Philosophy of Music in the Neoplatonic Tradition: Theories of Music and Harmony in Proclus' Commentaries on Plato's "Timaeus" and "Republic"

Sebastian Moro Tornese

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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My thesis examines philosophical questions about music according to Neoplatonism: what is music and what is the place of music in the structure of reality. I focus my examination of Neoplatonic music on the philosopher Proclus. For Proclus, music is something much richer than the phenomenon usually called music. My thesis studies this wide notion of music: music as art and as science, and furthermore music as a principle of order and harmony in the universe. Accordingly, music is intimately related to metaphysical principles: the World-Soul and the Intellect.
In Chapter I, I concentrate on the explanation of the mathematical proportions that are the basis for the musical scale of the Timaeus of Plato, according to Proclus’ commentary on this dialogue. Secondly, in Chapters II and III, I study Proclus’ metaphysical interpretation of the scale, understood as a symbol of the hierarchy of levels in Neoplatonism. In Chapter IV, I study what is the value of music for human life, in Proclus’ commentary on the Republic. Neoplatonism is a
philosophy of Unity, and in this context, music and harmony are a way of returning to Unity from multiplicity and division. I study how music can guide the human soul to come back to the origin of reality, with the help of musician gods such as Hermes, the Muses and Apollo.
My dissertation shows the connection between philosophy, mathematics, art and mythology. Music is a privileged art because it is related by an essential kinship to the soul. I have applied the Boethian classification of music to the inner logic of my thesis in order to show that in Neoplatonism all these aspects are organized in a complex conception of music. Neoplatonic music is consequently understood as an encompassing phenomenon, which mirrors the encompassing nature of Neoplatonic philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Sheppard, Anne, Supervisor
Publication statusUnpublished - 2010

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