In this article I explain three puzzling features of Simplicius’ use of syllogistic reconstructions in his commentary on Aristotle’s Physics: (1) Why does he reconstruct Aristotle’s non-argumentative remarks? (2) Why does he identify the syllogistic figure of an argument but does not explicitly present its reconstruction? (3) Why in certain lemmata does he present several reconstructions of the same argument? Addressing these questions, I argue that these puzzling features are an expression of Simplicius’ assumption that formal reasoning underlies Aristotle’s prose, hence they reflect his attempt to capture as faithfully as possible Aristotle’s actual mode of reasoning. I show further that, as a consequence of this seemingly descriptive use of syllogistic reconstructions, logic serves Simplicius not only as an expository and clarificatory tool of certain interpretations or philosophical views, but also motivates and shapes his exegetical stances and approach.
This paper provides a case study for the use of syllogistic reconstructions in the commentaries on Plato by the fifth-century commentator Proclus. The paper discusses Proclus’ reconstruction of the argument about the range of the Forms in Plato’s Parmenides (130b–e). In his commentary on this dialogue, Proclus reports a syllogistic reconstruction of the argument proposed by some of his predecessors. In this reconstruction, the argument as a whole is interpreted as a straightforward attack on the existence of Forms, while the different premises of the hypothetical syllogism represent the respective positions of Parmenides and Socrates in the discussion. For Proclus, however, the argument about the range of Forms is not meant to be critical of the Forms, but rather provides a positive instruction about their range of application. I argue that while Proclus finds the syllogism a useful tool to reconstruct the different positions in the exegetical history of the argument, he does not accept it as an adequate reconstruction on his own account. The argument can be traced back most likely to the so-called ‘logical’ interpretations of the Parmenides that Proclus discusses – and dismisses – in the prologue to his commentary.