by D. S. Huchinson and Monte Ransome Johnson
The Protrepticus was an early work of Aristotle, written while he was still a member of Plato's Academy, but it soon became one of the most famous works in the whole history of philosophy. Unfortunately it was not directly copied in the middle ages and so did not survive in its own manuscript tradition. But substantial fragments of it have been preserved in several works by Iamblichus of Chalcis, a third century A.D. neo-Pythagorean philosopher and educator. On the basis of a close study of Iamblichus' extensive use and excerption of Aristotle's Protrepticus, it is possible to reconstruct the backbone of the lost work, and then to flesh it out with the other surviving reports about the work from antiquity (for example in Alexander of Aphrodisias and other ancient commentators on Aristotle). It is also possible to identify several papyrus fragments of the work, and many references and literary allusions in later authors, especially Cicero, whose own lost dialogue Hortensius was a defense of philosophy modeleld on Aristotle's.
In 2003, we began a project to reconstruct the lost work by reevaluating all the possible sources of evidence for it. We post regular updates about the project on our blog, where you can access a quick introduction to the project. A good place to start is with the latest version of the provisional reconstruction. If you have been assigned to read Aristotle's Protrepticus in a course, this is probably what you are looking for.
For those looking for more detail about our methods of reconstruction and the basis of evidence, you will find on this website our working files on a new critical Greek edition, translation, commentary, and reconstruction of Aristotle's Protrepticus. From the table of contents page, you will be able to access drafts of various parts of the book. From the evidence page, you may find links to critical editions, along with translations and commentaries on the ancient evidence.
From the essays page you may access our 'Authenticating Aristotle's Protrepticus', published in Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy (2005). For those wanting to learn more about the philosophical context of Aristotle's Protrepticus, you may be interested in the unpublished essays 'The Antidosis of Iamblichus and Aristotle's Protrepticus' and 'Protreptic Aspects of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics'.