the whole (w oov 7rp
oov] 30 (Proclus Arabus, prop. 16, Arabie text, p. 16; German trans.,
p. 263f.).
It is true that this is rather pleonastic. But the point the inter-
preter wants to make is evident : the text is being pressed to align
with a discourse of arguments proving the immortality of the soul.
Soul does not act through xcp~, wm and /;t : this was also stated
by Alexander, but Alexander held that soul is an doo of the body.
Now we find a close parallel in an Arabie commentary-paraphrase
of Aristotle's De Anima which was translated in the same circle as
the Proclus Arabus, perhaps by the same translator 31 In its com-
ments and interpolations, this draws heavily on the commentary
of Johannes Philoponus. Following Aristotle's concession, that a
separate actuality (tvn:Mxwx) of certain parts of the soul would be
theoretically conceivable, because they are not the actualities of
any body (Aristotle, De an. II 1, 413a6-7: t To 11f:vo c;vm
crwarn VTEEXEia), Philoponus states a real, ontological rapport
between activity (vpyEta) and substance (oofo) 32 (So does Pro-
clus, El. Theo!. 15 : if vpyc;m is separable, so is oofo). From this,
he derives the separable existence of the rational soul (oytK~
wux~) as a separate form (xwpwTov doo). Now in the Arabie para-
phrase, we get the following version of De an. II 1, 413a6-9 :
The proof that it [se. the rational soul] does not pass away after
its separation from the body, is its activity (vpyEta), for it acts on an
object remote from its body, it thinks and reflects upon it, and recog-
nizes an object without its body being present at that object. But if its
activity goes beyond its body, its substance will also transcend the
body, and if so, its substance must remain after its separation from the
body; if not, its activity would be nobler than its substance, and this is
absurd. For it is impossible that the activity of substances be nobler
than the substances, because the activity proceeds (7rpopxam) from
the substance, not the substance from the activity (Paraphr. De An.,
ed. Arnzen, p. 219. 17-221. 5).

29. Here the interpreter adds Proclus' first premiss of prop. 16 as an addi-
tional corollary.
30. Taken from El. Theo!. 15, p. 18. 5.
31. Edition and commentary by Rdiger Arnzen, Aristote/es' De anima: eine
verlorene spiitantike Paraphrase in arabischer und persischer berlieferung. Arabischer
Text nebst Kommentar, quellengeschichtlichen Studien und Glossaren, Aristoteles
Semitico-Latinus, vol. 9 (Leiden : Brill, 1998).
32. Johannes Philoponus, In Aristotelis De anima libros commentaria, ed. Mi-
chael Hayduck, Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca, vol. 15 (Berlin : Reimer,
1887), p. 16. 2-11.
THE NEW AND IMPROVED PLATONIC THEOLOGY 569

It is evident that the action of the separate forms (xwptm Efl)


on objects remote in space is serving to support the same theorem
as in the Proclus Arabus; but while the interpretamentum rests an
indigesta moles in the corollary added to prop. 16, it appears in the
Paraphr. de an. in its original context : as an argument for the im-
mortality of the rational part of the soul 33 .
The same topic, again, occurs also in the writings of the patron
and reader of the circle of translators begetting this group of texts,
al-Kindi. In a treatise Epistle explaining what the soul remem-
bers of what it had in the world of the intellect 34, he recurs to the
Platonic model of cognition as recollection, drawing on the Arabie
Plotinus source, the Theologia Aristotelis, and another, related text
under the name of Porphyry. Here again, the tapie is used in order
to define the position of the soul in the intelligible cosmos : The
soul is a form in being the form of a body as well as in being a
substantial form. It does not need a body in order to exist, as it
does not need a body to exercise its activity. Before its conjunction
with the body, it pre-existed eternally, receiving the immaterial,
intelligible forms; in its bodily existence it can be trained to per-
ceive the forms through recollection. The model of anamnesis rep-
resents the intermediate position of the soul : neither divine nor
wholly immanent in the material substances. After its separation
from the body, the rational soul will be pure intellect, being in
permanent possession of all intelligibles, God-like vo thinking
itself.

V
Al-Kindi's programme de propaganda philosophia, which came
into being as an ideology of scientists heirs to the Hellenistic en-
cyclopaedia, and as a religion for intellectuals compatible with
Islam, was a programme for the integration of philosophy and the
rational sciences into Muslim Arab society. It was taken from
Baghdad beyond the Oxus by the likes of Ab Zayd al-Balkhi,
philosopher-scientist, geographer, and litterateur, and was carried
on in the Islamic East. In the second half of the tenth century, al-
'miri from Nishapr wrote a book of Chapters on the Divine
Knowledge , i. e. on tapies of metaphysics, incorporating large

33. See Proclus Arabus, p. 196-200; also Arnzen [as in n. 31], p. 382[
34. V G. Endress, " Al-Kindi ber die Wiedererinnerung der Seele : arabischer
Platonismus und die Legitimation der Wissenschaften im Islam >>, Oriens, 34
(1994), p. 174-221.
570 GERHARD ENDRESS

parts of the Liber de Causis 35 , and a monograph On the Afterlife


drawing on all the sources from the Kind tradition of philosophy
in a long series of proofs for the immortality of the soul 36 . His
contemporary Miskawayh, another Iranian, courtier and librarian
to the vizier of an Iranian dynasty at Isfahan, is the one who
quoted from Proclus' treatise on Plato's three proofs of immortal-
ity - soul gives life, corruption is due only to inherent badness,
and soul is self-moved. In his ethics, entitled the Purification of
Character , a synthesis is being made between the Platonic ethics
of knowledge - a knowledge drawing, however, on the Aristotelian
encyclopaedia -, leading the way to the ultimate happiness be-
stowed on the rational soul, and the Aristotelian ethics of ECTOTIJ.
While there is a strong and persistent undercurrent of Gnosti-
cism and Neoplatonism surviving in the occult sciences and in
Isma'l Shiite circles 37 , it was here, in the tradition of al-Kind,
that the last vestiges of an authentic and continuous textual tradi-
tion of Proclean Platonism can be followed up. We have to realize,
nevertheless, that this is the final appearance of Neoplatonic
authorities in a chain of transmission which was to be fused, in
the same generation, with the Aristotelian encyclopaedia of
Avicenna. Here, the personal authority of the Greek teachers pres-
ent in a unbroken teaching tradition finally fades. And after Plato,
Aristotle in his turn becomes a mere rrp6awrrov behind a virtual
text : the master text of apodeictic science.
Ruhr-Universitat Bochum
Fakultat fur Philologie
Seminar fur Orientalistik und Indologie
Universitatstrasse 150
D-44780 Bochum

35. Ed. Sal;ban Ijulayft (Sahban Khalifat), Rasii'il Abi l-/fasan al-'Amiri wa-
sagariituhu l-falsafiyya (Amman, 1988), p .. 363-79; v. Everett K. Rowson, An un-
published work by al-'mir and the date of the Arabie De Causis , Journal of the
American Oriental Society, 104 (1984), p. 193-99.
36. Ed., with English translation and commentary, by Everett K. Rowson, A
Muslim Philosopher on the Soul and Its Fate: al-'Amiri's Kitiib al-Amad 'alii l-abad,
American Oriental Series, vol. 70 (New Haven, Conn. : American Oriental Society,
1988); on the tapies of the Proclus Arabus treated above, v. p. 137 (text), 297f.
(commentary).
37. On the latter, see now Daniel de Smet, La Quitude de l'intellect: noplato-
nisme et gnose ismalienne dans l'uvre de /famd ad-Dn al-Kirmn x'/XJ's.), Orien-
talia Lovaniensia Analecta, 67 (Leuven : Peeters, 1995).

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