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  • Proclus: Commentary on Plato's Timaeus
  • Stephen Gersh
Dirk Baltzly , editor and translator. Proclus: Commentary on Plato's Timaeus. Volume III. Book 3, Part 1: Proclus on the World's Body. Cambridge-New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Pp. xii + 205. Cloth, $91.00.

This is the third of the five volumes projected by Cambridge University Press in its new English translation of Proclus's important commentary on Plato's Timaeus. It contains a translation of about one third of the second volume of Ernst Diehl's critical edition of the Greek text (Bibliotheca Teubneriana [Leipzig, 1904]) covering Proclus's commentary on Plato's discussion of the world's body at Timaeus 31b–34a. The volume of translation also includes an introduction, notes, glossaries (English to Greek and Greek to English), and a general index. Baltzly's translation is the first English version for approximately two hundred years—and the first based on Diehl's text—and should be compared with A.-J. Festugière's French translation (Paris, 1966–68) on which it sometimes improves. This translation combines the virtues of being both close to the original Greek and readable in its own right, its value for the more committed scholar being enhanced by the incorporation of transliterated Greek terms into the text at strategic points.

Without detracting from the overall value of this translation, a few comments or criticisms should be made. A first principle of translation to be followed in such a case is consistency of terminology. Since Proclus's Greek is rigorously technical in a way that Plato's is not, and employs a vocabulary established in the school of Athens by Syrianus that apparently never varies, it makes sense to employ consistently one English term for one Greek term wherever the grammar and syntax of English make this possible. For the most part, Baltzly follows this practice. However, it is confusing to render the word pair aisthēsis/aisthētos sometimes as 'perception'/'perceptible' and sometimes as 'sensation'/'sensible' (see 5. 18 , 83.17–22, 84. 29 Diehl; cf. the glossary, 180), the former pair of terms being not only more vague than Proclus's originals (Festugière's 'sensation'/'perceptible aux sens' are better), but also concealing their conceptual identity with the latter pair from the reader. It is also misleading to translate the family of terms dēmiourgos, dēmiourgikos, dēmiourgia, and dēmiourgein inconsistently, using 'Demiurge', 'craftsman', 'demiurgic', 'creation', and 'to create' (see [End Page 310] 2. 17 , 16. 8 , 1. 8 ; cf. the glossary, 172), given the metaphysical unity underlying these conceptions in Proclus's thought and the inappropriate Judeo-Christian connotations of 'creation'. The introduction of some suitable compound expressions like 'demiurgic product' or 'demiurgic operation' (cf. Festugière's 'opération démiurgique') could have reflected the original precisely. A second principle of translation needing to be observed in the present case concerns metaphysical implications. Although Proclus's terminology often seems to have a primarily logical sense and to be functioning in a straightforward "Aristotelian" context, a translator should try to indicate that a metaphysical meaning and a more "Platonic" framework of reference is almost invariably present as an underlying implication. In many important cases, Baltzly ignores this policy. For example, he translates 'anelittomenē' as 'explicit' (23. 18 ), where 'unfolded' would have brought out the implied emanation. He renders 'kat'aitian' as 'in a preparatory way' (43. 22 ; cf. n152 ), where 'according to cause' would have indicated the relation to the other members of an important triad: "according to substance" and "according to participation." He translates 'epibolē' as 'conception' (72.8; cf. n207 ), where 'intuition' would have brought out the immediacy of the act.

In the past, there have been basically two kinds of scholarship devoted to Proclus. On the one hand, there is the approach reading him as a source of ideas about how to interpret Plato's own text, or as a body of information about earlier Greek philosophy (dominant in the nineteenth century and up to World War II). On the other hand, there is the approach reading him as evidence for philosophizing in the Platonic (or Neo-platonic) manner during the fifth...


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