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I think the parallel texts we have just seen from Proclus confirm the impression that all these remarks really are by Porphyry. We can add another couple of considerations to corroborate this view, concerning both vocabulary and content. As far as content is concerned, the use of lightning (Greek astrapê) as an example of instantaneous generation is hinted at by Aristotle87, but is made explicit in Porphyry's work To Gaurus, on the animation of the embryo, 11, 3. Speaking of the soul's incarnation in a human body, Porphyry writes:

“Its arrival and departure take place instantaneously, without having traveled through becoming nor having assumed extension through perishing, in the same way as a bolt of lightning does not subsist bit by bit, but it either exists or it does not, rejecting any extension of becoming and perishing (...) ensoulment takes place simultaneously throughout the substrate, as the sunrise for distributing rays from one limit of earth to the other, and to all that is seen by the sun, is timeless”.

The second indication that this passage may be authentically Porphyrian comes from the vocabulary, specifically the occurrence of the noun ousiôsis, formed from the noun ousioô “to invest with being, give substance to”. Its first attested occurence is in Origen, an older contemporary of Porphyry, who uses it eight times. Numenius uses it once, as does Plotinus, and his student Porphyry then uses it at least seven times in those works of his that happen to have been partially preserved (In Cat. p. 99, 7 ; 10 Busse ; Sentence 39, p. 47, 3 ; 41, p. 52, 8 ; 9; 14 Lamberz ; In Ptol. harm. p. 11, 33-12, 2 Düring ; In Parm., 12, 6 ; 9 Hadot). It therefore seems legitimate to describe the use of derivatives of the verb ousioô as characteristic of Porphyry.

If this notion is of instantaneous creation is indeed genuinely Porphyrian, we will have here a wonderful case of historical irony, for it will have been Porphyry, the arch-enemy of Christianity, who supplied John Philoponus with one of his key arguments in defense of the Christian doctrine of creatio ex nihilo.88

Chadwick, Henry, “ Philoponus the Christian theologian”, in R. Sorabji, ed., 1987, 41-56.

Croese, Irma Maria, Simplicius on continuous and instantaneous change: Neoplatonic elements in Simplicius' interpretation of Aritotelian Physics, Leiden-Utrecht: Zeno Institute of Philosophy, 1998 (Quaestiones Infinitae ; vol. 23).

Davidson, Herbert A, “ John Philoponus as a source of Medieval Islamic and Jewish proofs of creation”, Journal of the Ancient Oriental Society 89 (1969), 357-391.

____ , Proofs for Eternity, Creation the Existence of God in Medieval Islamic and Jewish Philosophy, New York / Oxford, 1987.

Dietrich, Albert, “Die arabische Version einer unbekannten Schrift des Alexander von Aphrodisias über die Differentia specifica”, Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen aus dem Jahre 1964, Philologisch-historische Klasse, Göttingen : Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1964, 88-136.

Hadot, Ilsetraut, Le problème du néoplatonisme alexandrin: Hiéroclès et Simplicius, Paris: Études Augustiniennes, 1978. English: Ilsetraut Hadot, Studies in the Neoplatonist Hierocles, translated by Michael Chase, «Transactions of the American Philosophical Society», Vol. 94, Part 11, Philadelphia: American Philological Association, 2004.

____ , ed., Simplicius: sa vie, son oeuvre, sa survie, Actes du Colloque international de Paris (28 sept, - 1er Oct. 1985), organisé par le Centre de Recherches sur les Oeuvres et la Pensée de Simplicius (RCP 739 – CNRS), (= Peripatoi Band 15), Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1987.

____ , “La vie et l'œuvre de Simplicius d'après des sources grecques et arabes” in eadem, ed., 1987, p. 3-39.

Hasnawi, Ahmed, “Alexandre d'Aphrodise vs. Jean Philopon: notes sur quelques traités d'Alexandre ‘perdus’ en grec, conservés en arabe”, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 4 (1994), 53-109.

Hoffmann, Philippe, “Sur quelques aspects de la polémique de Simplicius contre Jean Philopon: De l'invective à la réaffirmation de la transcendance du ciel”, in I. Hadot, ed., 1987, 183-221.

Jolivet, Jean, Perspectives arabes et médiévales, Paris Vrin, 2006 (Études de philosophie médiévale, LXXIX).

Judson, Lindsay, “ God or nature? Philoponus on generability and perishabilty ”, in R. Sorabji, ed., 1987.

Lang, Uwe Michael, John Philoponus and the controversies over Chalcedon in the sixth century : a study and translation of the «Arbiter», Leuven: Peeters, 2001 (Spicilegium sacrum Lovaniense: études et documents; 47).

MacCoull, Leslie S. B., “Towards a new understanding of Coptic Egypt”, in eadem, Coptic perspectives on Late Antiquity, London : Variorum, 1993, study 1.

____ , “A new look at the career of John Philoponus”, Journal of Early Christian Studies 1995 3 (1), 47-60.

____ , “The historical context of John Philoponus' «De opificio mundi» in the culture of Byzantine-Coptic Egypt ” Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum 2005 9 (2), 397-423.

Mahdi, Muhsin, “Alfarabi against Philoponus”, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 26. 4 (1967), 233-260.

McGinnis, Jon, “For every time there is a season : John Philoponus on Plato's and Aristotle's conception of time”, Kronoscope 3.1 (2003), 1-30.

Morrison, Donald, “Philoponus and Simplicius on tekmeriodic proof’’, in Eckhardt Kessler, ed., Method and Order in Renaissance Philosophy of Nature. The Aristotle Commentary Tradition, Ashgate, 1998, pp. 1–22.

Oreal, Elsa, “Héka, Πρῶτον μάγευμα. Une explication de Jamblique, De mysteriis VIII, 3”, Revue d'Égyptologie 54 (2003), 279-285.

Rashed, Marwan, “Nicolas d’Otrante, Guillaume de Moerbeke et la «Collection philosophique»”, Studi Medievali 3e série 43 (2) 2002, 693-717.

____ , “The problem of the composition of the heavens (529-1610): a new fragment of Philoponus and its readers”, in P. Adamson et al., eds., Philosophy, Science and Exegesis in Greek, Latin and Arabic commentaries, vol. 1 (Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies supplement 83.1), London 2004.

_____ , “Al-Fārābī's lost treatise On changing beings and the possibility of a demonstration of the eternity of the world”, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 18 (2008), 19-58.

Ross, Alberto, “Filópono y el Pseudo-Justino contra la eternidad del movimiento”, Tópicos 38 (2010), 117-132.

Sharples, Robert W., “Alexander of Aphrodisias: Scholasticism and Innovation”, in H. Temporini and W. Haase (eds.), Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, vol. II.36.1. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1987, pp. 1176-1243.

Sorabji, Richard, Time, Creation and the Continuum. Theories in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, London: Duckworth/Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983.

____ , ed., Philoponus and the rejection of Aristotelian science, Ithaca/Cornell 1987.

____ , “Infinity and the creation”, in id., ed., 1987, 164-178.

____ , ed., The philosophy of the commentators, 200-600 AD: 400 years of transition, a sourcebook, 3 vols., London: Duckworth, 2004.

Theiler, Willy, “Porphyrios und Augustin” (1933), in Forschungen zum Neuplatonismus (= Quellen und Studien zur Geschichte der Philosophie, Band 10), Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1966.

Verrycken, Koenraad, “The Development of Philoponus' Thought and its Chronology” in R. Sorabji, ed., Aristotle Transformed, London 1990, 233-274.

____ , “Philoponus’ interpretation of Plato's cosmogony”, DSSTFM 8 (1997), 269-318.

White, Michael J., The continuous and the discrete. Ancient physical theories from a contemporary perspective, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992.

Wildberg, Christian, “Prolegomena to the study of Philoponus’ contra Aristotelem”, in R. Sorabji, ed., 1997, 197-209.

____ , Philoponus, Against Aristotle, on the Eternity of the World, translated by. C. W. Ithaca 1987 (The Ancient Commentators on Aristotle).

Zahlfleisch, Joh., “Einige Corollarien des Simplicius in seinem Commentar zu Aristoteles' Physik (ed. Diels)”, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 15 n.F. 8 (1902), 186-213.

Zimmermann, Fritz W., “The Origins of the So-Called Theology of Aristotle”, in J. Kraye, Ryan, W. F., & Schmitt, C. B., Pseudo-Aristotle in the Middle Ages: The Theology and other Texts (= Warburg Institute Surveys and Texts 11), London: Warburg Institute, Univ. of London, 1986, 110–240.


1. Tables
Table 1: Calvinus Taurus on the meanings of genêton

(apud Philoponum aet. mundi, p. 145, 13-147, 25 Rabe)

Meanings of genêton


1. what was not generated, but belongs to same genus as generated things

body in center of the earth (visible, but will never actually be seen)

2. what is composite by virtue of a thought experiment, even if not composite in actuality

middle note of the musical scale from the highest and the lowest, flowers, animals

3. what is always in a process of becoming

sublunar elements

4. what derives its being from elsewhere (viz., from God)

moon derives its light from the sun (although there's never been a time when it did not do so)

Table 2: Porphyry on the meanings of genêtos

(apud Philoponum aet. mundi, VI, 8, p. 148, 7 ff. Rabe)

Meanings of genêtos


5. That which has the logos of generation

(= Taurus meaning 2?)

words, syllables (decomposable into letters) ; geometrical figures (rectilinear figures decomposable into triangles), compounds of matter and form

6. What receives its being through generation and becoming

house, ship, plant, animal (snap of fingers, flash of lightning : come into existence without any process of generation)

7. What begins to exist in time, after having not existed

most familiar meaning, but Plato didn't apply it to the world

Table 3: potential and actuality

1. First potential (dunamis)

= human beings' capacity for learning to read and write

= the buildable (bricks and stones qua building materials)

2. First actuality (hexis) = second potential (dunamis)

= possession of ability to read and write

= the process of building

3. Second actuality (= entelechy)

= exercising one's knowledge of reading and writing

= the house's acquisition of its form

Table 4: kinds of motion of motion or change

1. Substantial motion

coming-into-being (genesis) and perishing (phthora),

2. Qualitative motion

alteration (alloiôsis

3. Quantitative motion

growth (auxêsis) and diminution (phthisis)

4. Local motion

transportation (phora).

2. Texts


Text 1 = Plato, Timaeus 29D-30C

Text 2 = Plato, Timaeus 41a-D

Text 3 = Aristotle, De Caelo, I, 10, 279b12-280a23,

Text 4 = Porphyry, Commentary on the Timaeus fr. 36-37 Sodano = Philoponus, De aet. mundi VI, 8, p. 148, 7-15 Rabe.

Text 5 = Aristotle, Physics 8, 1, 250b12-252b8

Text 6 = Simplicius, In Phys., 1154, 3-20 Diel

Text 7 = Aristotle, Physics, 3, 1, 201a9-202a3

Text 8a = Aristotle, Physics 3, 1, 201b27-202a3

Text 8b = Aristotle, Metaph. Θ 6, 1048b18-36

Text 8c = Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 10, 4, 1174a13

Text 8d = Aristotle, On the Soul, 3, 7, 431a6-7

Text 8e = John Philoponus, In De anima, 3, 7, p. 558, 16 ff. Hayduck

Text 8f = Aristotle, On the soul 2, 5, 417a22

Text 9 = Themistius, In Phys., 3, 1, p. 68, 30 ff. Schenkl.

Text 9b = Aristotle, Al-abī‘a, p. 171, 8-13 Badawi

Text 10 = Aristotle, Physics, 1, 3, 186a4 f.

Text 10b = Aristotle, Physics, 8, 3, 253b6-26

Text 10c = Aristotle, De sensu, 6, 446b28-447a13

Text 11 = Alexander of Aphrodisias, On form and the fact that it is the perfection and accomplishment of motion according to Aristotle, p. 289-290 Badawi

Text 12 = Proclus, On the Eternity of the World, apud Philoponus, aet. mundi., p. 55, 22 ff. Rabe

Text 13 = Philoponus, aet. mundi, 4, 4, p. 64, 22-65, 26 Rabe

Text 14 = Philoponus, In De Anima 2, 5, p. 296, 22-298, 23 Hayduck

Text 15 = Philoponus, Against Aristotle on the Eternity of the World, fr. 115 Wildberg = Simplicius, In Phys., p. 1141, 12-30

Text 16 = Philoponus, Against Aristotle on the Eternity of the World, fr. 129 Wildberg = Simplicius, In Phys., 1173, 1-13.

Text 17 : Al-Kindi, On the quantity of Aristotle's books, p. 375, 9 ff. Abū Rīda

Text 18 = Theology of Aristotle, p. 27 Badawi = p. 237 d'Ancona et al.

Text 19 = Pseudo-Farabi, Harmony of Plato and Aristotle, p. 64 Martini Bonadeo

Text 20 = Porphyry, Commentary on the Timaeus, fr. LI, p. 38, 5 ff. Sodano = Procl., In Tim., vol. 1, 395, 10 ff. Diehl.

Text 21 = Proclus, In Tim., vol. 2, p 102, 6 ff. Diehl.

Text 1: Timaeus 29D-30C (Cornford 1937, p. 33)

Let us, then, state for what reason becoming and the universe were framed by him who framed them. He was good; and in the good no jealousy in any matter can ever arise. So, being without jealousy, he desired that all things should come as near as possible to being like himself. That this is the supremely valid principle of becoming and of the order of the world, we shall most surely be right to accept from men of understanding. Desiring, then, that all things should be good and, so far as might be, nothing imperfect, the god took over all that is visible – not at rest, but in discordant and unordered motion – and brought it from disorder into order, since he judged that order was in every way the better.

{ΤΙ.} Λέγωμεν δὴ δι’ ἥντινα αἰτίαν γένεσιν καὶ τὸ πᾶν τόδε ὁ συνιστὰς συνέστησεν. ἀγαθὸς ἦν, ἀγαθῷ δὲ οὐδεὶς περὶ οὐδενὸς οὐδέποτε ἐγγίγνεται φθόνος· τούτου δ’ ἐκτὸς ὢν πάντα ὅτι μάλιστα ἐβουλήθη γενέσθαι παραπλήσια ἑαυτῷ. ταύτην δὴ γενέσεως καὶ κόσμου μάλιστ’ ἄν τις ἀρχὴν κυριωτάτην παρ’ ἀνδρῶν φρονίμων ἀποδεχόμενος ὀρθότατα ἀποδέχοιτ’ ἄν. βουληθεὶς γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἀγαθὰ μὲν πάντα, φλαῦρον δὲ μηδὲν εἶναι κατὰ δύναμιν, οὕτω δὴ πᾶν ὅσον ἦν ὁρατὸν παραλαβὼν οὐχ ἡσυχίαν ἄγον ἀλλὰ κινούμενον πλημμελῶς καὶ ἀτάκτως, εἰς τάξιν αὐτὸ ἤγαγεν ἐκ τῆς ἀταξίας, ἡγησάμενος ἐκεῖνο τούτου πάντως ἄμεινον.

Text 2: Plato, Timaeus 41a-d, translation Cornford

Be that as it may, when all the gods had come to birth – both all that revolve before our eyes and all that reveal themselves in so far as they will – the author of this universe addressed them in these words:

“Gods, of gods whereof I am the maker and of works the father, those which are my own handiwork are indissoluble, save with my consent. Now, although whatsoever bond has been fashioned may be unloosed, yet only an evil will could consent to dissolve what has been well fitted together and is in a good state : therefore, although you, having come into being, are not immortal nor indissoluble altogether, nevertheless you shall not be dissolved nor taste of death, finding my will a bond yet stronger and more sovereign than those wherewith you were bound together when you came to be”.

ἐπεὶ δ’ οὖν πάντες ὅσοι τε περιπολοῦσιν φανερῶς καὶ ὅσοι φαίνονται καθ’ ὅσον ἂν ἐθέλωσιν θεοὶ γένεσιν ἔσχον, λέγει πρὸς αὐτοὺς ὁ τόδε τὸ πᾶν γεννήσας τάδε—
  “Θεοὶ θεῶν, ὧν ἐγὼ δημιουργὸς πατήρ τε ἔργων, δι’ μο γενόμενα λυτα μο γε μ θέλοντος. τὸ μὲν οὖν δὴ δεθὲν πᾶν λυτόν, τό γε μὴν καλῶς ἁρμοσθὲν καὶ ἔχον εὖ λύειν ἐθέλειν κακοῦ· δι’ ἃ καὶ ἐπείπερ γεγένησθε, ἀθάνατοι μὲν οὐκ ἐστὲ οὐδ’ ἄλυτοι τὸ πάμπαν, οτι μν δ λυθήσεσθέ γε οδ τεύξεσθε θανάτου μοίρας, τς μς βουλήσεως μείζονος τι δεσμο κα κυριωτέρου λαχόντες κείνων ος τ’ γίγνεσθε συνεδεσθε.

Text 3: Aristotle, De Caelo, I, 10, 279b12-280a23, translation Guthrie (LCL)

All thinkers agree that it [The world] has had a beginning, but some maintain that having begun it is everlasting, others that it is perishable like any other formation of nature (...) Now the view that it has had a beginning but is everlasting is an impossible one. Reason demands that we should only take for our hypotheses what we see to be generally or universally true, and this one is just the opposite, for observation shows us that everything which has a beginning also comes to an end (…)

The self-defence attempted by some of those who hold that it [sc. the world] is indestructible but generated, is untrue. They claim that what they say about the generation of the world is analogous to the diagrams drawn by mathematicians : their exposition does not mean that the world ever was generated, but is used for instructional purposes, since it makes things easier to understand just as the diagram does for those who see it in process of construction. (…)

It is now clear that the world cannot at the same time be everlasting and have had a beginning.

Γενόμενον μὲν οὖν ἅπαντες εἶναί φασιν, ἀλλὰ γενόμενον οἱ μὲν ἀΐδιον, οἱ δὲ φθαρτὸν ὥσπερ ὁτιοῦν ἄλλο τῶν συνισταμένων, (...) Τ μν ον γενέσθαι μν ΐδιον δ’ μως εναι φάναι τν δυνάτων. Μόνα γὰρ ταῦτα θετέον εὐλόγως ὅσα ἐπὶ πολλῶν ἢ πάντων ὁρῶμεν ὑπάρχοντα, περὶ δὲ τούτου συμβαίνει τοὐναντίον· ἅπαντα γὰρ τὰ γινόμενα καὶ φθειρόμενα φαίνεται (…)

Ἣν δέ τινες βοήθειαν ἐπιχειροῦσι φέρειν ἑαυτοῖς τῶν λεγόντων ἄφθαρτον μὲν εἶναι γενόμενον δέ, οὐκ ἔστιν ἀληθής· ὁμοίως γάρ φασι τοῖς τὰ διαγράμματα γράφουσι καὶ σφᾶς εἰρηκέναι περὶ τῆς γενέσεως, οχ ς γενομένου ποτέ, λλ διδασκαλίας χάριν ὡς μᾶλλον γνωριζόντων, ὥσπερ τὸ διάγραμμα γιγνόμενον θεασαμένους (...)

Ὅτι μὲν οὖν ἀδύνατον ἅμ’ ἀΐδιον αὐτὸν εἶναι καὶ γενέσθαι, φανερόν.


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