Irony and Inspiration: Homer as the Test of Plato’s Philosophical Coherence in the Sixth Essay of Proclus’ Commentary on the Republic

In: The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition
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  • 1 Department of Early Irish (Sean-Ghaeilge), Maynooth University, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland

Abstract

Even among sympathetic readers, there abides a sense that Proclus’ attachment to his authorities at least partially blinds him to Socratic irony. This has serious implications for his conciliation of Homer and Plato in the Sixth Essay of his Commentary on the Republic. A significant number of the passages in Plato’s dialogues, which Proclus takes as necessitating their agreement, appear to be examples of Socrates’ ironic mode. If this apparent necessity exists only through a failure to recognize the ironic character of these statements, it would seem to indicate the truth of E.R. Dodds’ famous judgement of Proclus, that he is properly philosophical only insofar as his thought is not subject to the irrationalisms of his pagan piety. The contention of this essay is that Proclus’ project of conciliation is not, in fact, driven by a refusal to recognize Socratic irony, but by his nuanced interpretation of it, an interpretation that is clarified through a consideration of the striking parallels it has with his understanding of poetic symbol. In following this path of inquiry, it will become evident that Proclus’ position on Socratic irony, and the theological conciliation it necessitates, is not an irrational interruption of his otherwise rational system, but an integral feature of its philosophical coherence.

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