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Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Achrelus on Thu Mar 21, 2013 5:31 pm

I have read enough of Plato that I know some of the basics on what he wrote, but what exactly was/is Platonism? Is anyone who reads and agrees with Plato a platonist?

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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Erodius on Thu Mar 21, 2013 5:56 pm

It depends on whether you're considering Platonism as simply the philosophical system of Plato's dialogues, or the religious Platonism and its Neoplatonist revival in Late Antiquity, which is essentially a particular Hellenistic religion that possessed its own particular beliefs and practices.

Orphism, Pythagoreanism and Platonism form something of a circular continuum. The theology unique to Orphic religion spawned Pythagoreanism as, in many ways, its philosophical outgrowth through Pythagoras, which in turn became more heavily philosophized in early Platonism, which later on in the Neoplatonist revival became increasingly a specific religion once again.

Simple agreement with Platonic ideas, I think, does not alone make one a Platonist — consider that many western Christian theologians, Aquinas and Augustine for instance, were heavily in agreement with many Platonic ideas, but would not likely have considered themselves Platonists.


Last edited by Ερωδιός on Thu Mar 21, 2013 10:23 pm; edited 1 time in total

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Achrelus on Thu Mar 21, 2013 6:25 pm

What exactly are the religious views of Platonism? What separated them from other Hellenists?

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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Erodius on Thu Mar 21, 2013 10:28 pm

Wikipedia, as usual, does a decent job of giving an appropriate "Idiot's Guide" description:

The primary concept is the Theory of Forms. The only true being is founded upon the Forms, the eternal, unchangeable, perfect types, of which particular objects of sense are imperfect copies. The multitude of objects of sense, being involved in perpetual change, are thereby deprived of all genuine existence.The number of the Forms is defined by the number of universal concepts which can be derived from the particular objects of sense.

Cited originally from Oskar Seyffert, (1894), Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, page 481

In general, a distinction between flawed, faulty and half-true material existence versus perfect, complete and eternal Ideal/Formal existence.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Achrelus on Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:02 pm

Are there bookss that were written by the Platonists themselves, or were they just interpreters of Plato himself? I read the wikipedia artical a week ago but found it lacking in deeper explenation of how it applies to the individuals life. For instance, when you talk about Orphism I can see examples of how it affects you as a person and how you live. Does Platonism even go that deep, or is it mostly phiosophical and less spiritual?

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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Erodius on Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:58 pm

For writings specifically on the more religious Platonism, one has to turn to Plotinos, Porphyrios, Iamblikhos and Proklos, each of whom has his own flavor. Plotinos and Porphyrios are very ethereal, Iamblikhos is very religious, and Proklos in his brilliance is almost equally both.



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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Achrelus on Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:05 am

Thank you, I will look into getting those at some point. I plan on doing a large readthrough this summer on all the books that I own, and am hoping to get in there a wide variety of authors so I can form more educated well rounded oppinions on Hellenism and related philosophies.

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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Pemphredo on Thu May 16, 2013 6:31 am

A member of the court of Julianus Restitutor, Sallustius, wrote a fantastic work about "the gods and the world". It is a sort of basic guide to the teachings of neoplatonism and it includes also interesting ideas about the gods. Neoplatonism seems to distinquish between several kinds of gods, like the hypercosmic and the encosmic. The hypercosmic deities are working above the material world, the encosmic in the material world.  These encosmic gods are the same as the twelve Olympians. They are divided in four groups of each three deities:

1. Triad: Zeus, Poseidon and Hephaistos. They are the creators of the material world.
2. Triad: Demeter, Hera and Artemis:. They make the universe live by giving it souls.
3. Triad: Apollon, Aphrodite and Hermes. They keep the harmony in the universe.
4. Triad: Hestia, Athena and Ares. They are the guardians of the universe.

Other gods Sallustius regards as manifestations of these twelve gods (Dionysos = Zeus, Asklepios = Apollon, the Charites = Aphrodite... and Hekate? I thought she's the soul of the world in neoplatonism. But Hekate is Athena, Artemis and Aphrodite in one person).

I think this work is very interesting for contemporary individuals, since it was one of the last works concerning the gods. I can't wait to learn more about it!

(If someone here knows more about the gods in Neoplatonism and finds any fault in what I wrote above, please don't hesitate to tell so, since I'm just a newbie to Neoplatonism.)

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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Erodius on Thu May 16, 2013 10:31 am

Haha — it does get a little more complex than that, but it is really more than anyone ought to try to explain in a single forum post :-S

Sallustius is, in general, a sufficient introduction.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Haganrix on Wed Jul 24, 2013 1:17 pm

Pemphredo wrote: Neoplatonism seems to distinquish between several kinds of gods, like the hypercosmic and the encosmic. The hypercosmic deities are working above the material world, the encosmic in the material world.  These encosmic gods are the same as the twelve Olympians. They are divided in four groups of each three deities:

Hypercosmic Gods are not required, Sallustius regards them just as a faculty. Neoplatonism has also developed the theory of the spheres, e. g. the Sun as the sphere of Helios-Apollon. Thus you may also consider the so-called hypercosmic Gods as the upper spheres of our well-known cosmic Gods.

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The mind views all at once whereas the speech puts it into the order (Salustios, On the Gods and the Cosmos, Chapter 4, Par. 9).

Der Geist schaut alles zugleich, während die Rede eines nach dem Anderen erzählt (Salustios, Von den Göttern und der Welt, Kapitel IV, Abschnitt 9).

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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Erodius on Wed Jul 24, 2013 3:41 pm

Hypercosmic and encosmic gods are, as Haganrix explained, not essentially separable from one another. They simply represent the presences of the twelve stases of the two divine ουσίαι at the cosmic level and at te hypercosmic level. What can be confusing for contemporary individuals is the use of the word 'cosmic'. Classically, this would refer to simply our ordered cosmos, i.e. our solar system, while the hypercosm would equate to the fullness of the universe.

In Platonism and related systems, it is considered that each ontological level, each 'cosmos', is in essence analogous to its hyperstases and hypostases. As such, each of these 'cosmoi' incorporate a parallel set of the Twelve Powers, from the full universe, to each star, each planet, each body, each cell . . .

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Thrasyvoulos on Wed Jul 24, 2013 4:57 pm

Erodius wrote:For writings specifically on the more religious Platonism, one has to turn to Plotinos, Porphyrios, Iamblikhos and Proklos, each of whom has his own flavor. Plotinos and Porphyrios are very ethereal, Iamblikhos is very religious, and Proklos in his brilliance is almost equally both.



Speaking of Proclus, I have a PDF copy of Thomas Taylor's translation of Proclus' "The Theology of Plato," that a friend emailed to me. I have it stored in my Dropbox account. I'll post the download link for anyone interested in the works.

http://db.tt/UR8owRIm

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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Pemphredo on Thu Jul 25, 2013 12:39 pm

Oh, Icarus! That's wonderfull! Thanks!


So, in fact the cosmic or encosmic gods are in fact also the hypercosmic gods, just on another level? ... more or less like Zeus Ktesios is on another level then Zeus Ouranios or Olympios?
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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Erodius on Thu Jul 25, 2013 1:16 pm

Pemphredo wrote:Oh, Icarus! That's wonderfull! Thanks!


So, in fact the cosmic or encosmic gods are in fact also the hypercosmic gods, just on another level? ... more or less like Zeus Ktesios is on another level then Zeus Ouranios or Olympios?

Yes, precisely.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Achrelus on Mon Jul 29, 2013 10:17 am

I have read in various places that Platonism and Neoplatonism have many differences, and that Platonism was not as religious.

Could someone highlight the differences and varify this?
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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Erodius on Mon Jul 29, 2013 5:54 pm

The whole Platonism/Neoplatonism semantic separation is an invention of the 19th century, when many of the later Platonist works were being translated into contemporary languages for the first time, and without much of a background in the many centuries that lay between Plato himself and figures like Plotinus, Iamblichus, Proclus et al. readers who had otherwise been familiar only with the Platonic dialogues themselves found that the later Platonist works conveyed an evidently different flavor from the original dialogues.

However, the reality is less concrete. Even the very last heads of the Athens Academy in the 5th century AD/CE under the Byzantine emperor Justinian would never in a million years have called themselves 'Neoplatonists' — the word was not even coined until the 1800s. In reality, rather than the departure from 'source Platonism' that some 19th-century scholars saw, the later Platonists, beginning especially with Plotinus, saw themselves as defenders and restorers of the original, orthodox Platonism that had fallen away from its original religio-philosophical sublimity into the dry and secularized Middle Platonism that had developed in Late Classical and early Hellenistic Greece, which the 'Neoplatonists' saw as having lost sight of genuine Platonism and instead succumbed to post-Peloponnesian War agnosticism, as well as having become overly entrenched in theoreticals. However, Middle Platonism is not always easily separable from Late Platonism, and they really ought to be seen as something of a continuum.

In terms of early Platonism, the only texts we have to go by are the Dialogues themselves, which, far from being de-emphasized as Platonism continued, increased in prominence until by the time of Iamblichus, Proclus, Damascius, et al. they came to be regarded by Late Platonists as divinely-revealed sacred scripture, and which the Late Platonists routinely and thoroughly cite in support of their points — indeed, perhaps the majority of Late Platonist works are actually long commentaries and exegeses of the original Platonic Dialogues.

What complicates separating any segment of Platonism from any other, especially 'Early' from 'Late', is that the typically-named Late Platonists adamantly and consistently defended that they were entirely and completely orthodox Platonists and fully in accordance with the original Platonic doctrines of the Dialogues themselves.

However, it may be said that some of the more evident salient points of Late Platonism that are not as clear in earlier Platonic lines are the result of the radically different world in which Late Platonism thrived versus that of the earliest Platonists. The 300s AD/CE were a very different world from the 300s BC/E in which Plato himself lived. For the polis-citizen of Plato's time, the world was the polis, the surrounding farmland, and perhaps the city harbor, which was surrounded by the semi-known world of neighboring poleis, beyond which were semi-mythical realms like 'Hyperborea' and the vast unknown of Persia. The world of Proclus' time encompassed the entire Roman Empire, the barbarian lands to the north, the Middle East, Persia, Bactria, and even India. As such, Late Platonism often sought to confirm the consistency and agreement of Platonic doctrine with, especially, Persian theology, which had become highly influential in the religious thinking of Late Antiquity, in many cases, having long since superseded in importance even Hesiod, whose importance diminished in Late Antiquity and came to be seen as a sort of simple, unrefined and outdated theology.

Perhaps one of the most considerable differences between Early and Late Platonism is their relationship with religion. Early Platonism, as evident in the biography of Socrates and dramatic mockeries of Socrates' circle of students like Aristophanes' Clouds, was seen rather clearly as a challenge and a threat to the state religion (Socrates death sentence was ultimately tied to charges of rejection of it). Late Platonism was almost the exact opposite. Over the centuries, the movement for which Socrates evidently died as a martyr had shifted from being seen by religious authorities as essentially a subversive breakaway sect that 'poisoned the minds of youth', to being essentially the definitive source of Greek theology, and, far from the 'counterculture' it had been in Plato's time, the most famous Late Platonists represented the most highly-educated and respected individuals of Græco-Roman society. Over the span of about 700 years, Platonism had gone from a marginalized and semi-suppressed counterculture, to the champion and pinnacle of culture, thought and religion.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Haganrix on Sun Aug 04, 2013 1:25 pm

Erodius wrote:The whole Platonism/Neoplatonism semantic separation is an invention of the 19th century, when many of the later Platonist works were being translated into contemporary languages for the first time, and without much of a background in the many centuries that lay between Plato himself and figures like Plotinus, Iamblichus, Proclus et al. readers who had otherwise been familiar only with the Platonic dialogues themselves found that the later Platonist works conveyed an evidently different flavor from the original dialogues.


In general, I would agree with you. But do you really think the theory of the spheres was not genuinely neoplatonic? Did Socrates and Plato distinguish their subjects in spheres?

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The mind views all at once whereas the speech puts it into the order (Salustios, On the Gods and the Cosmos, Chapter 4, Par. 9).

Der Geist schaut alles zugleich, während die Rede eines nach dem Anderen erzählt (Salustios, Von den Göttern und der Welt, Kapitel IV, Abschnitt 9).

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Re: Platonism/Neoplatonism

Post  Erodius on Sun Aug 04, 2013 2:18 pm

The theology of the Spheres certainly developed in tandem with the heavily astrological Chaldean theology which Late Platonism absorbed — its being evidently compatible with Platonic doctrine.

However, the basis for the Spheres is already present in the Timæus — the pinnacle text, per Proclus — specifically in the passage addressing the Demiurgus' creation of the World Soul, wherein the outer and inner branches of the 'X' form the Sphere of Sameness and Difference, respectively, and the Difference is subdivided by the Demiurgus into the seven orbits.

Did Socrates and Plato distinguish their subjects in spheres?

Technically speaking, it is Timæus Locrus the Pythagorean speaking in that part of the dialogue, not Socrates (Plato, of course, never speaks). As such, it is arguable that the idea is an originally Pythagorean one, incorporated into the Platonic corpus from the inception.

The Later Platonic conception of the music of the Spheres — or ῥοίζος in many Orphic writings — is most likely reflective of the synthesis of Late Platonism with the Orpheo-Pythagorean revival most notably pioneered by figures like Numenius Apameas, who is sometimes designated as the pioneer of both Late-Antique Platonism and the Orpheo-Pythagorean revival.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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