Neoplatonist

Neoplatonist

Neoplatonism (also spelled Neo-Platonism), as it has been called since the 19th century, is a school of mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists. Its earliest contributors were Plotinus and his teacher Ammonius Saccas. Neoplatonism focused on the spiritual and cosmological aspects of Platonic thought, synthesizing Platonism with Egyptian[1] and Jewish theology.[2] However, Neoplatonists would have considered themselves simply Platonists, and the modern distinction is due to the perception that their philosophy contained sufficiently unique interpretations of Plato to make it substantially different from what Plato wrote and believed.[3]

The Neoplatonism of Plotinus and Porphyry has been referred to as in fact being orthodox Platonic philosophy by scholars like John D. Turner. This distinction provides a contrast with later movements of Neoplatonism, such as those of Iamblichus and Proclus, which embraced magical practices or theurgy as part of the soul's development in the process of the soul's return to the Source. Possibly Plotinus was motivated to clarify some of the traditions in the teachings of Plato that had been misrepresented before Iamblichus (see Neoplatonism and Gnosticism).

Neoplatonism took definitive shape with the philosopher Plotinus, who claimed to have received his teachings from Ammonius Saccas, a philosopher in Alexandria.[4] Plotinus was also influenced by Alexander of Aphrodisias and Numenius of Apamea. Plotinus's student Porphyry assembled his teachings into the six sets of nine tractates, or Enneads. Subsequent Neoplatonic philosophers included Iamblichus, Hypatia of Alexandria, Hierocles of Alexandria, Proclus (by far the most influential of later Neoplatonists), Damascius (last head of Neoplatonist School at Athens), Olympiodorus the Younger, and Simplicius of Cilicia.

Thinkers from the Neoplatonic school cross-pollinated with the thinkers of other intellectual schools. For instance, certain strands of Neoplatonism influenced Christian thinkers (such as Augustine, Boethius, John Scotus Eriugena, and Bonaventure),[5] while Christian thought influenced (and sometimes converted) Neoplatonic philosophers (such as Dionysius the Areopagite).[6][7]

In the Middle Ages, Neoplatonic arguments were taken seriously in the thought of medieval Islamic and Jewish thinkers such as al-Farabi and Moses Maimonides,[8] and experienced a revival in the Renaissance with the acquisition and translation of Greek and Arabic Neoplatonic texts.

Origins

The most important forerunners of Neoplatonism are the Middle Platonists, such as Plutarch, and the Neopythagoreans, especially Numenius of Apamea. Philo, a forerunner of Neoplatonism, translated Judaism into terms of Stoic, Platonic and Neopythagorean elements, and held that God is "supra rational," who can be reached only through "ecstasy", and that the oracles of God supply the material of moral and religious knowledge. The earliest Christian philosophers, such as Justin and Athenagoras, who attempted to connect Christianity with Platonism, and the Christian Gnostics of Alexandria, especially Valentinus and the followers of Basilides, also mirrored elements of Neoplatonism, albeit without its rigorous self-consistency. There is, however, no evidence in Plotinus for any actual influence of Jewish and Christian philosophy, and undoubtedly, Alexandria, where Neoplatonism originated, was bathed in eastern methods of worship accessible to everyone. It is only the later Neoplatonism, from Iamblichus onwards, that offers striking and deep-rooted parallels to Philo and the Gnostics.

Teachings

Neoplatonism is generally a metaphysical and epistemological philosophy. Neoplatonism is a form of idealistic monism (also called theistic monism) and combines elements of Polytheism (see Monistic-polytheism).

Although the founder of Neoplatonism is supposed to have been Ammonius Saccas, the Enneads of his pupil Plotinus are the primary and classical document of Neoplatonism. As a form of mysticism, it contains theoretical and practical parts, the first dealing with the high origin of the human soul showing how it has departed from its first estate, and the second showing the way by which the soul may again return to the Eternal and Supreme. The system can be divided between the invisible world and the phenomenal world, the former containing the transcendent One from which emanates an eternal, perfect, essence (nous), which, in turn, produces the world-soul.

The One

The primeval Source of Being is the One and the Infinite, as opposed to the many and the finite. It is the source of all life, and therefore absolute causality and the only real existence. However, the important feature of it is that it is beyond all Being, although the source of it. Therefore, it cannot be known through reasoning or understanding, since only what is part of Being can be thus known according to Plato. Being beyond existence, it is the most real reality, source of less real things. It is, moreover, the Good, insofar as all finite things have their purpose in it, and ought to flow back to it. But one cannot attach moral attributes to the original Source of Being itself, because these would imply limitation. It has no attributes of any kind; it is being without magnitude; in strict propriety, indeed, we ought not to speak of it as existing; it is "above existence," "above goodness." It is also active without a substratum; as active force the primeval Source of Being is perpetually producing something else, without alteration, or motion, or diminution of itself. This production is not a physical process, but an emission of force; and, since the product has real existence only in virtue of the original existence working in it, Neoplatonism may be described as a species of dynamic panentheism. Directly or indirectly, everything is brought forth by the "One." In it all things, so far as they have being, are divine, and God is all in all. Derived existence, however, is not like the original Source of Being itself, but is subject to a law of diminishing completeness. It is indeed an image and reflection of the first Source of Being; but the further the line of successive projections is prolonged the smaller is its share in the true existence. The totality of being may thus be conceived as a series of concentric circles, fading away towards the verge of non-existence, the force of the original Being in the outermost circle being a vanishing quantity. Each lower stage of being is united with the "One" by all the higher stages, and receives its share of reality only by transmission through them. All derived existence, however, has a drift towards, a longing for, the higher, and bends towards it so far as its nature will permit. Plotinus' treatment of the substance or essence (ousia) of the one was to reconcile Plato and Aristotle. Where Aristotle treated the monad as a single entity made up of one substance (here as energeia). Plotinus reconciled Aristotle with Plato's "the good" by expressing the substance or essence of the one as potential or force.[9]

Demiurge or Nous

The original Being initially emanates, or throws out, the nous, which is a perfect image of the One and the archetype of all existing things. It is simultaneously both being and thought, idea and ideal world. As image, the nous corresponds perfectly to the One, but as derivative, it is entirely different. What Plotinus understands by the nous is the highest sphere accessible to the human mind, while also being pure intellect itself. Nous is the most critical component of idealism, Neoplatonism being a pure form of idealism.[10][11] The demiurge (the nous) is the energy, or ergon (does the work), that manifests or organizes the material world into perceivability.

The world-soul

The image and product of the motionless nous is the world-soul, which, according to Plotinus, is immaterial like the nous. Its relation to the nous is the same as that of the nous to the One. It stands between the nous and the phenomenal world, is permeated and illuminated by the former, but is also in contact with the latter. The nous/spirit is indivisible; the world-soul may preserve its unity and remain in the nous, but at the same time it has the power of uniting with the corporeal world and thus being disintegrated. It therefore occupies an intermediate position. As a single world-soul it belongs in essence and destination to the intelligible world; but it also embraces innumerable individual souls; and these can either allow themselves to be informed by the nous, or turn aside from the nous and choose the phenomenal world and lose themselves in the realm of the senses and the finite.

The phenomenal world

The soul, as a moving essence, generates the corporeal or phenomenal world. This world ought to be so pervaded by the soul that its various parts should remain in perfect harmony. Plotinus is no dualist in the same sense as sects like the Gnostics; in contrast he admires the beauty and splendor of the world. So long as idea governs matter, or the soul governs the body, the world is fair and good. It is an image - though a shadowy image - of the upper world, and the degrees of better and worse in it are essential to the harmony of the whole. But in the actual phenomenal world unity and harmony are replaced by strife or discord; the result is a conflict, a becoming and vanishing, an illusive existence. And the reason for this state of things is that bodies rest on a substratum of matter. Matter is the indeterminate: that with no qualities. If destitute of form and idea, it is evil; as capable of form it is neutral. Evil here is understood as a parasite, having no-existence of its own (parahypostasis), unavoidable outcome of the Universe, having an "other" necessity, as a harmonizing factor.[12]

Practice

Here, then, we enter upon the practical philosophy. Along the same road by which it descended the soul must retrace its steps back to the supreme Good. It must first of all return to itself. This is accomplished by the practice of virtue, which aims at likeness to God, and leads up to God. In the ethics of Plotinus all the older schemes of virtue are taken over and arranged in a graduated series. The lowest stage is that of the civil virtues, then follow the purifying, and last of all the divine virtues. The civil virtues merely adorn the life, without elevating the soul. That is the office of the purifying virtues, by which the soul is freed from sensuality and led back to itself, and thence to the nous. By means of ascetic observances the human becomes once more a spiritual and enduring being, free from all sin. But there is still a higher attainment; it is not enough to be sinless, one must become "God", (henosis). This is reached through contemplation of the primeval Being, the One — in other words, through an ecstatic approach to it. Thought cannot attain to this, for thought reaches only to the nous, and is itself a kind of motion. It is only in a state of perfect passivity and repose that the soul can recognize and touch the primeval Being. Hence the soul must first pass through a spiritual curriculum. Beginning with the contemplation of corporeal things in their multiplicity and harmony, it then retires upon itself and withdraws into the depths of its own being, rising thence to the nous, the world of ideas. But even there it does not find the Highest, the One; it still hears a voice saying, "not we have made ourselves." The last stage is reached when, in the highest tension and concentration, beholding in silence and utter forgetfulness of all things, it is able as it were to lose itself. Then it may see God, the foundation of life, the source of being, the origin of all good, the root of the soul. In that moment it enjoys the highest indescribable bliss; it is as it were swallowed up of divinity, bathed in the light of eternity. Porphyry tells us that on four occasions during the six years of their intercourse Plotinus attained to this ecstatic union with God.

Celestial hierarchy

The religious philosophy of Plotinus for himself personally sufficed, without the aid of the popular religion or worship. Nevertheless he sought for points of support in these. God is certainly in the truest sense nothing but the primeval Being who is revealed in a variety of emanations and manifestations. Plotinus taught the existence of an ineffable and transcendent One, the All, from which emanated the rest of the universe as a sequence of lesser beings. Later Neoplatonic philosophers, especially Iamblichus, added hundreds of intermediate beings such as gods, angels and demons, and other beings as mediators between the One and humanity. The Neoplatonist gods are omni-perfect beings and do not display the usual amoral behaviour associated with their representations in the myths.

The One
God, The Good. Transcendent and ineffable.
The Hypercosmic Gods
Those that make Essence, Life, and Soul
The Demiurge
The creator
The Cosmic Gods
Those who make Being, Nature, and Matter—including the gods known to us from classical religion.

Salvation

Neoplatonists believed human perfection and happiness were attainable in this world, without awaiting an afterlife. Perfection and happiness— seen as synonymous— could be achieved through philosophical contemplation.

They did not believe in an independent existence of evil. They compared it to darkness, which does not exist in itself but only as the absence of light. So too, evil is simply the absence of good. Things are good insofar as they exist; they are evil only insofar as they are imperfect, lacking some good that they should have. It is also a cornerstone of Neoplatonism to teach that all people return to the Source. The Source, Absolute, or One is what all things spring from and, as a superconsciousness (nous), is where all things return. It can be said that all consciousness is wiped clean and returned to a blank slate when returning to the Source. All things have force or potential (dynamis) as their essence. This dynamis begets energy (energeia).[13][14][15] When people return to the Source, their energy returns to the One, Monad, or Source and is then recycled into the cosmos, where it can be broken up and then amalgamated into other things.

The Neoplatonists believed in the pre-existence, and immortality of the soul.[16][17] The human soul consists of a lower irrational soul and a higher rational soul (mind), both of which can be regarded as different powers of the one soul. It was widely held that the soul possesses a "vehicle",[18] accounting for the human soul's immortality and allowing for its return to the One after death.[19] After bodily death, the soul takes up a level in the afterlife corresponding with the level at which it lived during its earthly life.[20][21] The Neoplatonists believed in the principle of reincarnation. Although the most pure and holy souls would dwell in the highest regions, the impure soul would undergo a purification,[17] before descending again,[22] to be reincarnated into a new body, perhaps into animal form.[23] A soul that has returned to the One, achieves union with the cosmic universal soul,[24] and does not descend again, at least, not in this world period.[22]

Logos

The term "Logos" was interpreted variously in neoplatonism. Plotinus refers to Thales[25] in interpreting Logos as the principle of meditation, the interrelationship between the Hypostases[26] (Soul, Spirit (nous) and the 'One'). St. John introduces a relation between 'Logos' and the Son, Christ,[27] while St. Paul calls it 'Son', 'Image' and 'Form'.[27] Victorinus subsequently differentiated the Logos interior to God and the Logos related to the world by creation and salvation.[27]

Augustine re-interpreted Aristotle and Plato in the light of early Christian thought.[28] In his Confessions he describes the Logos as the divine eternal Word.[29] Augustine's Logos "took on flesh" in Christ, in whom the logos was present as in no other man.[30] He influenced Christian thought throughout the Hellenistic world[31] and strongly influenced Early Medieval Christian Philosophy.[31] Perhaps the key subject in this was Logos.

After Plotinus' (around 205–270 A.D.) and his student Porphyry (around 232–309 A.D.) Aristotle's (non-biological) works entered the curriculum of Platonic thought. Porphyry's introduction (Isagoge) to Aristotle's Categoria was important as an introduction to logic, and the study of Aristotle became an introduction to the study of Plato in the late Platonism of Athens and Alexandria. The commentaries of this group seek to harmonise Plato, Aristotle and, often, the Stoa.[32] Some works of neoplatonism were attributed to Plato or Aristotle. De Mundo, for instance, is thought not to be the work of a 'pseudo-Aristotle' though this remains debatable.[33]

Neoplatonist philosophers

Ammonius Saccas

Ammonius Saccas (birth unknown death ca. 265 AD, Greek: Ἀμμώνιος Σακκᾶς) is a founder of Neoplatonism and the teacher of Plotinus. Little is known of the teacher other than both Christians (see Eusebius, Jerome, and Origen) and pagans (see Porphyry and Plotinus) claim him a teacher and founder of the Neoplatonic system. Porphyry stated in On the One School of Plato and Aristotle, that Ammonius' view was that the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle were in harmony. Eusebius and Jerome claimed him as a Christian until his death, whereas Porphyry claimed he had renounced Christianity and embraced pagan philosophy.

Plotinus

Plotinus (Greek: Πλωτῖνος) (ca. 205–270) was a major Greco - Egyptian[34] philosopher of the ancient world who is widely considered the father of Neoplatonism. Much of our biographical information about him comes from Porphyry's preface to his edition of Plotinus' Enneads. While he was himself influenced by the teachings of classical Greek, Persian and Indian philosophy and Egyptian theology,[35] his metaphysical writings later inspired numerous Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Gnostic metaphysicians and mystics over the centuries. Plotinus taught that there is a supreme, totally transcendent "One", containing no division, multiplicity or distinction; likewise it is beyond all categories of being and non-being. The concept of "being" is derived by us from the objects of human experience, and is an attribute of such objects, but the infinite, transcendent One is beyond all such objects, and therefore is beyond the concepts that we derive from them. The One "cannot be any existing thing", and cannot be merely the sum of all such things (compare the Stoic doctrine of disbelief in non-material existence), but "is prior to all existents".

Porphyry

Porphyry (Greek: Πορφύριος, c. A.D. 233– c. 309) was a Syrian[34] Neoplatonist philosopher. He wrote widely on astrology, religion, philosophy, and musical theory. He produced a biography of his teacher, Plotinus. He is important in the history of mathematics because of his Life of Pythagoras, and his commentary on Euclid's Elements, which Pappus used when he wrote his own commentary.[1] Porphyry is also known as an opponent of Christianity and defender of Paganism; of his Adversus Christianos (Against the Christians) in 15 books, only fragments remain. He famously said, "The gods have proclaimed Christ to have been most pious, but the Christians are a confused and vicious sect."

Iamblichus

Iamblichus, also known as Iamblichus Chalcidensis, (ca. 245 - ca. 325, Greek: Ἰάμβλιχος) was a Syrian[34] neoplatonist philosopher who determined the direction taken by later Neoplatonic philosophy, and perhaps western philosophical religions themselves. He is perhaps best known for his compendium on Pythagorean philosophy. In Iamblichus' system the realm of divinities stretched from the original One down to material nature itself, where soul in fact descended into matter and became "embodied" as human beings. The world is thus peopled by a crowd of superhuman beings influencing natural events and possessing and communicating knowledge of the future, and who are all accessible to prayers and offerings. Iamblichus had salvation as his final goal (see henosis). The embodied soul was to return to divinity by performing certain rites, or theurgy, literally, 'divine-working.'

Proclus

Proclus Lycaeus (February 8, 412 – April 17, 485), surnamed "The Successor" or "diadochos" (Greek Πρόκλος ὁ Διάδοχος Próklos ho Diádokhos), was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, one of the last major Greek philosophers (see Damascius). He set forth one of the most elaborate, complex, and fully developed Neoplatonic systems. The particular characteristic of Proclus' system is his insertion of a level of individual ones, called henads between the One itself and the divine Intellect, which is the second principle. The henads are beyond being, like the One itself, but they stand at the head of chains of causation (seirai or taxeis) and in some manner give to these chains their particular character. They are also identified with the traditional Greek gods, so one henad might be Apollo and be the cause of all things apollonian, while another might be Helios and be the cause of all sunny things. The henads serve both to protect the One itself from any hint of multiplicity, and to draw up the rest of the universe towards the One, by being a connecting, intermediate stage between absolute unity and determinate multiplicity.

Emperor Julian

Julian (born c.331–died June 26, 363), was a Roman Emperor (361–363) of the Constantinian dynasty. He was the last pagan Roman Emperor, and tried to reform traditional Pagan worship by unifying Hellenic worship in the Roman empire in the form of Neoplatonism developed by Iamblichus. Julian sought to do this after the legalization of Christianity and its widespread success within the Eastern Roman Empire and to a lesser extent, the Western Roman Empire.

Simplicius

Simplicius of Cilicia (c. 530CE), a pupil of Damascius, is not known as an original thinker, but his remarks are thoughtful and intelligent and his learning is prodigious. To the student of Greek philosophy his commentaries are invaluable, as they contain many fragments of the older philosophers as well as of his immediate predecessors.

Michael Psellos

Michael Psellos (1018-1078) a Byzantine monk, writer, philosopher, politician and historian. He wrote many philosophical treatises such as, De omnifaria doctrina. He was quite the thinker, and he wrote most of his philosophy during his time as a court politician at Constantinople in the 1030s and 40's.

Gemistus Pletho

Gemistus Pletho (born c. 1355–died 1452, Greek: Πλήθων Γεμιστός) remained the preeminent scholar of Neoplatonic philosophy in the late Byzantine Empire. He introduced his understanding and insight into the works of Neoplatonism during the failed attempt to reconcile the East-West schism at the council of Florence. At Florence Pletho met Cosimo de' Medici and influenced the latter's decision to found a new Platonic Academy there. Cosimo subsequently appointed as head Marsilio Ficino, who proceeded to translate all Plato's works, the Enneads of Plotinus, and various other Neoplatonist works into Latin.

Early Christian and Medieval Neoplatonism

Certain central tenets of Neoplatonism served as a philosophical interim for the Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo on his journey from dualistic Manichaeism to Christianity. As a Manichee, Augustine had held that evil has substantial being and that God is made of matter; when he became a Neoplatonist, he changed his views on these things. As a Neoplatonist, and later a Christian, Augustine believed that evil is a privation of good and that God is not material. When writing his treatise 'On True Religion' several years after his 387 baptism, Augustine's Christianity was still tempered by Neoplatonism.

Many other Christians were influenced by Neoplatonism, especially in their identifying the Neoplatonic One, or God, with Jehovah. The most influential of these would be Origen, the pupil of Ammonius Saccas and the fifth-century author known as Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, (whose works were translated by John Scotus in the 9th century for the west) and proved significant for both the Eastern Orthodox and Western branches of Christianity. Neoplatonism also had links with Gnosticism, which Plotinus rebuked in his ninth tractate of the second Enneads: "Against Those That Affirm The Creator of The Cosmos and The Cosmos Itself to Be Evil" (generally known as "Against The Gnostics").

Due to their belief being grounded in Platonic thought, the Neoplatonists rejected gnosticism's vilification of Plato's Enneads. Plotinus believed the followers of gnosticism had corrupted the original teachings of Plato.

Despite the influence this pagan philosophy had on Christianity, Justinian I would hurt later Neoplatonism by ordering the closure of the refounded School of Athens.[36] After the closure, Neoplatonic and or secular philosophical studies continued in publicly funded schools in Alexandria. In the early seventh century, the Neoplatonist Stephanus brought this Alexandrian tradition to Constantinople, where it would remain influential, albeit as a form of secular education.[37] The university maintained an active philosophical tradition of Platonism and Aristotelianism, with the former being the longest unbroken Platonic school, running for close to two millennia until the 15th century[37] In the Middle Ages, Neoplatonist ideas influenced Jewish thinkers, such as the Kabbalist Isaac the Blind, and the Jewish Neoplatonic philosopher Solomon ibn Gabirol, who modified it in the light of their own monotheism. Neoplatonist ideas also influenced Islamic and Sufi thinkers such as al Farabi and Avicenna. Neoplatonism survived in the Eastern Christian Church as an independent tradition and was reintroduced to the west by Plethon.

Islamic Neoplatonism

"For Muslims, Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus are part of the Islamic tradition in the same manner that Abraham is regarded to be a prophet of Islam."[38] Arabic scholars and philosophers utilized the works of Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, and other Neoplatonist philosophers to evaluate, assess, and eventually adapt Neoplatonism to conform to the monotheistic constraints of Islam.[39] Arabic scholars, like earlier Neoplatonic thinkers, read and philosophized the works of Plato, and developed similar questions and conclusions. The translation and interpretation of Islamic Neoplatonists had lasting effects on western philosophers, affecting Descartes' view on the conception of being. Important figures that translated and shaped Islamic Neoplatonism were Avicenna (Ibn Sina), al-Ghazali, al-Kindi, al-Farabi, and al-Himsi.

There were three major reasons for the prominence of Neoplatonic influences in the Islamic world:

  1. Availability of Neoplatonic texts: Arabic translations and paraphrases of Neoplatonic works were readily available to Muslim scholars greatly due to the availability of the Greek copies, in part because of the many Greek philosophers residing in the Sassanian courts of Persian kings prior to the rise of Islam.
  2. Spatial and temporal proximity: "Plotinus and other Neoplotanists lived only a few centuries before the rise of Islam, and many of them were Egyptian Greeks."
  3. Neoplatonism's mystical perspectives: Plotinus' system has similar content to Islamic mysticism, like Islamic Sufism. This eased the acceptance of Neoplatonic doctrines by Islamic philosophers.[40]

Islamic Neoplatonism differs from traditional Neoplatonism because of its incorporation of Islamic theology, most commonly through the change in definitions of the One and the First Principle. "What changes Neoplatonism is the transcendence of the First Principle.[41]" Muslim philosophers changed the Neoplatonic characteristics of the One into those attributable to God as present in Islamic scripture, notably transferring the First Principle to God. By assigning the First Principle to God they are altering the definition to fit the definition of God determined by scripture. Philosophers described God as free from Platonic forms and having divine omniscience and providence. The notion of the divine Intellect is altered under Islamic Neoplatonism and is once again attributed to God. Plotinus doesn't believe in the idea of intelligent design of the universe by an omnipotent being. Islamic philosophers adapted divine Intellect to reinforce scripture, in that God is a transcendent being, omnipresent and inalterable to the effects of his creation. The translations of the works that extrapolate the tenets of God in Neoplatonism present no major modification from their original Greek sources, showing the doctrinal shift towards monotheism.[42]

"The greatest cluster of Neoplatonic themes is found in religious mystical writings, which in fact transform purely orthodox doctrines such as creation into doctrines such as emanationism, which allow for a better framework for the expression of Neoplatonic themes and the emergence of the mystical themes of the ascent and mystical union.[43]" Islamic philosophers used the framework of Islamic mysticism in their interpretation of Neoplatonic writings and concepts. Parviz Morewedge gives four suppositions about the nature of Islamic Mysticism:

The Unity of Being
"An inherent potential unity among all dimensions of world-experience."
The Mediator Figure
"The mediation between finite man and the ultimate being."
The Way of Salvation
"Knowledge is embedded in the path of self-realization." Passing trials advances one through stages until transcendence.
The Language of Symbolic Allegory
"Mystical texts are often written in the allegorical language of tales."[44]

Renaissance Neoplatonism

"Of all the students of Greek in Renaissance Italy, the best-known are the Neoplatonists who studied in and around Florence" (Hole). Neoplatonism was not just a revival of Plato's ideas, it is all based on Plotinus' created synthesis, which incorporated the works and teachings of Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras and other Greek philosophers. The Renaissance in Italy was the revival of classic antiquity, and this started at the fall of the Byzantine empire, who were considered the "librarians of the world," because of their great collection of classical manuscripts, and the number of humanist scholars that resided in Constantinople (Hole).

Neoplatonism in the Renaissance combined the ideas of Christianity and a new awareness of the writings of Plato.

Marsilio Ficino (1433–99) was "chiefly responsible for packaging and presenting Plato to the Renaissance" (Hole). In 1462, Cosimo I de' Medici, patron of arts, who had an interest in humanism and Platonism, provided Ficino with all 36 of Plato's dialogues in Greek for him to translate. Between 1462 and 1469, Ficino translated these works into Latin, making them widely accessible, as only a minority of people could read Greek. And between 1484 and 1492, he translated the works of Plotinus, making them available for the first time to the West.

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463–94) was another excelling Neoplatonist during the Italian Renaissance. He could not only speak and write in Latin and Greek, but he also had immense knowledge on the Hebrew and Arabic languages. The pope banned his works because they were viewed as heretical - unlike Ficino, who managed to stay on the right side of the church.

The efforts of Ficino and Pico to introduce Neoplatonic and Hermetic doctrines into the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church has recently been evaluated in terms of an attempted "Hermetic Reformation."[45]

Cambridge Platonists

Main article: Cambridge Platonists

In the seventeenth century in England, Neoplatonism was fundamental to the school of the Cambridge Platonists, whose luminaries included Henry More, Ralph Cudworth, Benjamin Whichcote and John Smith, all graduates of Cambridge University. Coleridge claimed that they were not really Platonists, but "more truly Plotinists": "divine Plotinus", as More called him.

Later, Thomas Taylor (not a Cambridge Platonist) was the first to translate Plotinus' works into English.[46][47]

Modern Neoplatonism

In the essay "Inner and Outer Realities: Jean Gebser in a Cultural/Historical Perspective", Integral philosopher Allan Combs claims that ten modern thinkers can be called Neo-Platonists: Goethe, Schiller, Schelling, Hegel, Coleridge, Emerson, Rudolf Steiner, Carl Jung, Jean Gebser and the modern theorist Brian Goodwin. He sees these thinkers as participating in a tradition that can be distinguished from the empiricist and materialist Western philosophical traditions.[48]

In the philosophy of mathematics, in the early 20th century, the German philosopher, Gottlob Frege, renewed the interest in Plato's theory of mathematical objects (and other abstract objects, in general). Since then, a number of philosophers, such as Crispin Wright and Bob Hale have defended and developed this neo-platonist account of mathematics.

Some cite American poet Ezra Pound as a Neo-platonist, albeit from a rather Confucian perspective due to his great admiration for Plotinus and his writings on philosophy and religion. Religiously he described himself in public as a Hellenistic Pagan.

Other notable modern Neoplatonists include Thomas Taylor, "the English Platonist," who wrote extensively on Platonism and translated almost the entire Platonic and Plotinian corpora into English, and the Belgian writer Suzanne Lilar.

See also

References

Further reading

  • The Post-Aristotelian philosophy
  • Ruelle, an edition of Damascius On First Principles, (Paris, 1889)
  • Whittaker, The Neo-Platonists, (Cambridge, 1901)
  • Cambridge Companion to Plotinus. Ed. L.P. Gerson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)
  • Neoplatonic Philosophy. Introductory Readings. Trans. and ed. by John M. Dillon and Lloyd P. Gerson, (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 2004).
  • Chiaradonna, Riccardo and Franco Trabattoni (edd.), Physics and Philosophy of Nature in Greek Neoplatonism: Proceedings of the European Science Foundation Exploratory Workshop (il Ciocco,Castelvecchio Pascoli, june 22-24, 2006) (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2009) (Philosophia antiqua, 115).
  • Gertz, Sebastian R. P., Death and Immortality in Late Neoplatonism: Studies on the Ancient Commentaries on Plato's Phaedo, Brill: Leiden, 2011.

External links

  • Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Prometheus Trust
  • International Society for Neoplatonic Studies
  • Christian Platonists and Neoplatonists: Historical and Modern
  • Islamic Platonists and Neoplatonists
  • Aristotle's Categories at Gutenberg
  • Confessiones (Book I-XIII) - Augustine at Gutenberg
  • De immortalitate animae of Augustine (Google Books)

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