The Metaphysics of Polytheism in Proclus

Dissertation, New School University (2003)
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This dissertation seeks to demonstrate that Proclus articulates a metaphysics not merely compatible with his polytheism, but to which in fact polytheism is integral. For Proclus the One Itself, which according to the First Hypothesis of the Parmenides neither is, nor is one, is instead as each henad, that is, as each God. The henads or Gods thus form a multiplicity unlike any other. Ontic multiplicities always exhibit mediation, in accord with a logic subordinating the many to the one. Correlatively, ontic unity is formal unity, structured by a logic of wholes and parts. These are the dominant characteristics of the realm of Being. The huperousios, or "supra-essential" domain of the Gods, by contrast, is that of a multiplicity of absolute individuals with no totalizing principle over them and no reciprocal relations between them, insofar as either of these would diminish that quality which they pre-eminently possess, namely unity. The supreme form of unity in Proclus' universe, therefore, is the individuality possessed by each absolutely unique God. Chapters 1--4 are concerned with elucidating the nature of the Gods as such. ;The last three chapters provide a close reading of the third, fourth and fifth books of Proclus' Platonic Theology, which I read as an account of the emergence of ontic unity out of henadic unity through the Gods' progressive self-diremption by which a space of mediation is constituted through which they come ultimately to be conceivable as a multiplicity like any other. The key stages in this process are the ontic hypostases of Being, Life and Intellect. The first represents the analysis of the "elements" of each God as such; the second represents the positing of the Gods in co-emergent groupings or pantheons; the third the emergence of fully reciprocal relations in the actions of mythic narrative. At the end of this cosmogonic process, the basic intellectual structures have been constituted which allow the formulation of the philosophical system. The relationship between the Gods and Being is thus embodied in that between myth and dialectic, theology and philosophy



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Edward Butler
New School for Social Research

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