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Neoplatonism and Abrahamic Traditions. A Comparative Analysis of the Middle East, Byzantium and the Latin West (9th-16th Centuries)

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NeoplAT (Neoplatonism and Abrahamic Traditions. A Comparative Analysis of the Middle East, Byzantium and the Latin West (9th-16th Centuries))

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2021-04-30

NeoplAT offers a fresh and thoroughly documented account of the impact of Pagan Neoplatonism on the Abrahamic traditions. It focuses mainly, but not exclusively, on the Elements of Theology of Proclus (fifth century) which occupies a unique place in the history of thought. Together with its ninth-century Arabic adaptation, the Book of Causes, it has been translated, adapted, refuted and commented upon by Muslim, Jewish and Christian thinkers across centuries, up to the dawn of modernity. Despite a renewed interest in Proclus’ legacy in recent years, one still observes a tendency to repeat conventional hypotheses focused on a limited range of well-studied authors. This project radically challenges these conservative narratives both by analysing invaluable, previously ignored resources and by developing an innovative comparative approach that embraces a variety of research methods and disciplines. Specialists in Arabic, Greek and Latin history of ideas, philology, palaeography and lexicography develop an intense interdisciplinary research laboratory investigating the influence of Proclus on the mutual exchanges between the scriptural monotheisms from the ninth to the sixteenth centuries.

NeoplAT anticipates significant breakthroughs in the scholarly understanding
of this field:
* to identify, analyse and make accessible (through Open Access publications and the project’s an unknown cultural patrimony, especially that which is conserved in unexplored libraries.
* to reconstitute the networks of transmission of Neoplatonism within and between the Middle East, Byzantium and the Latin West.
* t o analyse and compare the impact of Proclus’ on the history of metaphysics, and to establish its role in
the ruptures and continuities between philosophy and theology within the Abrahamic traditions.

This pioneering study comprises philosophical and theological studies on concepts and doctrines; archival and philological research on hitherto unknown works preserved in manuscripts from libraries across Europe and the Middle East; analyses of institutions, teaching methods and scholarly networks in the Middle East, Byzantium and Europe. The chronological limits of its object of study are fully justified by historical facts: the first known reception of the ETh into a monotheistic environment is in ninth century Baghdad, where it was adapted as the BoC, and the last known commentaries on the BoC and translations of the ETh come from Italy and the Netherlands in the sixteenth century.
During this second stage of the project, the team focused in parallel on three work-packages: (1) the identification and description of the corpus of the unknown manuscripts; (2) the study of the longest commentary written on Proclus’ Elements of Theology: Berthold of Moosburg 14th-c. Expositio; (3) the reception of Proclus in Byzantium. The team has put a great effort in organising international workshops, seminars, roundtables and conferences and displaying their results to a wider public: some of the meetings have been recorded and uploaded on a YouTube channel dedicated to our project. Also, it is important to mention that members of the team accepted to participate give interviews to radio broadcasts and newspaper of vulgarisation. However, the main focus of the project remains the groundwork, the advancement of the research that will provide tools for further studies.

(1) Iulia Székely resumed her activities after the maternity leave and continued to look for new medieval manuscripts essential for our research project and ignored by the academic community. Hence, the list has been enriched with important additions, such as 3 manuscripts transmitting the text of the Latin Book of Causes, 3 manuscripts transmitting Florilegia of the Book of Causes, 4 manuscripts containing commentaries (including abundant marginal glosses) on the Book of Causes. In parallel, Iulia Székely, in collaboration with Liz Curry, continued to purchase digital copies of all manuscripts that are important for our projects, our current database comprises over 400 digital copies of manuscripts. She began the work to the first-ever critical edition of the Book of Causes considering all medieval witnesses. At present, she collated 32 medieval manuscripts (the previous edition, dating from 1966, collated only 10 manuscripts) and the next step is to use these first results for a stemma codicum.
(2) Evan King has finished his monograph on Berthold of Moosburg comprising also the translation (into English) of major fragments from the Expositio. It is the first book in English, and the second ever written, on Berthold of Moosburg. This 216,115-words monograph has been accepted for publication by Brill Publishing in the new series entitled History of Metaphysics. Ancient, Medieval, Modern. In the same series, Evan King and Dragos Calma co-edit the first collective volume exclusively dedicated to Berthold’s Expositio: it gathers contributions from 15 international scholars. The main aim of this volume together with Evan King’s monograph is to resituate Berthold within the history of Western philosophy, and underline his unique intellectual project through which he aimed to redefine metaphysics in Platonic terms, beyond the realm of the Arisotelian tradition.
(3) Jonathan Greig and Joshua Robinson have advanced with the study of the reception of Proclus in Byzantium, and notably with Nicolas of Methone’s often overlooked critique of Proclus’ Elements of Theology. Jonathan Greig, who’s monograph The First Principle in Late Neoplatonism. A Study of the One’s Causality in Proclus and Damascius was been published with Brill in 2020, has been working on various topics. First and foremost, it is worth mentioning a comparative analysis on participation and causality in Nicolas and Thomas Aquinas, presented in a conference in July 2019, and revised for publication. Another important topic is a study on the reception of Proclus in Maximus the Confessor (accepted for publication in the third volume of Reading Proclus and the ‘Book of Causes’), as well as on reason and revelation in the 12th and 14th centuries Byzantium (accepted for publication in Theoria 82.2021). Joshua Robinson finished the revision of the first-ever modern translation (into English) of Nicolas of Methone’s Refutation and considers submitting it to various publishing houses. In April 2021, Jonathan Greig, Joshua Robinson and Dragos Calma organise the first-ever conference on Nicolas of Methone, comprising 11 international scholars. The conference will be online, and the proceedings will be published.

Overall, we are proud to report that since the beginning of the project, in Spring 2018, until present days, Spring 2021, the publication record of the team comprises: 1 monograph, 4 edited volumes, 11 articles in peer-review journals, and 8 book-chapters. Further publications are in sight, they will be mentioned in the next report.
Regular updates about conferences, events, meetings and publications related to the ERC team can be found on the project’s website:
We are happy to report that Dr Odile Gilon from the Université libre de Bruxelles has agreed to join the team and work on a new Latin edition with a French-translation of Roger Bacon’s commentary on the Book of Causes. We have not thought about the development of our research in that direction, but we are extremely grateful that Dr Gilon proposed her contribution to our research project, and we are equally grateful to UCD and ERC for allowing her to join our team. Our international collaborations are gradually expanding notably with scholars from Argentina and South Korea.
• Iulia Székely decided to produce a stemma codicum of all known manuscripts and a new critical edition of the Book of Causes before the end of the project. She equally discovered four new manuscripts with the Latin text of the Book of Causes:
• The new edition and the French translation of Roger Bacon’s Commentary on the Book of Causes prepared by Dr Odile Gilon in collaboration with the PI.
• The international collaboration, notably with Dr Odile Gilon (Université libre de Bruxelles). (for details, see:
• The new book series co-directed by the PI: History of Metaphysics (Brill, Leiden/New York).
website presenting all the activities of the project