Thursday, March 23, 2017

Neoplatonism and Plato

Here is a down payment on my promissory note to say what I meant about Neoplatonism deriving as much from Aristotle as from Plato. I wrote something about this a long time ago, and had to re-read it to remember why I thought that. More concisely, from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

" contrast to labels such as “Stoic”, “Peripatetic” or “Platonic”, the designation “Neoplatonic” is of modern coinage [early 19th century, probably coined by Schliermacher] and to some extent a misnomer. Late antique philosophers now counted among “the Neoplatonists” did not think of themselves as engaged in some sort of effort specifically to revive the spirit and the letter of Plato’s dialogues. To be sure, they did call themselves “Platonists” and held Plato’s views, which they understood as a positive system of philosophical doctrine, in higher esteem than the tenets of the pre-Socratics, Aristotle, or any other subsequent thinker. However, and more importantly, their signature project is more accurately described as a grand synthesis of an intellectual heritage that was by then exceedingly rich and profound."

In my much more long-winded treatment, I opined that the tradition of reading Plato doctrinally, as for example subscribing to the divided line and theory of Forms as dogmas, may be partly attributable to Aristotle, who in my reading is of a much more literalist turn of mind than Plato. Thus Plotinus' reinterpretation of the divided line five or six centuries later is more in the spirit of Aristotle than of Plato.

No comments: