A History of Ancient Philosophy: From the Beginnings to Augustine

By Karsten Friis Johansen | Go to book overview

33

LATE NEOPLATONISM

Neoplatonism marks the final phase of pagan philosophy. As has been seen, it is a philosophical current that adopted many ideas from Aristotelianism and Stoicism. But this came about on the premisses of Neoplatonism itself and without competition from the old philosophical 'schools'-real live Stoics, Epicureans, or Sceptics were no longer to be found. Three features characterize the last phase of ancient philosophy: systematism, belief in authority, and a combination of philosophical and religious thoughts, which surely had antecedents in the first centuries of the Empire and even earlier, in Plato's Academy, but which at this time emerges as a monolithic unity-of course not least because the competitor now no longer was another philosophical school but a religion, Christianity.

To some degree Plotinus was a source of inspiration for late Neoplatonism, but Plato remained the unshakable authority. However, in his field Aristotle was quickly seen as an authority who could walk hand in hand with Plato. After Plotinus the old idea was revived that Plato and Aristotle actually stood for the same. On their own presuppositions the late Neoplatonists reflected on the relation between the two great authorities in a far more astute way than for example Antiochus of Ascalon had done, and their interpretation remained unchallenged for ages. To them Aristotle and Plato represented two different but reconcilable cognitive stages. The era after Plotinus was to an even higher degree than the preceding marked by adherence to the tradition, and if one-in contrast to Plotinus-can call middle Platonism scholastic, this is even more true of late Neoplatonism. In this context scholasticism means that philosophical thinking was conducted within certain firm frameworks, in a certain way, and with obligation to an established transmission. But it does not mean that thinking was abandoned. It is not by chance that most of the writings of late Neoplatonism were commentaries-on Plato and Aristotle. New truths were not to be uncovered, but the truth that had been discovered was to be understood anew and be made meaningful. The scholasticism of late Antiquity is closely related to the medieval Western one, which was indebted to it. Auctores became authorities, but quite demanding authorities that were to be appropriated. It is true of both ancient and medieval scholasticism that original ideas must be excavated back of the outward form of the tradition and the system-it is another matter that there are perhaps greater distances between the giants of thought in late Antiquity than in the Middle

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A History of Ancient Philosophy: From the Beginnings to Augustine
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Presocratic Philosophy 9
  • 1 - Myth, Poetry and Philosophy 11
  • 2 - Ionian Natural Philosophy 20
  • 3 - Heraclitus 29
  • 4 - The Pythagoreans 36
  • 5 - The Eleatics 45
  • 6 - Post-Parmenidean Natural Philosophy 59
  • 7 - Medical Science 79
  • Part II - The Great Century of Athens 83
  • 8 - Pericles' Athens 85
  • 9 - Tragedy and View of History 88
  • 10 - The Sophists 99
  • 11 - Socrates 118
  • Part III - Plato 137
  • 12 - Life, Works and Position 139
  • 13 - What is Virtue? Can Virtue Be Taught? 160
  • 14 - Idea and Man 173
  • 15 - The Good Constitution of State and Man 198
  • 16 - The Late Dialogues: Knowledge and Being 213
  • 17 - The Late Dialogues: Nature, Man and Society 236
  • 18 - Plato and the Early Academy 254
  • Part IV - Aristotle 267
  • 19 - Life, Works and Position 269
  • 20 - Logic and Theory of Science 293
  • 21 - Natural Philosophy and Psychology 316
  • 22 - Metaphysics and Theology 343
  • 23 - Ethics and Politics 366
  • 24 - Rhetoric and Poetics 392
  • 25 - The Early Peripatetics 400
  • Part V - Hellenistic Philosophy 405
  • 26 - Science and Philosophy 407
  • 27 - Epicurus 423
  • 28 - Early Stoicism 442
  • 29 - Scepticism 471
  • 30 - Greece and Rome 484
  • Part VI - Late Antiquity 499
  • 31 - Imperial Rome 501
  • 32 - Plotinus 532
  • 33 - Late Neoplatonism 556
  • 34 - Early Christian Thought 569
  • 35 - Augustine 588
  • Abbreviations General 625
  • Bibliography 639
  • Index 663
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