Protrepticus (Ancient Greek: Προτρεπτικός) or, "Exhortation to Philosophy" (Ancient Greek: Φιλοσοφητέον) is a lost philosophical work written by Aristotle in the mid-4th century BCE. The work was intended to encourage the reader to study philosophy.[1] Although the Protrepticus was one of Aristotle's most famous works in antiquity,[2] it did not survive except in fragments and ancient reports from later authors, particularly from Iamblichus, who appears to quote large extracts from it, without attribution, alongside extracts from extant works of Plato, in the second book of his work on Pythagoreanism.[3]


Like many of Aristotle's lost works, Protrepticus was likely written as a Socratic dialogue, in a similar format to the works of Plato. There is 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. The Historia Augusta furthermore says that another lost work, Cicero's Hortensius, was allegedly modeled after the Protrepticus[4] and as the Hortensius, like many of Cicero's extant philosophical works, was known to be written as a dialogue, the Protrepticus was probably one too.


The main aim of the work was to convince its readers that they should do philosophy. According to Alexander of Aphrodisias, the argument put forth was that if someone denied that one should do philosophy, then, because whether or not one should do philosophy is itself a philosophical concern, this proves that one should do philosophy in order to investigate the answer.[4] Alexander states that the work further investigates the nature of philosophical contemplation and argues that this is also the proper exercise of human beings.[4]


Aristotle's protrepticus is likely the origin of the English word Protreptics, which means, “turning or converting someone to a specific end” used in a philosophical sense,[5] a word hardly ever used except in specialized philosophical treatises.[6]

See also

Ancient sources

Large fragments of the Protrepticus are quoted by Iamblichus in the second book of his work On Pythagoreanism. A number of ancient reports on the Protrepticus survive in other works:[4]

Reconstructions and translations

Since the 19th century, when inquiry was initiated by Jakob Bernays (1863), several scholars have attempted to reconstruct the work.[7] Attempted reconstructions include:


  1. ^ Rabinowitz, W. G., Aristotle's Protrepticus and the Sources of its Reconstruction. University of California Press, 1957. Print. pg. 1.
  2. ^ Johnson & Hutchinson 2005, p. 196.
  3. ^ Johnson & Hutchinson 2005, p. 198.
  4. ^ a b c d Johnson & Hutchinson 2005, p. 197.
  5. ^ "Oxford Scholarship". Oxford Scholarship Online. 2022-06-23. Retrieved 2022-06-26.
  6. ^ Klein, Jacob; Bollingen Foundation Collection (1965). A commentary on Plato's Meno. Chapel Hill. p. 9. ISBN 0-226-43959-3. OCLC 2394325. The dialogues [of Plato] not only embody the famous "oracular" and "paradoxical" statements emanating from Socrates ("virtue is knowledge", "nobody does evil knowingly", "it is better to suffer than to commit injustice") and are, to a large extent, protreptic plays based on these, but they also discuss and state, more or less explicitly, the ultimate foundations on which those statements rest and the far-reaching consequences which flow from them. )((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  7. ^ Anton-Hermann Chroust (1965). "A brief account of the reconstruction of Aristotle's Protrepticus". Classical Philology. 60 (4). The University of Chicago Press: 229–239. doi:10.1086/365046. ISSN 0009-837X. JSTOR 269094. S2CID 161905149.
  8. ^ Düring, Ingemar; Aristotle (1961). Aristotle's Protrepticus: An attempt at reconstruction. Göteborg, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis. ISBN 9780391004269.
  9. ^ Chroust, Anton-Hermann; Aristotle (1964). Protrepticus: A reconstruction. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
  10. ^ reconstruction of Protrepticus