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Proclus on the Two Causal Models for the One’s Production of Being: Reconciling the Relation of the Henads and the Limit/Unlimited

In: The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition
Author:
Jonathan Greig Austrian Academy of Sciences (Institute for Medieval Research)

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Abstract

In Proclus’ metaphysics, the One produces Being through a mediated set of principles which are the direct causes of Being. While the henads (ἑνάδες) feature prominently as these principles, Proclus posits a second set of principles, the Limit and Unlimited, to explain the aspects of unity and plurality found in all beings. Initially there seems to be a tension in these two sets of principles: Proclus does not immediately clarify how they interact with each other or their relationship to each other. In Elements of Theology Prop. 159, he even seems to say that the Limit/Unlimited produce the henads—which contradicts the henads’ nature as pure ‘ones’. This article analyzes this issue by surveying three contemporary solutions that have been posed to address the tension, while also offering a new alternative: the Limit and Unlimited, as the first henads to emerge from the One, causally determine all subsequent henads according to their respective unique character (ἰδιότης), while both sets are ultimately derived from the One according to their subsistence (ὕπαρξις)—preserving the henads’ natures as simply ‘one’ like the One-itself.

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