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The following examines Proclus’ conception of the maternal causes in the Neoplatonist’s theological metaphysics. Beginning with a feminist critique of his gendered system, the bulk of the essay will examine his explicit identification of the summit of the intelligible-intellective sphere with the feminine/maternal, showing that the first gendered deity in Proclus’ system, the goddess Night, is the mother goddess that receives, reveals and mediates to the divine orders of intelligible Being and the Good. In this, she acts as the first dyadic paradigm, both intelligible and intellective, instructing through her prophetic and connective powers how to unite and bring into contact all multiplicity. We shall thus see that the essential role of the feminine is not merely subordinate generative work (as is often the case in patriarchal discourses), but, rather, this feminine principle conditions all mediation, therein becoming a necessary and superior condition for the work of the Demiurge in his task of creation. Further, we shall unpack how Night’s paradigmatic activity establishes the roles of other feminine orders, particularly in such “daughters” as the divine Mixing Bowl and Necessity, who in turn function as the “mothers” who, with the Demiurge, co-establish the cosmos.

In: Women and the Female in Neoplatonism
In: Platonic Theories of Prayer
In: Platonic Theories of Prayer


In examining the concept of double ignorance—one’s unawareness of one’s ignorance—in the work of Olympiodorus, this chapter makes two points. First, double ignorance, and the attachment to one’s reputation and belongings which it involves, leaves room for a Socratic, mimetic pedagogy that reveals true reality as what the doubly ignorant has desired all along. Second, Olympiodorus develops the novel idea of a virtuous kind of double ignorance, in which purified souls are unaware of their ignorance of the body.

In: Olympiodorus of Alexandria
In: Socrates and the Socratic Dialogue
In: Brill’s Companion to the Reception of Plato in Antiquity

To dismiss the problems of Socratic moral intellectualism as well as Socratic irony (with respect to his claims of ignorance) in the following we shall first discuss how there are different forms of not-knowing in the Platonic dialogues. By referencing various passages throughout Plato’s entire corpus we shall see that like his nuanced understanding of knowledge, Plato also delineated between kinds of ignorance with only one denying virtue and the good life to individuals. This will prove that Socrates does not associate with a reprehensible state when he claims ignorance and thus there is no need to appeal to irony when he makes such avowals of not-knowing. In the second half of this essay I will also suggest that the knowledge to which Socrates appeals is not an “ironic” appeal to human knowledge, as various scholars have argued, but is a sincere appeal to divine knowledge, i.e. immediate wisdom, which all human beings possess and rely on in their daily lives. In other words, Socratic knowing is a kind of enigmatic knowing which must be understood as a pre-theoretical, unexamined or innate wisdom. For Socrates all individuals “possess” such wisdom but in order to do the work that is “properly” human, i.e. the work allowing for virtue, one must enigmatically marry this “knowledge” with recognized ignorance.

In: Méthexis

In his Commentary on the Alcibiades i Proclus often discusses and links the peculiar epistemological category of “double ignorance” (ignorance of ignorance combined with the conceit to knowledge) with evil and grievous error. To understand this more fully, the following analyzes Proclus’ concept of double ignorance, its characteristics and its causes. Markedly, due to his understanding of double ignorance, Proclus offers a response to the “Socratic” idea that no one willingly errs as this particular category of not-knowing enables him to explain how individuals, despite desiring and in some sense knowing the good, fail or ‘miss the mark’ in articulating and doing the good.

Open Access
In: The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition