Proclus Abrahamicus: The fate of Proclus' Philosophy in Christianity, Islam and Judaism

Course Description: 

From among the Neoplatonist philosophers, Proclus (412-485), the Athenian Diadochus of Plato exerted the greatest influence on Christian, Muslim and Jewish philosophy. While Proclus’ works were used and “baptized” by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (late 5th c.), they were also transmitted by a Christian translator to the Arab world and inspired the development of Arabic philosophy, from where they reached, via Spain, the Latin West. Proclus also influenced the Jewish philosopher Ibn Gabirol (1021/2-1057/8) and became very popular in the 11th century in Byzantium, in the schools of Psellus and John Italus. In the twelfth century, Ioanne Petritsi in Georgia created an original Christian metaphysical system on the basis of Proclus’ works, translated the Elements of Theology into Georgian, and his work was transmitted to Armenia, too. Proclus also became a main inspiration in Renaissance for Nicholas of Cusa, Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola. The present course offers to trace this history and follow the transformations of Proclus' metaphysics in the three monotheist religions up to modernity. The class will contain six modules treating Proclus’ philosophy and its reception history. Each module will consist of a general introduction to the subject, with secondary literature to be read by the students, and a reading seminar when original philosophical texts will be read in English translation and will be commented during the class.

Learning Outcomes: 

The students will get an insight into the complex interactions of pure metaphysical theory and diverse polytheist and monotheist theologies. They will also sense the way, philosophy has become a kind of universal language in Afro-Eurasia. The course will also show how the real intellectual problems are far beyond the limits of any discipline and the importance of the knowledge of diverse languages to treat such problems, which means that these can only be dealt through team-work.


Active participation in the seminars (40%), the completion of class journals, which will be duly commented upon by the instructor (40%) and a short final paper summarizing the student’s understanding of the course (20%).