Sacred Texts  Classics  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

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

p. 93


Simplicius having observed, that Proclus is the only philosopher that he is acquainted with, who thought that place was a body, adds, "he, therefore, admitting the axioms of Aristotle concerning place, and the fourfold division of the investigation of it, says it is necessary that place should be either matter or form, or the boundary of the containing body, or an interval equal to the space between the boundaries of the containing body. For, if place is not any one of the things that are in it, nor of the things which surround it, it cannot be locally changed, if nothing that is in it or about it sustains any mutation. The natures, however, which are in it are form and matter; but the natures which surround it are the boundary of the circumambient, and that which is intermediate." Proclus having demonstrated, therefore, that place is neither matter nor form, through the same arguments as are used by Aristotle, and having subverted the hypothesis that it is the boundary of the containing body, from the absurdities with which

p. 94

the hypothesis is attended, infers that place is an interval; and thus he adapts the demonstration to his own opinion. Since, however, he clearly and concisely explains his hypothesis, it will perhaps be better to hear his own words, which are as follow: "it remains, therefore, if place is neither the form of that which is in place, nor matter, nor the boundary of the comprehending body, that the interval which is between the boundaries of the containing body must be conceived to be the primary place of each body. All the mundane interval, however, of the whole world will be different from the above-mentioned interval. This, therefore, is either nothing, or it is a certain thing. And if, indeed, it is nothing, local motion will be from nothing to nothing, though all motion is according to something which ranks among beings. Places, likewise, which are according to nature, will be nothing, though every thing which subsists conformably to nature is necessarily something belonging to beings. But if it is a certain thing, it is entirely either incorporeal or corporeal. If, however, it, is incorporeal, an absurdity will follow: for it is necessary that place should be equal to that which is in place. But how is it possible for body, and that which is incorporeal, to be equal? For the equal is in quantities, and in homogeneous quantities, as in lines with lines, superficies with

p. 95

superficies, and bodies with bodies. hence, place is a body, if it is an interval. But if it is a body, it is either moved, or immovable. If, however, it is in any way whatever moved, it must necessarily be moved according to place; so that again place will be in want of place. But this is impossible, as it also appeared to be to Theophrastus and Aristotle. Hence Aristotle says, that a vessel is place which may be moved, but that place is an immovable vessel; indicating by this, that place is naturally immovable.

If, however, place is immovable, it is either incapable of being divided by the bodies that fall into it, so that body will proceed through body, or it may be divided by them, in the same manner as air and water are divided by the bodies which exist in them. But if, indeed, it may be divided, the whole being cut, the parts will be moved on each side of the dissevered whole. And first, place will be moved, since the parts of it are moved; but it has been demonstrated that it is immovable. Secondly, the parts being cut, we must inquire whither that part which is cut proceeds: for again there will be found another interval between the parts of the dissevered whole, which is the recipient of the divided part, and into which this part proceeding is said to be in place; and this will be the consequence to infinity. Place, therefore,

p. 96

is an indivisible body. It; however, it is indivisible, it will either be an immaterial or a material body. But if material, it is not indivisible. For all material bodies, when other material bodies proceed into them, become divided by those bodies; as when, for instance, our bodies fall into water. But immaterial bodies alone are not adapted to be divided by any thing; and this from necessity. For every immaterial body is impassive; but every thing which may be divided is not impassive, since division is a passion of bodies, destructive of their union. For of that which is continuous, so far as continuous, you will not find any other passion than division, which destroys its continuity. Place, therefore,—that we may collect all that has been demonstrated,—is a body, immovable, indivisible, immaterial. But if this be the case, it is very evident that place is more immaterial than all bodies, both than those that are moved, and those that are immaterial in things that are moved. Hence, if light is the most simple of these, for fire is more incorporeal than the other elements, arid light is more incorporeal than fire itself, place will be the most pure and genuine light which is in bodies. If, therefore we conceive that there are two spheres, one of light alone, but the other consisting of many bodies, and that both these are equal to each other in bulk, but that the one is

p. 97

firmly established together with the centre, and that the other is inserted in this, we shall see the whole world existing in place, and moved in immovable light. And this light, indeed, is, according to itself, immovable, in order that it may imitate place, but is moved according to a part, in order that it may possess something less than place.

"This hypothesis is rendered credible from what is asserted by Plato, in the [tenth book of the] Republic. For the light which is there mentioned, and is adapted to the rainbow, is said by him to be place. It is also confirmed by the Chaldean oracles respecting the fontal soul; since it is there said, that this soul 'abundantly animates light, fire, æther, and the worlds.' For this is the light which is above the empyrean world, and is a monad prior to the triad of the empyrean, ethereal, and material worlds. This light, too, is the first recipient of the eternal allotments of the gods, and unfolds self-visible spectacles in itself to those that are worthy to behold them. For in this light, according to the Chaldean oracle, things without figure become figured. And perhaps it is on this account called place (τοπος), as being a certain type (τυπος) of the whole mundane body, and as making things which are without interval to possess interval."

p. 98

After this, Proclus doubts, against himself, how body can proceed through body, and whether this light is inanimate, or participates of soul. "But," says he, "it is impossible that it should be inanimate, both because it is more excellent than the animated natures that are in it, and because the oracles say that this is animated prior to other things. If, however, it is animated, how is it immovable? And he dissolves the first doubt from the impassivity of immaterial bodies: for an immaterial body neither resists nor is resisted, since that which is resisted possesses a nature capable of suffering by the things which resist. Nor, since it is impassive, can it be divided; so that neither will it be possible to adduce that absurd consequence, that the whole will proceed through that which is smallest; for if an immaterial body is not adapted to be divided, neither will it be divided equally with that which is smallest. But if this will not be the case, neither will the whole proceed through it." Again, he solves the second doubt, by saying, that this immaterial body is animated by the fontal soul, and that it has a divine life, and is essentially self-motive, but not in energy. For if we admit that in [the rational] soul the self-motive is twofold, the one according to essence, but the other according to energy, and if we assert that the one is immovable, but the other

p. 99

moved, * what should hinder us from asserting that place participates of a life of this kind, and that it lives according to an immutable essence, but the world according to an essence self-motive in energy. "If, however," says he, "you wish to see the motion of place according to energy, you must survey it as motive of the bodies that are moved, and which evolve the parts of place according to interval; because they are neither able to be in every place, nor to be present with all the parts of place according to each of its parts. And this is an intervening medium with reference to soul, which moves without interval. For it seems that life, indeed, so far as life imparts motion, but place being that which primarily participates of life, confers motion according to the parts of itself, and thus peculiarly unfolds local motion, causing each of the parts of that which is moved to desire to be in the whole itself, since it is unable, through the natural peculiarity of interval, to subsist in a divided manner in the whole itself. For every thing which desires to be a certain thing, but fails of becoming that which is the object of its wish through a defect of nature, continues nevertheless to aspire after that which, through imbecility, it

p. 100

is tillable to obtain. For it is requisite," says he, "that the medium between an incorporeal and intransitive life, such as is that of the fontal soul, and a transitive and corporeal life, should be a life which is intransitive, indeed, but corporeal." He adds, "but it appears to me, that the centres of the whole world, considered as one thing, are fixed in this immaterial body. For if the oracles assert that the centres of the material world are fixed in the tether which is above it, we must say, by ascending analogously, that the centres of the highest of the worlds are established in the light of this world. May it not likewise be said, that this light is the first image of the paternal profundity, * and on this account is supermundane, because that profundity is also supermundane?"

In addition to the above-mentioned opinion of Proclus concerning place, the following is the hypothesis of Damascius of Damascus, the preceptor of Simplicius, a man most inquisitive, and who laboured much in philosophy. His disquisitions on place appear to me to be no less admirable than novel. From the utility of place, therefore, he wishes to discover its essence, and he thus writes: "Every thing in generation, in consequence of falling off from a nature impartible, and without interval, both according to essence and energy, has a twofold separation,—the one according to essence, but the other according to energy, or passion.

p. 101

[paragraph continues] That also in generation, which is according to energy, is twofold; the one being connascent with essence, according to which, essence is in a continual flux; but the other proceeding from essence, according to which it energises differently at different times, possessing extended, and not at-once-collected energies. And the separation, indeed, of energy is immediately in want of motion; and motion is consubsistent with it. The separation, also, according to motion, becomes energetic or passive. But the separation of essence becomes likewise twofold; the one being a divulsion into multitude, but the other passing into bulk. And the separation, according to magnitude and bulk, becomes immediately connected with position, in consequence of the parts falling into different situations. Position likewise is twofold; the one being connascent with essence, as of my body, the head is upward, and the feet downward; but the other being adventitious, as at one time I have position in a house, and at another in the forum; and it is evident that the former continues as long as the thing exists, but that the other becomes different at different times. But we properly say, that those things have position, the parts of which are extended, and are distant from each other. Hence position appears properly to belong to magnitudes, and the boundaries which they contain, because these are distant according to continuity. But numbers, although they are separated, yet, at the same time, do not appear to have position, because they are not distant and extended, unless you should say that these also receive magnitude and interval. For all intervals, in consequence of destroying a subsistence collected into one, cause that which is in them to be changed into another, in which also they are said to be placed by position, losing, as it were, independent power; just as, by departing from themselves in their energies, they are said to be moved, and to change. Of these intervals, therefore, in order that they may not be perfectly extended to the indefinite, there are collective measures; time, indeed, being the measure of some things, according to the energy in motion: but of others, definite multitude, which is number, being the measure,

p. 102

according to a distinction of essence: and of others, definite magnitude, as a cubit, or something of this kind, according to continuity. Of others, again, place is the measure, according to a dispersion of position. Hence, things that are moved are said to be moved in time; but they are said to have position of essence, and motion itself, in place, so far as essence itself also participates of being moved. And that place indeed subsists about position, and is something belonging to things situated, is evident. For we say, that those things are in place which have position; and upward and downward are the differences of place, surveyed according to position; in the same manner as the right hand and the left, before and behind.

"But that place bounds, measures, and orderly arranges position, you may learn from hence: for we say, that a thing has position, though it should be disorderly posited, in any way whatever; but a thing is then said to have its proper convenient position, when it receives its proper place, just as any thing, whatever it may be, proceeds into being, but then has its proper opportune subsistence, when it exists in a becoming time. Through place, therefore, every part of a thing has a good position; the head of my body, indeed, upward, but the foot downward; the liver in the right-hand parts, but the heart in the middle: and the eyes, through which seeing, we walk, are before; but the back, by which we carry burthens, is behind. These, indeed, are differences through place; just as of the parts of an embryo, one is fabricated before another, through time, and one age orderly proceeds prior to another; nor are the Trojan confounded with the Peloponnesian transactions: for prior and posterior are the differences of time, just as upward and downward, and the other four divisions are the differences of place; as also Aristotle acknowledges. The parts of the world, therefore, have their proper position in the whole, on account of place. Hence, speaking superficially, place, simply so called, is, according to this conception, that which bounds the position of bodies; but speaking of place as having a natural subsistence, it is that which

p. 103

bounds the position according to corporeal parts, conformably to nature, both with respect to each other and to the whole, and also the position according to the whole with respect to the parts. For, as different parts of the earth and the heavens are arranged in different situations, on account of place, and some parts are northern but others southern, so the whole heaven and the whole earth, being parts of the world, have a convenient measure of position, and an orderly distribution on account of place; the former being allotted the circumference of the universe, but the latter possessing the middle of it: and it is place which imparts coincidence to the parts of the universe. If, likewise, place (τοπος) is denominated from conjecture, (εκ τουτο παζειν, lege εκ του τοπαζειν) becoming place from being situated near to things conjectural* as being a certain conjecture of intellectual distinction, thus also what has been said of place will accord with this etymology. For to images, which have a conjectural subsistence, place imparts an establishment, and a similitude to their paradigms. For unless each of the parts of things, which are separated by interval, was situated according to its proper place, an image would never he similar to its paradigm, but every order, convenient measure, and elegant arrangement, would vanish. And, indeed, if you take away place, you will see the disposition of bodies extraneous and disordered, and tending to perfect indefiniteness. For in what position will each of the parts stop, when they are not adapted to any? On this account, therefore, things which are naturally moved, are moved in order that they may obtain their proper position; and things which are permanent, abide in a convenient measure of position through a love of place. Hence place is the cause of something to bodies, and to all corporeal natures, and what it is may perhaps be understood from what has been said.

"It will follow, however, from this, that such a place is neither

p. 104

the boundary of that which contains,—for how is this the cause of order or distinction, since it is rather defined by the things which exist in, and are comprehended by it?—nor yet will it be body; fur, though some one should say that it is an immaterial body, which has parts distant and different from each other,—this also will require that which may arrange it, and cause this part to be situated in the middle, and that in the circumference. Nor is it possible that a thing of this kind can be interval: for, through the same causes, interval, in consequence of possessing difference, and having its parts differently situated, will also require a certain convenient position. Place, therefore, appears to be the measure of things posited, just as time is said to be the number of the motion of things moved. Since, however, position is twofold, the one being essential, and the other adventitious, place also will be twofold, the one becoming the perfect element of that which has position, but the other subsisting according to accident. There is also a certain difference of essential position, so far as, in a certain respect, wholes themselves have the proper position of their proper parts, both with respect to each other, and to the universe; or so far as parts have a proper position with reference to the whole and the remaining parts. Hence, place also becomes twofold; the one peculiar, belonging to individual places; but the other being defined according to position in the whole. For, as whole is twofold, the one belonging to each of the parts,—according to the definite and distinct subsistence of each, according to which we say, that the earth is a certain whole, and not the earth only, but also an animal and a plant, and each of the parts in these; but the other being more comprehensive, as when we say the whole world, the whole earth, and the whole air, and of each wholeness * there are proper parts; —in like manner, of place

p. 105

we say, that one is the convenient position of the proper parts of a thing, as of try parts in the whole of ray body; but another the convenient position of the whole as of a part, in the place of its more comprehensive wholeness. Thus, the place of the earth, is the place of terrestrial natures; and this so far as earth possesses the middle of the universe. For, though the earth should be deprived of its position about the middle of the universe, it would still retain the convenient position of its proper parts in their proper whole; but it would not then possess its convenient position as a part of the universe. Hence, if the whole earth were hurled upward, it would fall again to the middle; and the parts which it contains would preserve their formation with respect to each other, even when it was removed from the middle. Thus, also, a mad suspended in the air would have the convenient order of his proper parts; but he would no longer have the convenient order as of a part to the whole. And since parts belong more to things more total, than wholes themselves do; for they do not so much vanquish subordinate, as they are vanquished by more excellent natures; and this because first are in a greater ratio to second natures, than second to third natures; this being the case, though a clod of earth should have a proper convenient position in the air, yet it would tend downward, through a desire of that which is more total. For that which is peculiar is every where dead and cold, when divulsed from that which is common, and deprived of its appropriate connexion; just as plants, when torn up by the roots, though they are in complete possession of all their parts, yet immediately droop, in consequence of being divulsed from their common wholeness. For all things live on account of the one mundane animal. Hence, as long as every thing is rooted in the world, through proximate wholenesses, so long it lives, and is preserved; but if it is divulsed from its proximate, it is also torn from the common wholeness. Thus, therefore, the natural tendencies of bodies, and their permanencies in their proper places, are preserved, by admitting place to be a thing of this kind. And the

p. 106

local motion of things which are moved, is nothing else than the assumption of different positions, at different times, till that which is moved obtains its appropriate position; the intermediate air or water being divided, and receiving the position which it then has, as long as that which is stronger proceeds. The position, also, of the parts of air, is that which a clod of earth or I receive when moved. The place to which I change is not definitely my peculiar place, but the place of surrounding air, in a different part of which I am also naturally adapted to become situated at different times. Hence, it being dubious how things which are moved are moved in place, since things in place may be justly said to be at rest rather than to be moved, let us see how the philosopher Syrianus states the doubt, and gives the solution of it:—'Some one may ask,' says he, 'how things which are moved, are moved in place, since things moved, are rather from whence, whither. For, in short, things in place appear to be at rest. May we not, therefore, say, that things which are moved, are in place and not in place? For they are not in the first, and, as it were, proper place of themselves; since if they were they would be at rest. But they are in place, surveyed according to its extent; just as we say that the sun is in the constellation called the Lion, because the extent of the Lion comprehends the sun. We also say that a flying eagle is in the air, and that a ship sailing with a prosperous wind is in the sea: for all these have place considered in its extent, or assumed with a greater latitude, but they have not a first and peculiar place, as long as they are moved.' And most of those, indeed, who speak about place, appear to me especially to direct their attention to this external place. For, on being asked, what is the place of the earth? they reply, that it is the middle of the universe; which is the peculiar place of the universe, and of the earth as in the universe. On being also asked, what is the place of the heavens? they say, that which surrounds; but they do not, in their reply, adduce that place of the earth which gives convenient position to its parts; and, in a similar manner, that

p. 107

place of the heavens through which its parts are orderly arranged. Hence, all moll, us it seems, assert that place is separate from that which is in place. For, in reality, that which pertains to each particular from more total place, is separate from that which is in place, and is not precedaneously the place of that thing. They also consider place as immovable, looking to this more common place, and which is considered in its extent. For the peculiar place of every thing, and which is co-essentiallised with it, is also moved together with it. But common place abides, being peculiar to that which is more total and comprehensive, as body."


93:* This fragment is extracted from the Commentaries of Simplicius on the Physics of Aristotle, p. 143.

99:* For the rational soul is eternal in essence, but temporal in energy. Hence, according to the former, it is immovable; but according to the latter, is moved.

100:* The paternal profundity, according to the Chaldaic Theology, consists of three triads, each of which triads contains father, power, and intellect. See my collection of the Chaldean Oracles, in the Classical Journal.

103:* Sensible objects are conjectural, because the proper knowledge of them belongs to opinion.

104:* The world is a whole of wholes, which wholes or wholenesses are the celestial and elementary spheres. See the Introduction to my Translation of the Timæus of Plato.

Next: From Olympiodorus, in Aristot. Meteor.