The Thomas Taylor Series represents the single most comprehensive source of writings from the ancient Platonic tradition - a tradition which rewards those who study it seriously with a golden prize beyond worldly measure. As an aid to this study, the Prometheus Trust will eventually produce a further volume to accompany the series which will include a subject index to the whole series, together with a students' glossary.
The glossary is needed for a number of reasons: Taylor sometimes uses Greek words where he considers there is no adequate English equivalent; some technical philosophical words are either not widely known or have shades of meaning which are different from their common and non-philosophical usage; Thomas Taylor's language is of the second half of the Eighteenth century, and some words and phrases he uses have either fallen out of modern usage, or have changed their meaning in important ways.
Below is the Trust's glossary as it stands at present: we hope to build this up into a comprehensive TTS glossary with the help of the many students around the world who are now studying the writings and translations of Thomas Taylor. If you are one of these, we would urge you to email us whenever you come across a word which seems to be a suitable addition to the glossary and have looked up its meaning. It would help if you mention the source of any definition - of course we have no objection to a definition you have formulated, but again some indication of what this is based upon would help. The definition can be as short or as long (within reason) as you think fit.
If you would like to have this glossary in MS Word format, please email us and will will send you it as an attachment.
A very useful download of the Johnson and Walker 1828 dictionary can be obtain at the archive.org website, and given that it was produced during Taylor’s time, this is probably the best guide to the obscurities of Taylor’s Georgian English. You can jump to it here:
Note: many of the definitions below are taken from Taylor's own small glossaries which he added to several works.
Accident: That which is not of the essential nature of a thing. Thus in a man reason is essential, but to be red-haired is accidental.
Acroamatic and Syntagmatic Doctrines, are doctrines which require greater study than others, due to their subtle and hidden nature.
Alliation. Change in quality.
Anagogic, Leading on high; or that which draws towards divinity.
Anger . An appetite directed to the avengement of incidental molestations; especially that faculty of the soul which subsists between reason and desire and which seeks to direct the latter in accord with the former - from this point of view a faculty which seeks to ordinate the self, and its environment.
The attentive power of the soul. This power investigates and perceives whatever is transacted in man; and says, I understand, I think, I opine, I am angry, I desire. This attentive part of the soul, also, passes through all the rational, irrational, and vegetable or physical powers. In short, this power is the one of the soul, which follows all the other powers and energizes together with them. For we should not be able to know all these, and to apprehend in what they differ from each other, unless we contained a certain indivisible nature, which has a subsistence above the common sense, and which prior to opinion, desire, and will, knows all that these know and desire, according to an indivisible mode of apprehension.
Capacity. Is a perfect preparation of essence, and an unimpeded promptitude to energize, prolific of energy. Capacity is that which stands between essence and energy: in eternal things the capacity of an essence is ever-proceeding, while in temporal things a power is said to be in capacity in contrast to being in energy when it is not yet manifesting. Taylor explains in Energy in these words: "A subsistence in energy is twofold. For it is either as a whole subsisting that which it is, as a man or a house; or as that which has its being in a tendency to existence, or in becoming to be, as a contest and a day; for we say that these are in energy when they are."
Catoptric - pertaining to mirrors. Taylor uses this word when referring to the subtle matter of the facutly of the phantasy possessed by embodied souls.
Causes: There are sixty-four modes of causes according to Aristotle. For every cause is either essential or accidental; and these subsist in a twofold respect. For they subsist either proximately or remotely; and thus produce four modes. All these again have a twofold subsistence; for they are either simple or complex; and thus they produce eight modes. These again, have a twofold subsistence; for they are either in energy, or in capacity; and consequently produce sixteen modes. And because causes are denominated in a fourfold respect; for they are either material, or formal, or efficient, or final; hence there are in all sixty-four modes. Taylor further elucidates causes by carefully translating them in these terms: On account of which; with reference to which; through which; according to which; from which; or in which; By the first of these terms, Plato is accustomed to denominate the final cause; by the second the paradigmatic; by the third the demiurgic; by the fourth the instrumental; by the fifth form; and by the sixth matter. This six-fold analysis of cause may be seen as a refinement of Aristotle's fourfold scheme: Aristotle's formal cause is thus divided into universal and particular as the paradigmatic and form; his efficient cause is divided into universal and particular as the demiurgic and instrumental.
Composite, I have used the word composite instead of compounded, because the latter rather denotes the mingling than the contiguous union of one thing with another, which the former, through its derivation from the Latin word compositus, solely denotes.
Demiurgus, Zeus (Jove or Jupiter) the artificer of the universe. Taylor also gives Demiurgus of wholes - the artificer of the universe is thus denominated, because he produces the universe so far as it is a whole, and likewise all the wholes it contains, by his own immediate energy; other subordinate powers co-operating with him in the production of parts. Hence he produces the universe totally and at once.
Desire, Is an irrational appetite solely directed to external objects, and to the gratification arising from the possession of them.
Dianoetic. This word is derived from dianoia, or that power of the soul which reasons scientifically, deriving the principles of its reasoning from intellect. Plato is so uncommonly accurate in his diction, that this word is very seldom used by him in any other than its primary sense. Taylor also gives Dianoia, (from whence dianoetic) as the discursive energy of reason; or according to its most accurate signification, it is that power of the soul which reasons scientifically, deriving the principles of its reasoning from intellect, or the power which sees truth intuitively.
The Divine, is being subsisting in conjunction with The One. For all things except The One, viz. essence, life and intellect are considered by Plato as suspended from and secondary to the gods. For the gods do not subsist in, but prior to, these, which they also produce and connect, but are not characterized by these. In many places, however, Plato calls the participants of the gods by the names of the gods. For not only the Athenian guest in the Laws, but also Socrates in the Phaedrus , calls a divine soul a god. "For," says he "all the horses and charioteers of the gods are good," etc. And afterwards, still more clearly, he adds, "And this is the life of the gods." And not only this, but he also denominates those natures gods, that are always united to the gods, and which, in conjunction with them, give completion to one series. He also frequently calls daemons gods, though according to essence, they are secondary to, and subsist about, the gods. For in the Phaedrus, Timaeus, and other dialogues, he extends the appellation of the gods as far as to daemons. And what is still more paradoxical than all this, he does not refuse to call some men gods; as, for instance, the Elean Guest in the Sophista. From all this, therefore, we must infer, that with respect to the word god, one thing which is thus denominated is simply deity; another is so according to union; a third, according to participation; a fourth, according to contact; and a fifth, according to similitude. Thus every superessential nature is primarily a god; but every intellectual nature is so according to union. And again, every divine soul is a god according to participation; but divine daemons are gods, according to contact with the gods; and the souls of men obtain this appellation through similitude. Each of these, however, except the first, is, as we have said, rather divine than a god: for the Athenian Guest, in the Laws, calls intellect itself divine. But that which is divine is secondary to the first deity, in the same manner as the united is to The One; that which is intellectual, to intellect; and that which is animated, to soul. Indeed, things more uniform and simple always precede; and the series of beings ends in The One itself.
Doxastic. This word is derived from doxa, opinion, and signifies that which is apprehended by opinion, or that power which is the extremity of the rational soul. This power knows the universal in particulars, as that every man is a rational animal; but it knows not the dioti, or why a thing is, but only the oti, or that it is. Also defined as the lowest of the human gnostic powers.
The Eternal, that which has a never-ending subsistence, without any connection with time; or, as Plotinus profoundly defines it, infinite life at once total and full.
Entelecheia. Is the possession of perfection; and when it is properly asserted of energy, is not asserted of casual energy, but of that which is perfect, and is established according to a subsistence in energy.
Ephesis. Is the tendency of inanimate natures to their proper good.
Form (eidos) Is the internal characteristic of a thing, and subsists according to logos, considered as a productive principle, which see.
That which is generated. That which has not the whole of its essence or energy subsisting at once, without temporal dispersion.
Generation. An essence composite and multiform, and conjoined with time. This is the proper signification of the word; but it is used symbolically by Plato, and also by theologists more ancient than Plato, for the sake of indication. For as Proclus beautifully observes (in MS. Comment. in Parmenidem.), "Fables call the ineffable unfolding into light through causes, generation." "Hence," he adds, "in the Orphic writings, the first cause is denominated time; for where there is generation, according to its proper signification, there also there is time." In his translations of Aristotle Taylor says that Generation "is universally the whole of a visible nature, as opposed to an incorporeal and invisible nature. It also particularly denotes the sublunary region."
Guest. The word, in its more ample signification in the Greek, denoted a stranger, but properly implies one who receives another, or is himself received at an entertainment. In the following dialogues, therefore, wherever one of the speakers is introduced as a xenoς, I have translated this word guest, as being more conformable to the genius of Plato's dialogues, which may be justly called rich mental banquets, and consequently the speakers in them may be considered as so many guests. Hence in the Timaeus, the persons of that dialogue are expressly spoken of as guests.
Hyparxis. The first principle or foundation, as it were, of the essence of a thing. Hence, also, it is the summit of essence. When things are considered as subsisting together in an order, the hyparxis is the leader and unical being of that order. This is in contrast to the extremity of the order, which is the lowest level below which only things of a lesser order exist.
Hypolepsis. As dianoia, or the discursive energy of reason, subsists according to terms or boundaries, and is not continued like a physical transition, the asset and affirmation of the soul according to each boundary, as in one limit, or the assent of the soul to it as true, is hypolepsis. In other words, hypolepsis is the assent of the soul to each proposition of a syllogism.
Idea, is an incorporeal cause, exempt from its participants, is an immovable essence, is a paradigm only and truly, and is intelligible to souls from images, but has a causal knowledge of things which subsist according to it. (This distinguishes idea from the universal which is its counterpart within a material object, and also from a human concept formed from the consideration of external objects.)
Idiom . The characteristic peculiarity of a thing.
The Immortal. According to Plato, there are many orders of immortality, pervading from on high to the last of things; and the ultimate echo, as it were, of immortality, is seen in the perpetuity of the mundane wholes, which according to the doctrine of the Elean Guest in the Politicus, they participate from the Father of the universe. For both the being and the life of every body depend on another cause; but since body is not itself naturally adapted to connect, or adorn, or preserve itself. But the immortality of partial souls, such as ours, is more manifest and more perfect than this of the perpetual bodies in the universe; as is evident from the many demonstrations which are given of it in the Phaedo, and in the 10th book of the Republic. For the immortality of partial souls has a more principal subsistence, as possessing in itself the cause of eternal permanency. But prior to both these is the immortality of daemons; for these neither verge to mortality, nor are filled with the nature of things which are generated and corrupted. More venerable, however, than these, and essentially transcending them, is the immortality of divine souls, which are primarily self-motive, and contain the fountains and principles of the life which is attributed about bodies, and through which bodies participate of renewed immortality. And prior to all these is the immortality of the gods; for Diotima in the Banquet does not ascribe an immortality of this kind to daemons. Hence such an immortality as this is separate and exempt from wholes. For, together with the immortality of the gods, eternity subsists, which is the fountain of all immortality and life, as well as that life which is perpetual, as that which is dissipated into nonentity. In short, therefore, the divine immortal is that which is generative and connective of perpetual life. For it is not immortal, as participating of life, but as supplying divine life, and deifying life itself.
Imparticipable. That which does not subsist with an inferior nature. Thus imparticipable intellect is an intellect which does not subsist with soul.
Intellect. In human beings, is the summit of dianoia, and is that power by the light proceeding from which we perceive the truth of axioms. Of itself considered, it is a being which knows, not by process, but by its very being.
Intellectual Projection. As the perception of intellect is immediate, being a darting forth, as it were, directly to its proper objects, this direct intuition is expressed by the term projection.
The Intelligible. This word in Plato and Platonic writers has a various signification: for, in the first place, whatever is exempt from sensibles, and has its essence separate from them, is said to be intelligible, and in this sense soul is intelligible. In the second place, intellect, which is prior to soul, is intelligible. In the third place, that which is more ancient than intellect, which replenishes intelligence, and is essentially perfective of it, is called intelligible: and this is the intelligible, which Timæus in Plato places in the order of a paradigm, prior to the demiurgic intellect and intellectual energy. But beyond these is the divine intelligible, which is defined according to divine union and hyparxis. For this is intelligible as the object of desire to intellect, as giving perfection to and containing it, and as the completion of being. The highest intelligible, therefore, is that which is the hyparxis of the gods; the second, that which is true being, and the first essence; the third, intellect, and all intellectual life; and the fourth, the order belonging to soul.
Lation is local motion.
Logismos, reasoning. When applied to divinity as by Plato, in the Timaeus, signifies a distributive cause of things.
Logos: see reason.
Monad, in divine natures is that which contains distinct, but at the same time profoundly-united multitude, and which produces a multitude exquisitely allied to itself. But in the sensible universe, the first monad is the world itself, which comprehends in itself all the multitude of which it is the cause in conjunction with the cause of all. The second monad is the inerratic sphere. In the third place, the spheres of the planets succeed, each of which is also a monad, comprehending an appropriate multitude. And in the fourth and last place are the spheres of the elements, which are in a similar manner monads. All these monads likewise are denominated olotetes, wholenesses, and have a perpetual subsistence.
Morphe. Pertains to the colour, figure, and magnitude of supercifies.
Non-being . Is either that which is false, in the same manner as being is that which is true; or it is that which in no respect is; or that which in capacity is not.
Obnoxious. Although not a technical word in philosophy, readers of Thomas Taylor’s writings should know that in his time one of the meanings of the word is “exposed” - and this is the way in which Taylor uses the word at all times.
Orectic. The word is derived from orexis, appetite. What orexis is in animated, that ephesis (cf) is in physical inanimate natures.
Paradigm. A pattern, or that with reference to which a thing is made.
Permanency (stasis). The proper word for rest, in Greek, is eremia. And Simplicius justly observes, that not every stasis is eremia, but that only which is after motion. This word is employed by Plato in the Sophista, to express one of the five genera of being, viz. essence, permanency (stasis), motion, sameness, and difference; in which place it evidently does not signify rest.
The Perpetual. That which subsists forever, but through a connection with time. Also explained by Taylor as "that which subsists always, but is connected with the three parts of time, the past, present, and future. Hence, the fabricator of the world is eternal , but the world is perpetual."
Phantasy or Imagination;a figured intelligence, because all the perceptions of this power are inward and not external, like those of sense, and are accompanied with figure. It is the connecting faculty between the purely external senses and the beginnings of reason (i.e. opinion) and, as such, it shares some of the characteristics of both, being inward like the rational faculties, but itself irrational like the senses.
A politician. This word, as Mr Sydenham justly observes in his notes on the Rivals, is of a very large and extensive import, as used by Plato, and the other ancient writers on politics: for it includes all those statesmen or politicians in aristocracies and democracies who were, either for life, or for a certain time, invested with the whole or a part of kingly authority, and the power thereto belonging. See the Politicus.
Pre-election, i.e. deliberate choice, is that power which accompanies human reason by which actions can be made to pursue that which is perceived to be good.
Prudence. This word frequently means in Plato and Platonic writers, the habit of discerning what is good in all moral actions, and frequently signifies intelligence, or intellectual perception. The following admirable explanation of this word is given by Iamblichus.
Prudence having a precedaneous subsistence, receives its generation from a pure and perfect intellect. Hence it looks to intellect itself, is perfected by it, and has this as the measure and most beautiful paradigm of all its energies. If also we have any communion with the gods, it is especially effected by this virtue; and through this we are in the highest degree assimilated to them. The knowledge too of such things as are good, profitable, and beautiful, and of the contraries to these, is obtained by this virtue; and the judgment and correction of works proper to be done are by this directed. And in short it is a certain governing leader of men, and of the whole arrangement of their nature; and referring cities and houses, and the particular life of every one, to a divine paradigm, it forms them according to the best similitude; obliterating some things and purifying others. So that prudence renders its possessors similar to divinity. Iamblic. apud. Stob. p. 141.
Psychical. Pertaining to soul, in the same manner as physical pertains to nature (physis).
Quality. Is that which imparts what is apparent in matter, and what is the object of sense.
Reason (logos). This word in Platonic writers signifies either that inward discursive energy called reasoning; or a certain productive and seminal principle; or that which is indicative and definitive of a thing. Hence logoi or reasons in the soul, are, gnostically producing principles. In more general terms logos also means speech, which is the external expression of reason.
Science. This word is sometimes defined by Plato to be that which assigns the causes of things; sometimes to be that the subjects of which have a perfectly stable essence; and together with this, he conjoins the assignation of cause from reasoning. Sometimes again he defines it to be that the principles of which are not hypotheses; and, according to this definition, he asserts that there is one science which ascends as far as to the principle of things. For this science considers that which is truly the principle as unhypothetic, has for its subject true being, and produces its reasonings from cause. According to the second definition, he calls dianoetic knowledge science; but according to the first alone, he assigns to physiology the appellation of science.
The telestic art. The art pertaining to mystic ceremonies.
Theurgic. This word is derived from theurgia, or that religious operation which deifies him by whom it is performed as much as is possible to man.
Truth. Plato, following ancient theologists, considers truth multifariously. Hence, according to his doctrine, the highest truth is characterized by unity; and is the light proceeding from The Good, which imparts purity, as he says in the Philebus, and union, as he says in the Republic, to intelligibles. The truth which is next to this in dignity is that which proceeds from intelligibles, and illuminates the intellectual orders, and which an essence unfigured, uncoloured, and without contact, first receives, where also the plain of truth is situated, as it is written in the Phaedrus. The third kind of truth is that which is connascent with souls, and which through intelligence comes into contact with true being. For the psychical light is the third from the intelligible; intellectual deriving its plenitude from intelligible light, and the psychical from the intellectual. And the last kind of truth is that which is in sensibles, which is full of error and inaccuracy through sense, and the instability of its object. For a material nature is perpetually flowing, and is not naturally adapted to abide even for a moment.
The following beautiful description of the third kind of truth, or that which subsists in souls, is given by Iamblichus: "Truth, as the name implies, makes a conversion about the gods and their incorporeal energy; but doxastic imitation, which, as Plato says, is fabricative of images, wanders about that which is deprived of divinity and is dark. And the former indeed receives its perfection in intelligible and divine forms, and real beings which have a perpetual sameness of subsistence; but the latter looks to that which is formless, and non-being, and which has a various subsistence; and about this its visive power is blunted. The former contemplates that which is; but the latter assumes such a form as appears to the many. Hence the former associates with intellect, and increases the intellectual nature which we contain; but the latter, from looking to that which always seems to be, hunts after folly and deceives." Iamblic. apud. Stob. p. 136.
The unical. That which characterized by unity.
Uniform. This word when it occurs in Proclus, and other Platonic writers, signifies that which has the form of The One.
A whole prior to parts. Whole has a triple subsistence. For it is either prior to parts; or it consists of parts; or it is in a part. The first of these is the cause of the parts it contains; just as a divine intellect is the cause of all the multitude of ideas it contains. The second is a whole essentially. And the third is a whole according to participation.
Wonderful - a word which has slipped in meaning over the last two centuries. Taylor almost always uses it as a synonym for “surprising.”