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Ammonius Sakkas

(176 words)

Author(s): Halfwassen, Jens
[German Version] (the epithet Sakkas is dubious), teacher of Plotinus, Longinos, the pagan Origen and the Christian Origen, taught until c. 242 ce as a Platonic philosopher in Alexandria; the report that he was originally a Christian cannot be verified. Apparently very impressive as a teacher, he wrote nothing; his closest students, including Plotinus and the pagan Origen, agreed to keep his doctrine secret. It is not …


(532 words)

Author(s): Halfwassen, Jens
[German Version] (Jan 8, 412, Constantinople – Apr 17, 485, Athens), philosopher, Neoplatonist. From a prominent family, Proclus spent his youth in Xanthus (Lycia). He studied in Beirut, Alexandria, and Athens, where he was a student of the Neoplatonists Plutarch and Syrianus (Neoplatonism), succeeding the latter as head of the academy. The biography of his successor Marinus stylizes him as a divinely inspired saint. In Proclus, the “Hegel of antiquity,” Neoplatonism reached its highest systematic consummation. On the foundations of the philosophy of Plotinu…

Moderatus of Gades

(220 words)

Author(s): Halfwassen, Jens
[German Version] Moderatus of Gades, a Neo-Pythagorean of the 1st century ce, argued in favor of a unitary metaphysics inspired by Plato and the Old Academy (I), although Moderatus passed it off as a teaching of the Pythagoreans. Moderatus distinguishes three levels of the One: The first One stands above all being, the second One is identical with the existing and the intelligible, that is, with the world of ideas, and the third One comprises the realm of the soul, to which the reality perceived by the sen…


(168 words)

Author(s): Halfwassen, Jens
[German Version] 2nd-century Platonist. He wrote a work (excerpts of which were preserved by Eusebius of Caesarea) On the Conflict between Plato and Aristotle, in which he vigorously attacks the ethics, physics, and theology of Aristotle. He points out in particular that virtue by itself cannot bring eudaimonia; he also criticizes Aristotle's failure to mention divine providence, the theory of a fifth element, and the separation of the mind ( nous) from the soul. Atticus interprets literally the mythological creation of the world in Plato's Timaeus, thus positing a …

Unity and Diversity

(1,068 words)

Author(s): Halfwassen, Jens
[German Version] I. The Terms Unity and diversity are some of the fundamental concepts of thought in general, and they have determined European philosophy from its beginnings until the present. The relation between them is clearly asymmetrical: diversity can only be thought of in terms of contrast with unity, and therefore can take on various meanings depending on the multiple meanings of unity. The principal meanings of unity are: singular as opposed to plu-¶ ral, singularity and uniqueness, simplicity, wholeness and totality, unity in diversity, and identity with it…


(151 words)

Author(s): Halfwassen, Jens
[German Version] (or Alkinoos, as in the mss.), author of the Didaskalikos, a summary of 2nd-century ce school Platonism from the imperial period in the form of a handbook, linking motives of Plato, Xenocrates and Aristotle. Central to it is the teaching of the following three principles. (1) The world comes into being by God ordering pre-existent matter according to the pattern of ideas. (2) The ideas are God's thoughts, in which he conceives of himself as the highest spirit ( nous). (3) The major emphasis on God's transcendence, the methodology of knowing God ( via negationis, analogiae…


(1,034 words)

Author(s): Halfwassen, Jens
[German Version] I. Life Plotinus, the founder and most significant philosopher of Neoplatonism, concealed his background; statements by later writers that he was an Egyptian are implausible. At the age of 28, he became a student of the Platonist Ammonius Sakkas in Alexandria. In 243 he ¶ joined the Persian campaign of Emperor Gordian III to gain a knowledge of Persian and Indian philosophy. When Gordian was murdered, Plotinus fled to Rome in 244, where he taught philosophy for 26 years. He had close ties with the senatorial aristocracy and…

Numenius of Apamea

(274 words)

Author(s): Halfwassen, Jens
[German Version] (2nd cent.ce) Platonist; born in Apamea (Syria); probably taught in Rome. From his writings, numerous extracts survive in Eusebius of Caesarea’s Praeparatio Evangelica. Numenius teaches that Plato agrees not only with Pythagoras, but also with the wisdom of the Brahmins, Jews, Egyptians, and Magi. He calls Plato the “Attic-speaking Moses.” Numenius gives a strictly dualistic interpretation of the two principles of oneness and plurality. He ranks the One/the Good above Ideas and the demiurge, and defines it as being itself (Gk αὐτοόν/ autoón) and the “first inte…


(164 words)

Author(s): Halfwassen, Jens
[German Version] Gaius, a mid-Platonist (Platonism), he taught in the 1st half of the 2nd century ce and was the teacher of Albinus, whose transcription of Gaius's lecture on “elements of Plato's doctrine” filled nine books; it was read in the school of Plotinus. Other works of Gaius are not extant, although a fragment of a preserved anonymous commentary on Plato's Theaitetos that associates the Stoic (Stoics) oikeiosis doctrine with Plato's doctrine of the imitation of God as the highest goal in life, may reflect Gaius's influence. It is certain that, in his c…


(436 words)

Author(s): Halfwassen, Jens
[German Version] (c. 240/245, Chalkis – c. 325, Apamea), a neo-Platonist, initially a student of the Aristotelian Anatolios, then of Porphyry, presumably taught in Apamea. Iamblichus had great influence on the intellectual climate of paganism in Late Antiquity. The Syrian branch of Neo-Platonism that he founded was characterized by its metaphysical interpretation and justification of Greek and oriental polytheism. With Iamblichus, Neo-Platonism became a philosophical religion in competition with C…


(290 words)

Author(s): Halfwassen, Jens
[German Version] (c. 458, Damascus – after 538, Emesa), Neoplatonist and the last head of the Platonic Academy until Justinian I abolished it in 529. In 531, on the invitation of Great King Khosrau, he went into exile in Persia, but returned to Athens in 532/533. Heavily influenced by Plotinus, Iamblichos, and Proclus, Damascius gave Neoplatonism a critical epistemological turn, after the epistemological optimism of Proclus, through an agnosticism in the name of transcendence. Starting from Plato's Parmenides, he placed greatest emphasis on the pure …

Eudorus of Alexandria,

(154 words)

Author(s): Halfwassen, Jens
[German Version] a 1st-century bce Platonist, assumed the monad and the undetermined dyad to be the principles of all opposites constituting all that exists; above both, however, he posits the absolute One ( hen) as the primary principle transcending all opposites, equating it with the “transcendent God” ( hyperáno theós). From the absolute One proceed both the monad and the material principle. He ascribes this theory of principles to Plato, but believes (following Speusippus) that the Pythagoreans were the first to espouse it. In ethics, with Plato, he posits “assimilation to God” ( ho…


(3,165 words)

Author(s): Halfwassen, Jens | Necker, Gerold | Rudolph, Ulrich
[German Version] I. Philosophy Neoplatonism takes the system constructed by Plotinus as its starting point. Important representatives are Amelios, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Theodore of Asine, Emperor Julian the Apostate, Plutarch of Athens, Syrian, Proclus, Damascius, and Simplicius. Pagan Neoplatonism ends institutionally with the closing of the Academy by Emperor Justinian I in 529 ce. 1. Self-understanding. Neoplatonism understands itself as an interpretation and renewal of the genuine philosophy of Plato (Platonism). No conscious distinction is made…


(4,813 words)

Author(s): Halfwassen, Jens | Markschies, Christoph
[German Version] I. Philosophy 1. General character.  The influence of Plato’s thought was unlike that of any other philosopher. With the Academy (I) (c. 385 bce), Plato was the first philosopher to found a school in the institutional sense and so establish a philosophical tradition. Moreover, his criticism of writing shows that he gave precedence to the oral transmission of his thought by his students over his Dialogues, which were mainly written to publicize the ¶ Academy. In this sense, Platonism in antiquity understood itself as the legitimate heir of Plato’s phil…


(564 words)

Author(s): Halfwassen, Jens
[German Version] (orig. Malchus; 234, Tyre – before 305, Rome), Neoplatonic philosopher (Neoplatonism). After studying in Athens with Longinus, Porphyry went to Rome in 263 to study with Plotinus; when the latter died in 270, Porphyry published his writings and carried on his school. The focus of his thought was the redemption of the soul and its return to God. He developed a trinitarian concept of God that was a fundamental source for the 4th-century Christian dogma of the Trinity (III, 1). Antic…