Institute of Philosophy
of the Russian Academy of Sciences

  Svetlana Mesyats
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Svetlana Mesyats

Svetlana Mesyats

Date and Place of Birth

  ORCID ID: 0000-0002-3748-5094
 Web of Science Researcher ID: J-2438-2018
 Scopus Author ID: 55270223500



Born August 13, 1971 in Dzerzhinsky, Moscow oblast'


  • Graduate of Moscow Engineering Physics Institute, Department of Theoretical and Experimental Physics: Diploma in quantum electronics, 1996.
  • Study of ancient languages (Ancient Greek and Latin) at the Museum Graeco-Latinum (Moscow) under supervision of Yury A. Shichalin: graduation 1997.
  • Postgraduate study at the University of Karlsruhe (Germany), Department of Philosophy under supervision of Prof. Hans Lenk, 1997–1998.
  • Postgraduate study at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences: Department of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy and Sciences.


Academic Degrees 

  • PhD in Philosophy (2000). PhD Dissertation: "Aristotle's Physics in Neoplatonism. Proclus treatise Elements of physics" (Institute of Philosophy, RAS)


Field of Studies
  • Philosophy of the Ancient Greece,
  • Neoplatonism,
  • Christian theology, ontology and philosophy of science,
  • Goethe's Farbenlehre


Research Projects
  • 2013–2015  Goethe's doctrine of colour and its relation to Newton's theory and the views on the nature of colour held by the ancients (Aristotle,  Anonymous De coloribus). The project comprises a translation of the 'Polemical' and the 'Historic' parts of Goethe's Farbenlehre as well as  publication of the 'didactic' part previously translated by the same author; also a translation of the Peripatetic treatise De coloribus and an  analysis of the factors that caused discrepancies between Goethe's theory of colour and Newton's optics, on one hand, and its agreement  with the ancient doctrines, on the other.
  • 2010–2012  The notion of the First Principle in the ancient philosophy and Christian theology. History of the term hypostasis in Platonic and Christian traditions of the 3rd to 5th centuries A.D. The project aims at determining whether hypostasis can be applied to describing the first principle in either tradition.
  • 2007–2010  Unwritten doctrines of Plato and Neoplatonic theory of the divine henads.
  • 2005–2010  Translation and commentary of the 1st book of Proclus’ Commentary on Plato’s "Timaeus".
  • 2005–2008  Encyclopaedic Lexicon of Ancient Philosophy (in cooperation with other scholars), supported by RFH.
  • 2004–2005  Physics as theology: Proclus’ Commentary on Plato’s "Timaeus" in the context of late Neoplatonic philosophy, supported by RFH.
  • 2000–2003  Goethe’s theory of color: translation of the Didactic Part of Goethe’s Farbenlehre
  • 2000–2003  Goethe’s theory of color: translation of the Didactic Part of Goethe’s Farbenlehre
  • 1999–2000  Ancient textbooks on physics: translation and study of Proclus’ Elementatio Physica, supported by Russian Foundation of the Humanities    

Academic Ranks

  • Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Philosophy, RAS.
  • Deputy Department Head, Department of Ancient and Mediaeval Philosophy and Science.

Teaching and Professional Activities

University Lecture Courses

Graduate Supervision

5 graduate projects supervised in 2005–2007:

  • «The World Soul in Plotinus»
  • «Aristotle's doctrine of time”
  • «Plotinus on matter”
  • «Plotinus and Aristotle: the debate on the nature of time”
  • «The nature of Evil in Plotinus”

Postgraduate Project Supervision

 4 postgraduate projects supervised in 2008–2013: 

  • N. Volkova. “Plotinus on the nature and the cause of Evil”.
  • E. Zarutskaya. “The reception of Aristotle's theory of time in Neoplatonism”.
  • M. Luzin. “Aristotle's doctine of essence: to ti en einai”.
  • A. Ryabova. "The multiplicity of worlds in Giordano Bruno".

 Doctoral Supervision:

  • M. Luzin. “Body and Soul in the philosophy of Porphyry”
  • N. Volkova. “The Soul as the cause of Evil in Plotinus”
  • R. Mkrtchyan. "Concepts of the common and particular natures in the context of theological dialogue between Orthodox Church and the Ancient Churches of the East "
Research Projects
Supported by Grants

Financial support from the Russian Foundation for the Humanities (RFH) has contributed to the completion of the following projects:

  • "Study of the reception and transformation of the the natural sciences in Antiquity", 2013–2014;
  • Publication of the russian translation of Goethe's "Farbenlehre. Didaktischer Teil", 2012;
  • “Proclus' Commentary on the 'Timaeus' in the context of ancient natural philosophy”, 2004–2005;
  • “Natural Science as Theology”, 2002–2003;
  • “Ancient textbooks on physics”, 1999–2000.



Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749–1832), a great German poet and writer, is also an outstanding scientist and the author of an original color theory which appears to be remarkably different from that of Isaac Newton. Goethe set forth his doctrine of colour in a number of writings, composed in a period between 1791–1830. Best known and the most important of them is a treatise Zur Farbenlehre, divided into three parts. The first, Didactic Part (also known as Entwurf einer Farbenlehre, Project of a colour theory) presents Goethe’s own views on colour phenomena. The second, Polemical Part, contains refutation of Newton’s theory. The third, Historical Part, provides materials for the history of color science from Antiquity to the end of the 18th century. The book contains a first complete translation on Russian of the first Didactic Part of Goethe’s Farbenlehre. Besides the 1st and the 6th sections already translated by I. Kanaev in 1957 there are also sections about physical and chemical colors, which present the main body of Goethe’s color theory and introduce a more harmonic and holistic mode of view on nature, allowing to unite optics and chromatics with philosophy, mathematics, physics and painting.

  • Proclus. Commentary on «Timaeus» : Book I / Translation, introductory, notes, referation by S Mesyats. Moscow: GLK, 2012. – 416 p.

This edition offers the first Russian translation of the 1st Book of Proclus’ “Commentary on Timaeus”, the most important commentary on a text of Plato in the late Antiquity. The present volume contains line-by-line interpretation of the prefatory material of Plato’s dialog (17а–27b), in which Socrates gives a summary of the political arrangements described in Plato’s “Republic” and Critias the younger tells the story about the defeat of Atlantis by ancient Athens. Both the exposition of Plato’s State and the Atlantis story are interpreted by Proclus as an allegorical description of the sensible cosmos and its supernatural causes, which description anticipates the scientific treatment of nature by its symbolic and figurative exposition. The volume contains also a substantial introduction and notes designed to help readers unfamiliar with Proclus’philosophy.





  • Matter of Sleep. Byzantine Commentators of the 12th – 15th centuries on the Material Cause of Sleep in Aristotle’s Treatise On Sleep and Waking (De Somno et Vigilia) // ΣΧΟΛΗ: Ancient philosophy and the Classical Tradition, v. 17, № 1 (2023), p. 159–176 (in Russian).



  • Aristotle’s Theory of Sleep from the Viewpoint of Modern Science // History of Philosophy Yearbook № 36 (2021). P. 142–161 (in Russian).
  • Aristotle’s criticism of the “like is known by like” principle (Commentary on De anima II 5, 416b 32 – 417a 20) // ΣΧΟΛΗ: Ancient philosophy and the Classical Tradition, v. 15, № 1 (2021), p. 307–325 (in Russian).



  • Aristotle. On breathing / Trans. from Ancient Greek and comm. by. S. Mesyats // History of Philosophy. V. 25, №1-2 (2020). pp. 101–110; 107–121 (in Russian).
  • Proclus // Ortohodox Encyclopedia. Vol. LVIII, 2020. pp. 304–317 (in Russian).



J.W. Goethe in his Farbenlehre deduced all physical colors from a simple primordial phenomenon that takes place every time light and darkness act through a semitransparent colorless medium either on our eyes or on the opposite surfaces. This basic rule of Goethe’s color theory was criticized by his contemporary physicists, who argued that darkness could not play an active role in the origin of colors because of being a mere absence of light. The paper demons trates that this criticism became possible only if one shares the Newtonian view on the nature of light and darkness. Goethe however held a more traditional point of view, which he traced back to Antiquity and Aristotle. In contrast to Newton and his followers, previous scientists considered light not as an immediate cause of colors but as an actually transparent medium that conveyed colors from the visible objects to the organ of sight. For vision to take place, the color must first affect the light, which in its turn, must affect the faculty of vision. Though it is difficult to say what kind of change the light undergoes when some colored object is seen through it, most Aristotle commentators agree that this change must be real and not mere relational. In Aristotle’s physics, however, things that are capable of acting on and being affected by one another are either contraries or consist of contraries. Therefore, to be visible the color must be either dark or to contain darkness. Thus, assuming that Goethe shared the Aristotelian concept of light, we have to conclude that he was not mistaken saying that darkness "acts” upon our eyes or “is seen through” the illuminated semitransparent medium.

  • What kind of souls did Proclus discover? // Platonism and its Legacy. Selected papers from the 15 Annual Conference of the International Society for Neoplatonic Studies / Ed. J. Finamore and T. Nejeschleba. Lindey: The Prometheus Trust, 2019. Pages 101‒120.

  • Proclus on hypercosmic souls // ΣΧΟΛΗ [Scholae]: Filosofskoe antikovedenie i klassicheskaya traditsiya [Ancient Philosophy and the Classical Tradition]. Vol. 12 (2). 2018. Pages 599‒631. – (In Russian)

According to Marinus of Samaria, Proclus was the author of many philosophical doctrines. In particular he was the first to assert the existence of a kind of souls (ψυχῶν γένος) that are capable of simultaneously seeing several ideas and situated between the divine Intellect which embraces all things together by a single intuition, and the souls whose thoughts pass from one idea to another. In the following we are going to answer the question, what kind of souls did Proclus discover and why did he thought it to be necessary to introduce them in his metaphysical system. To solve this problem it seems reasonable to clarify the mechanism of horizontal-vertical progression in Proclus’ philosophy, as well as to describe the general structure of the psychic level of reality embracing the so called Monad of “unparticipated” Soul and the multiplicity if its “participated” products: divine, demonic and human souls. Unlike some previous scholars, who alleged that souls discovered by Proclus were demonic or intelligent ones, I affirm that Marinus could have in mind hypercosmic participated souls, situated between the unparticipated monad of the psychic level of reality and the multiplicity of participated souls within the material cosmos. In support of this assumption I cite some relevant passages from Proclus’ Commentary on “Timaeus” and demonstrate that he named “hypercosmic” not only the unparticipated monad of Soul, but also souls of the so called “absolute” (ἀπόλυτοι) gods, which are both in touch with the sensible cosmos and above it because of animating eternal immaterial bodies consisting of supra-celestial light. In conclusion I try to establish the genuine authorship of the doctrine of hypercosmic souls and to answer the question, why did Marinus attribute it to Proclus.


According to Aristotle, sense perception is the ability of a living being to be affected and changed by some external object. When the sense-faculty is acted upon it becomes like the perceptible object and receives its form without matter. There are two ways of interpreting Aristotle’s theory of sense-perception. According to the ‘physical’ or ‘literal’ one (R. Sorabji, S. Everson, M. Nussbaum and H. Putnam), perception is a mental process realized by some material change in the body, so that eye’s becoming aware of red requires its going red etc. The proponents of the ‘intentional’ interpretation (M. Burnyeat, T. Johanson) argue that in perception sense-organ changes insofar as it becomes aware of a sense-object of which it was previously unaware. So sense-perception is a pure mental or ‘intentional’ change. Yet we believe that neither of these approaches is correct. We offer another explanation of Aristotle’s theory of perception. In our opinion it is necessary to separate the material change in the sense-organ from the formal one, so that perception can be considered as that type of incomplete change that Aristotle calls κίνησις and simultaneously as an actualization of some potentiality or ἐντελέχεια.

  • Goethe and His «Farbenlehrе» // Anatomy of Philosophy: How the Text Works / Edited by Julia Sineokaya. Moscow, 2016. Pages 475–507. – (In Russian)
Johann Wolfgang Goethe set forth his doctrine of colour in a number of writings, composed in a period between 1791–1830. Best known and the most important of them is a treatise Zur Farbenlehre, divided into three parts. The first, Didactic Part presents Goethe’s own views on colour phenomena. The second, Polemical Part, contains refutation of Newton’s theory. The third, Historical Part, provides materials for the history of color science from Antiquity to the end of the 18th century.

While giving full credit to the obvious merits of R. Chlup’s monograph on Proclus, the reviewer points to some disputable issues. First of all, she criticizes the author’s, methodology which consists in an attempt to recognize behind metaphysical systems of the late Antiquity certain irrational and “unaccountable” worldview assumptions allegedly taken for granted by a given thinker. The reviewer shows that the definition of “worldview” as employed by R. Chlup is contradictory, and that the identification of worldviews with Wittgenstein’s “language games” is completely unjustified. Secondly, the reviewer disagrees with R. Chlup’s idea to divide Neoplatonism in two kinds, “western” and “eastern”, the first of which describes reality in more holistic terms, whereas the second analyzes it into a network of exactly defined relations. While arguing against this hypothesis, the reviewer shows that it leads the author to incorrect interpretation of main Neoplatonic doctrines such as participation, emanation and conversion, the soul’s union with the God and so on. As a result, the final picture of the arrangement of Proclus’ metaphysics seems to be incorrect.

The article provides a consecutive bibliographic account of the most salient trends and tendencies in research in the history of philosophy in Russia over the course of the last 20–25 years. We emphasise the dynamics of the research field, which is directly related to the changes that have taken place in Russian society. The afterword contains a general periodization of research in field of the history of philosophy in Russia and describes the basic characteristics of every period under consideration.
  • Goethe and Newton: debate about the nature of color // Intellectual traditions in the past and present. V. 2 // Ed. М. Petrova. М.: Aquilon, 2014. Pages 299–340. – (In Russian)
  • Proclus' discovery [Открытие Прокла] // Platonic Studies. Vol. 1 / Ed. I. Protopopova. SPb. 2014. Pages 256–282. – (In Russian)

  • Consciousness and Self in Plotinus' philosophy // ΠΛΑΤΩΝΙΚΑ ΖΗΤΗΜΑΤΑ. Studies in the history of Platonism / Ed. Valery V. Petroff. М.: Krug, 2013. Pages 147–160. – (In Russian)
  • Transcendent principle in Neoplatonism and the doctrine of henads // ΠΛΑΤΩΝΙΚΑ ΖΗΤΗΜΑΤΑ. Studies in the history of Platonism / Ed. Valery V. Petroff. М.: Krug, 2013. Pages 169–209. – (In Russian)
  • Does the First have hypostasis? // ΠΛΑΤΩΝΙΚΑ ΖΗΤΗΜΑΤΑ. Studies in the history of Platonism / Ed. Valery V. Petroff. М.: Krug, 2013. Pages 318–338. – (In Russian)
  • «Iamblichus and the foundations of late Platonism» / Eds. E. Afonasin, J. Dillon & J. Finamore. Leuven: Brill, 2012 (Review) // Philosophy of Religion (2012–2013) / Ed. by V. K. Shokhin. М.: Vostochnaya Literatura, 2013 Pages 454–470. – (In Russian)


2011 and earlier

  • Platonic concept of discursive knowledge // Philosophy Journal [Filosofskii Zhurnal]. 2011. № 1 (6). – (In Russian)
  • Hypostasis: the concept and it's history in the ancient philosophy" // Orchodox Encyclopedia 2011. V. XXVI. Moscow. Pages 180–183. – (In Russian)
  • The doctrine of henads: Proclus, Syrianus, Iamblichus // Intellectual Traditions in Antiquity and Middle Age [Интеллектуальные традиции античности и средних веков]. Moscow: Krug Publ., 2010, Pages 42–68. – (In Russian)
  • Plato's doctrine of ideas-numbers // Cosmos and the Soul II: The Doctrine of Nature and Thinking in Antiquity, Middle and Modern Age. Moscow: Progress-Tradition 2010, Pages 29–82 [Космос и Душа (Вып. 2): Учение о природе и мышлении в античности, средние века и новое время]. – (In Russian)
  • The problem of transcendent principle in Neoplatonism and the doctrine of henads // History of Philosophy Yearbook [Istoriko-filosofskii ezhegodnik] 2009. Moscow 2010, Pages 33-60. – (In Russian)
  • Plato's doctrine of ideas-numbers // Cosmos and the Soul II. Moscow: Progress-Tradition 2010 [«Учение Платона об идеях-числах»] // Космос и Душа II]. – (In Russian)
  • A review of B.R. Suchla. Dionysius Areopagita: Leben - Werk - Wirkung. Freiburg. Basel. Wien: Herder, 2008 // Herald of the Saint Tikhon's Orthodox University I: 10 (26). 2009, Pages 102–111 [Вестник ПСТГУ I].
  • The doctrine of henads: Proclus, Syrianus, Iamblichus // Dialogue with Time [Диалог со временем]. Moscow: Institute of World History of the Russian Academy of Sciences Press, 2009, Pages 1–28.
  • Principles of Proclus' metaphysics // ARCHE. Proceedings of the Seminar on Cultural Studies, V. Moscow: Russian State University for the Humanities Press 2009, Pages 203-235 [АРХЭ. Труды культурологического семинара].
  • The Divine Iamblichus: landmarks of his earthly path.” In Almanac of Intellectual History 22. Moscow: URSS 2008 [Альманах Интеллектуальной истории].
  • The concept of θεολογια in ancient philosophy // Almanac of Philosophy and Religion. Moscow 2007, Pages 228-246 [Альманах Философия и религия].
  • The problem of first principle in Neoplatonism and Iamblichus' doctrine of the two Ones // Herald of the Russian Christian Academy for the Humanities. 2007, Pages 81-91 [Вестник РХГА].
  • The problem of consciousness and personality in the philosophy of Plotinus // Papers Delivered at the 16th Annual Conference on Theology at Saint Tikhon Orthodox University. Moscow 2006, 60-68[«Проблема сознания и личности в философии Плотина» // Сборник докладов XVI ежегодной богословской конференции ПСТГУ.  М., 2006, Pages 60–68].
  • Proclus // Lexicon of History, V-VIII centuries A.D. Moscow: Nauka 2006 [«Прокл» // Исторический лексикон V–XIII вв. М.: Наука, 2006].
  • Structure and main principles of a philosophical commentary // Genres and Forms in Written Culture of the Middle Age. Moscow: Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences Press 2005, Pages 6-22 [«Композиция и основные принципы философского комментария» // Жанры и формы в письменной культуре Средневековья].
  • The absolute in ancient philosophy // History of Philosophy Yearbook [Istoriko-filosofskii ezhegodnik]. 2003. Moscow: Nauka 2004, Pages 5–24.
  • An introduction to commentary // History of Philosophy Yearbook [Istoriko-filosofskii ezhegodnik]. 2000. Moscow: Nauka 2002, Pages 5–26.


  • “Nature”, “Aether”, “Theophrastus of Eresos”, “Strato of Lampsacus.” In The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy in 4 volumes [Философская энциклопедия в 4-х томах]
  • “Demiurge”, “Natural theology”, “Hypostasis.” In The Orthodox Encyclopaedia [Православная энциклопедия]
  • “Ammonius Hermiae”, “Anatolius”, “Anamnesis”, “Good”, “Henads”, “Demiurge”, “Motion”, “Xenarchus of Seleucia”, “Moderatus of Gades”, “Porphyry”, “Nature”, “Proclus”, “Syrianus”, “Theophrastus”, “Aether”, “Iamblichus.” In The Encyclopaedic Lexicon of Ancient Philosophy. Moscow: Progress-Tradition 2008 [Энциклопедический словарь «Античная философия», М.: Прогресс-Традиция, 2008]


  • Maximus the Confessor On difficult passages in Saints Gregory and Dionysius. Apory XLI, translated with a commentary by Svetlana Messiats. In Bogoslovskie Trudy 40. Moscow: Editorial Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Press 2005, 5-11  [Преподобный Максим Исповедник. О различных трудных местах у святых Григория и Дионисия. Затруднение XLI. Пер. и прим. Месяц С.В. // Богословские труды 40. Изд. совет Русской Православной Церкви. М., 2005, стр. 5-11].
  • Proclus. Commentary on Plato's Timaeus: Book I / Translation, introduction and commentary by S. Mesyats. – Moscow: MGL, 2012. – 416 p. [Прокл. Комментарий к "Тимею". Книга I / Перевод, ввдение, комментариии С.В. Месяц. М.: ГЛК, 2012]
  • Goethe and his Farbenlehre. Translated by I. Kanaev and S. Mesyats. / Ed. S. Mesyats. - Moscow: Krug, 2012. - xxxii+464. (Studies and translations in the field of Humanities V. II / Ed. of the series M.S. Petrova) with financial support of RFH. [И.В. Гёте и его учение о цвете / Перевод И.Канаева и С.Месяц. / Под ред. С.Месяц. М.: Кругъ, 2012]



  • «Unknown Doctrin of Proclus or What kind of souls did Proclus discover?» – 15th Annual Conference for the International Society for Neoplatonic Studies (ISNS), Olomouc, Czech Republic, 14–17 June 2017.


  • «Is it possible to see Darkness? Some remarks on Aristotle's theory of light and color», Moscow International Aristotle Conference «The Legacies of Aristotle as Constitutive Element of European Rationality”, organized by RAS Institute of Philosophy and RAS Institute of World History, Moscow, 17–19 October 2016.
  • Moderator of Section: Aristotle and his Thought, – Moscow International Aristotle Conference, 17–19 October 2016.


  • Panel paper: "Proclus on divine, demonic and human souls", - September 18-19, Moscow. The 2nd International Moscow Conference on Plato, organized by Russian State University on Humanities and the Centre of  Ancient and Medieval Philosophy and Science of the Institute of Philosophy.
  • Presentation: «Goethe vs Newton on the nature of color», - November 3, Kyiv, National Universuty of Kyiv-Mohila Academy".
  • Presentation: "Proclus' teaching on soul", - November 4, Kyiv, National Institute of philosophy.


  • Presentation: "Plato's Unwritten Doctrine", – April 25, Moscow. Historical Department of the State Lomonosov University.
  • Panel paper: "Aristotle on the nature of color and vision", - March 11-12, Moscow. International Conference «Reception of Aristotle's philosophical and theological heritage», organized by Sorbonne University (Paris) together with Institute of Philosophy RAS.
  • Presentation: "Figurative and symbolic Interpretation of the Atlantis mythos in Proclus' Commentary on Timaeus", - October 17, Moscow. Round Table "Proclus and some problems in the study of late Neoplatonism"  organized by Lomonosov' University together with Institute of Philosophy (RAS).


  • Panel paper: "Goethe and Arsitotle on the nature of light and color", – International Conference "Aristote et son influence sur la culture philosophique à travers les siècles et jusqu’a nos jours". Sorbonne University, Paris (France), September 24-29, 2012.


  • Russian and Finnish Philosophical Symposium, organized by the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Philosophical Society. Helsinki, 13-16 June 2010.
  • International TECHNE School. Theoretical foundations of Arts, Science and Technology in the Greco-Roman World, 1–10 May 2011. Panel paper on “The doctrine of colour: Newton and Goethe”.
  • XVIth International Conference on Patristic Studies, Oxford University, 8–13 August 2011. Panel paper “Does the First have a hypostasis? Some remarks towards the history of the term HYPOSTASIS in Platonic and Christian tradition of the III–IV century”.Debates on Aristotle: Ancient Legacy and the Humanities [Аристотелевские чтения: античное наследие и гуманитарные науки]. All-Russian Conference organized by the Southern Federal University. Rostov-on-Don, 19-21 October 2011. Panel paper  “Goethe and Aristotle: is it possible to see the darkness?”.



Web-page in Russian