Protrepticus (Aristotle)

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Protrepticus (Greek: Προτρεπτικός) is a philosophical work by Aristotle that encouraged the young to study philosophy.[1] It survives only in fragments and is considered a lost work.


Since the 19th century, when inquiry was initiated by Jakob Bernays (1863), several scholars have attempted to reconstruct the work.[2] Attempted reconstructions include:


The book The works of Aristotle (1908, p. viii) mentioned[6]

The Historia Augusta says that Cicero's Hortensius was modelled on the Protrepticus and as the Hortensius was a dialogue, the Protrepticus was probably one too. There is thus good evidence that several of the nineteen works that stand at the head of Diogenes' and Hesychius' lists were dialogues; it may be inferred with high probability, though not with certainty, that the others were so too, but Stobaeus, pp. 59, 61 infra, and Athenaeus, p. 61 infra, confirm its genuineness.


A book review of Exhortations to Philosophy (2015), mentioned[7]

Philosophers of fourth-century BCE Athens developed the emerging genre of the "protreptic" (literally, "turning" or "converting"). Simply put, protreptic discourse uses a rhetoric of conversion that urges a young person to adopt a specific philosophy in order to live a good life.

Clark (1989), mentioned[8]

Throughout Iamblichus's lifetime (ca. 245 AD) Christianity was making converts, even in the philosophical schools and among his own friends. (p. x)



Elias in Porph. 3. 17-23. We may also reason as Aristotle does in his Protrepticus, in which he encourages young men to philosophize. He says this: If we ought to philosophize we ought to philosophize, and if we ought not to philosophize we ought to philosophize; in either case, therefore, we ought to philosophize. If philosophy exists we ought certainly to philosophize, because philosophy exists; and if it does not exist, even so we ought to examine why it does not exist, and in examining this we shall be philosophizing, because examination is what makes philosophy. (p. 28)[6]


Pierre Hadot (into French), Michael Chase (translator into English of Hadot's volume):


Hutchinson and Johnson[5]

Indeed, as Aristotle says in his writing entitled Protrepticus, in which he exhorts the youth to do philosophy - he says this: if you should do philosophy, you should do philosophy, and if you should not do philosophy, then you should do philo-sophy. Therefore in every case you should do philosophy. For if philosophy exists, then positively we are obliged to do philosophy, since it truly exists. But if it does not truly exist, even so we are obliged to investigate how it is that philosophy does not truly exist. But by investigating we would be doing philosophy, since to investigate is the cause of philosophy.

Excerpt from a speech by the character ‘Aristotle’ (Hutchinson and Johnson, p. 12)[5]

If we have gathered any seed or principle of this kind of cognition by which we passed from a previous verbal acceptance of what kind of science it is to precisely observing what sort of thing its nature is, this came to us from no other source than from them mathematics. But also the power of the science established it more clearly by its own arguments in the demonstrations about them. Moreover it is the understanding of these things that has corrected us from being led astray when we were persuaded by many of the appearances, clearly establishing the truth about them, whatever it is.
For some of those who wish to advance them would not seem to assign to them the appropriate position, when they assert that we need to create understanding of them because a training in them is useful for other theoretical fields. For those things for the sake of which they encourage us to do this are by their nature less close relatives of the truth, even in the usual speeches spoken about them, nor are they champions in terms of the precision of their demonstrations. And here’s a sufficient indication of this: we see them enduring and being believed continually in the same way by those who take up those fields, but in the other fields we would discover extremely few demonstrations that are at all like that.
Now then, mathematical philosophy has helped us, both for many of the necessities for life, and also for those things that are worthwhile in themselves, as soon as we are affluent. For even among the industrial arts, in quite a few cases we would find that mathematics has come to their assistance. And as for natural philosophy, even if some other one were to have a more exalted position, we would see that it makes use of many of the things that we have seen in their own demonstrations, which we have observed by the things that were mentioned.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rabinowitz, W. G., Aristotle's Protrepticus and the Sources of its Reconstruction. University of California Press, 1957. Print. pg. 1.
  2. ^ Anton-Hermann Chroust (1965). "A brief account of the reconstruction of Aristotle's Protrepticus". Classical Philology. The University of Chicago Press. 60 (4): 229–239. doi:10.1086/365046. ISSN 0009-837X. JSTOR 269094.
  3. ^ Düring, Ingemar; Aristotle (1961). Aristotle's Protrepticus: An attempt at reconstruction. Göteborg, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.
  4. ^ Chroust, Anton-Hermann; Aristotle (1964). Protrepticus: A reconstruction. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
  5. ^ a b c D. S. Hutchinson and Monte Ransome Johnson (25 January 2015). "New Reconstruction, includes Greek text".CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  6. ^ a b Aristotle; Ross, W. D. (William David), 1877; Smith, J. A. (John Alexander), 1863-1939 (1908). The works of Aristotle.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  7. ^ (26 March 2015). "Exhortations to Philosophy".
  8. ^ Gillian Clark (1989). Iamblichus: On the Pythagorean Life. p. 18.
  9. ^ Quotation from Aristotle's Protrepticus, given on page 147 of Hadot, Pierre; Arnold I. Davidson (1995). Philosophy as a way of life: Spiritual exercises from Socrates to Foucault. Michael Chase, translator. Malden, MA: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-18033-8.

External links[edit]