Oddcast episode

Jonathan Greig on the East Roman Proclus Reception, Sixth to Fifteenth Centuries

In this interview with Jonathan Greig we cover an unaccustomedly-long historical scope, beginning from the closure of the Athenian Academy in the sixth century and ending with the experimental polytheism of George Gemistos Plethon in the fifteenth century. Along the way, a number of important points of Proclean influence on the life and thought of the later empire emerge, including:

  • Some thoughts on the authorship question vis à vis the Pseudo-Dionysius (who adapts Proclean or Proclean/Damascian materials to a VERY esoteric form of Christian thought),
  • The thought of Maximus the Confessor, sixth-century esoteric Christian philosopher and theologian (Proclean materials repurposed for Orthodoxy, but a decidedly ‘mystical’ flavour thereof),
  • The ‘dark ages’ of Proclus in the east, leading up to
  • The work of Michæl Psellos (ambivalently-fascinating pagan philosophy, useful for re-establishing a tradition of Græco-Roman philosophy, but very dangerous to the Christian credentials of any such philosophic movement),
  • Of John Italos (the rambunctuous, heretical successor to Psellos who ran into trouble with the Constantinopolitan authorities, in part precisely because he took up Proclus’ project of an all-encompassing philosophy),
  • Of Eustratius of Nicæa (one-time bishop of Nicæa who seems to go quite far toward embracing Proclus as a valid authority for Christians, and who was later also declared a heretic),
  • Of Ioane Petritsi (perhaps Christianity’s most sympathetic reader of Proclus – see our interview with Levan Gigineishvili devoted to Petritsi),
  • Of George Pachymeres (who might be using Proclus, or at least Proclean notions, in his project of harmonising Aristotle and Plato’s Timæus),
  • Of Gregory Palamas, Baarlam of Calabria, and Nikephoros Gregoras, all of whom use aspects of Proclean metaphysics in arguing for their positions in the great ‘hesychast’ controversy,
  • [a brief, possibly ahistorical discursus on Iamblichus and Porphyry’s debate over ritual efficacy vis à vis hesychasm],
  • And, lastly, the glorious story of Plēthōn’s Proclus-reception in which his ecclesiatical opponent, Scholarios, also uses Proclus against him.

Interview Bio:

Jonathan Greig is a FWO postdoctoral fellow at KC Leuven working on sensible substance in 4th-8th-century East-Roman Christian thought and its reception of Late Platonism. He completed his PhD in 2018 at the LMU Munich, writing on the One’s causality in late Neoplatonism. Before coming to Leuven he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, working on Proclus’ reception in 12th-14th-century East Rome. Look out for the upcoming volume which he has co-edited:

Dragos Calma, Jonathan Greig, and Joshua Robinson (eds). Forthcoming. Nicholas of Methone, Reader of Proclus in Byzantium: Context and Legacy. History of Metaphysics. Leiden: Brill.

Works Cited in this Episode:

Dylan Burns. Did God Care?: Providence, Dualism, and Will in Later Greek and Early Christian Philosophy. Brill, Leiden, 2020.

Garth Fowden. From Empire to Commonwealth: The Consequences of Monotheism in Late Antiquity. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1993.

Jonathan Greig. Proclus’ Doctrine of Participation in Maximus the Confessor’s Centuries of Theology I.48-50. In Markus Vinzent, editor, Studia Patristica LXXV, pages 137-48. Peeters, Leuven, 2017.

Dominic O’Meara. Pythagoras Revived : Mathematics and Philosophy in Late Antiquity. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1989. The reference is to Appendix I: The Excerpts from Iamblichus’ On Pythagoreanism V–VII in Psellus: Text, Translation, and Notes, pp. 217-29.

Recommended Reading:

SHWEP Jonathan Greig on the East Roman Proclus Reception Recommended Reading






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