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Platonism is the philosophy of Plato and philosophical systems closely derived from it, though contemporary platonists do not necessarily accept all of the doctrines of Plato.Platonism had a profound effect on Western thought. Platonism at least affirms the existence of abstract objects, which are asserted to exist in a third realm distinct from both the sensible external world and from the internal world of consciousness, and is the opposite of nominalism. This can apply to properties, types, propositions, meanings, numbers, sets, truth values, and so on (see abstract object theory). Philosophers who affirm the existence of abstract objects are sometimes called platonists; those who deny their existence are sometimes called nominalists. The terms "platonism" and "nominalism" also have established senses in the history of philosophy, where they denote positions that have little to do with the modern notion of an abstract object.
In a narrower sense, the term might indicate the doctrine of Platonic realism. The central concept of Platonism, a distinction essential to the Theory of Forms, is the distinction between the reality which is perceptible but unintelligible, associated with the flux of Heraclitus and studied by the likes of science, and the reality which is imperceptible but intelligible, associated with the unchanging being of Parmenides and studied by the likes of mathematics. Geometry was a main motivation of Plato, and this also shows the influence of Pythagoras. The Forms are typically described in dialogues such as the Phaedo , Symposium and Republic as perfect archetypes of which objects in the everyday world are imperfect copies. Aristotle's Third Man Argument is its most famous criticism in antiquity.
In the Republic the highest form is identified as the Form of the Good, the source of all other Forms, which could be known by reason. In the Sophist , a later work, the Forms being, sameness and difference are listed among the primordial "Great Kinds". Plato established the Academy, and in the 3rd century BC, Arcesilaus adopted academic skepticism, which became a central tenet of the school until 90 BC when Antiochus added Stoic elements, rejected skepticism, and began a period known as Middle Platonism.
In the 3rd century AD, Plotinus added mystical elements, establishing Neoplatonism, in which the summit of existence was the One or the Good, the source of all things; in virtue and meditation the soul had the power to elevate itself to attain union with the One. Many Platonic notions were adopted by the Christian church which understood Plato's Forms as God's thoughts (a position also known as divine conceptualism), while Neoplatonism became a major influence on Christian mysticism in the West through Saint Augustine, Doctor of the Catholic Church, who was heavily influenced by Plotinus' Enneads ,and in turn were foundations for the whole of Western Christian thought. many ideas of Plato were incorporated by the Roman Catholic Church.
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 moral and responsible 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. The following excerpt may be representative of Plato's middle period metaphysics and epistemology:
[Socrates:] "Since the beautiful is opposite of the ugly, they are two."
[Glaucon:] "Of course."
"And since they are two, each is one?"
"I grant that also."
"And the same account is true of the just and unjust, the good and the bad, and all the forms. Each of them is itself one, but because they manifest themselves everywhere in association with actions, bodies, and one another, each of them appears to be many."
"So, I draw this distinction: On one side are those you just now called lovers of sights, lovers of crafts, and practical people; on the other side are those we are now arguing about and whom one would alone call philosophers."
"How do you mean?"
"The lovers of sights and sounds like beautiful sounds, colors, shapes, and everything fashioned out of them, but their thought is unable to see and embrace the nature of the beautiful itself."
"That's for sure."
"In fact, there are very few people who would be able to reach the beautiful itself and see it by itself. Isn't that so?"
"What about someone who believes in beautiful things, but doesn't believe in the beautiful itself and isn't able to follow anyone who could lead him to the knowledge of it? Don't you think he is living in a dream rather than a wakened state? Isn't this dreaming: whether asleep or awake, to think that a likeness is not a likeness but rather the thing itself that it is like?"
"I certainly think that someone who does that is dreaming."
"But someone who, to take the opposite case, believes in the beautiful itself, can see both it and the things that participate in it and doesn't believe that the participants are it or that it itself is the participants--is he living in a dream or is he awake?
"He's very much awake."
(Republic Bk. V, 475e-476d, translation G.M.A Grube)
Book VI of the Republic identifies the highest form as the Form of the Good, the cause of all other Ideas, and that on which the being and knowing of all other Forms is contingent. Conceptions derived from the impressions of sense can never give us the knowledge of true being; i.e. of the forms.It can only be obtained by the soul's activity within itself, apart from the troubles and disturbances of sense; that is to say, by the exercise of reason. Dialectic, as the instrument in this process, leading us to knowledge of the forms, and finally to the highest form of the Good, is the first of sciences. Later Neoplatonism, beginning with Plotinus, identified the Good of the Republic with the so-called transcendent, absolute One of the first hypothesis of the Parmenides (137c-142a).
Platonist ethics is based on the Form of the Good. Virtue is knowledge, the recognition of the supreme form of the good.And, since in this cognition, the three parts of the soul, which are reason, spirit, and appetite, all have their share, we get the three virtues, Wisdom, Courage, and Moderation. The bond which unites the other virtues is the virtue of Justice, by which each part of the soul is confined to the performance of its proper function.
Platonism had a profound effect on Western thought. In many interpretations of the Timaeus Platonism,like Aristotelianism, poses an eternal universe, as opposed to the nearby Judaic tradition that the universe had been created in historical time, with its continuous history recorded. Unlike Aristotelianism, Platonism describes idea as prior to matter and identifies the person with the soul. Many Platonic notions secured a permanent place in Christianity.
Platonism was originally expressed in the dialogues of Plato, in which the figure of Socrates is used to expound certain doctrines, that may or may not be similar to the thought of the historical Socrates, Plato's master. Plato delivered his lectures at the Academy, a precinct containing a sacred grove outside the walls of Athens. The school continued there long after Plato's death. There were three periods: the Old, Middle, and New Academy. The chief figures in the Old Academy were Speusippus (Plato's nephew), who succeeded him as the head of the school (until 339 BC), and Xenocrates (until 313 BC). Both of them sought to fuse Pythagorean speculations on number with Plato's theory of forms.
Around 266 BC, Arcesilaus became head of the Academy. This phase, known as the Middle Academy, strongly emphasized Academic skepticism. It was characterized by its attacks on the Stoics and their assertion of the certainty of truth and our knowledge of it. The New Academy began with Carneades in 155 BC, the fourth head in succession from Arcesilaus. It was still largely skeptical, denying the possibility of knowing an absolute truth; both Arcesilaus and Carneades believed that they were maintaining a genuine tenet of Plato.
Around 90 BC, Antiochus of Ascalon rejected skepticism, making way for the period known as Middle Platonism, in which Platonism was fused with certain Peripatetic and many Stoic dogmas. In Middle Platonism, the Platonic Forms were not transcendent but immanent to rational minds, and the physical world was a living, ensouled being, the World-Soul. Pre-eminence in this period belongs to Plutarch. The eclectic nature of Platonism during this time is shown by its incorporation into Pythagoreanism (Numenius of Apamea) and into Jewish philosophy (Philo of Alexandria).
In the third century, Plotinus recast Plato's system, establishing Neoplatonism, in which Middle Platonism was fused with mysticism. At the summit of existence stands the One or the Good, as the source of all things.It generates from itself, as if from the reflection of its own being, reason, the nous , wherein is contained the infinite store of ideas. The world-soul, the copy of the nous, is generated by and contained in it, as the nous is in the One, and, by informing matter in itself nonexistent, constitutes bodies whose existence is contained in the world-soul. Nature therefore is a whole, endowed with life and soul. Soul, being chained to matter, longs to escape from the bondage of the body and return to its original source. In virtue and philosophical thought it has the power to elevate itself above the reason into a state of ecstasy, where it can behold, or ascend to, that one good primary Being whom reason cannot know. To attain this union with the Good, or God, is the true function of human beings.
Plotinus' disciple, Porphyry, followed by Iamblichus, developed the system in conscious opposition to Christianity. The Platonic Academy was re-established during this period; its most renowned head was Proclus (died 485), a celebrated commentator on Plato's writings. The Academy persisted until Roman emperor Justinian closed it in 529.
Platonism has had some influence on Christianity through Clement of Alexandria and Origen,and the Cappadocian Fathers. St. Augustine was heavily influenced by Platonism as well, which he encountered through the Latin translations of Marius Victorinus of the works of Porphyry and/or Plotinus.
Platonism was considered authoritative in the Middle Ages.Platonism also influenced both Eastern and Western mysticism. Meanwhile, Platonism influenced various philosophers. While Aristotle became more influential than Plato in the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas's philosophy was still in certain respects fundamentally Platonic.
The Renaissance also saw a renewed interest in Platonic thought, including more interest in Plato himself.In 16th-, 17th-, and 19th-century England, Plato's ideas influenced many religious thinkers including the Cambridge Platonists. Orthodox Protestantism in continental Europe, however, distrusts natural reason and has often been critical of Platonism. An issue in the reception of Plato in early modern Europe was how to deal with the same-sex elements of his corpus.
Christoplatonism is a term used to refer to a dualism opined by Plato, which holds spirit is good but matter is evil,which influenced some christian churches, though the Bible's teaching directly contradicts this philosophy and thus it receives constant criticism from many teachers in the Christian Church today. According to the Methodist Church, Christoplatonism directly "contradicts the Biblical record of God calling everything He created good."
Apart from historical Platonism originating from thinkers such as Plato and Plotinus, we also encounter the theory of abstract objects in the modern sense.
Platonism is the view that there exist such things as abstract objects — where an abstract object is an object that does not exist in space or time and which is therefore entirely non-physical and non-mental. Platonism in this sense is a contemporary view.
This modern Platonism has been endorsed in one way or another at one time or another by numerous philosophers, such as Bernard Bolzano, who argue for anti-psychologism.
In contemporary philosophy, most platonists trace their ideas to Gottlob Frege's influential paper "Thought," which argues for platonism with respect to propositions, and his influential book, The Foundations of Arithmetic , which argues for platonism with respect to numbers and is a seminal text of the logicist project.Contemporary analytic philosophers who espoused Platonism in metaphysics include Bertrand Russell, Alonzo Church, Kurt Gödel, W. V. O. Quine, David Kaplan, Saul Kripke, and Edward Zalta. Iris Murdoch espoused Platonism in moral philosophy in her 1970 book The Sovereignty of Good .
Paul Benacerraf's epistemological challenge to contemporary platonism has proved its most influential criticism.
In contemporary Continental philosophy, Edmund Husserl's arguments against psychologism are believed to derive from a Platonist conception of logic, influenced by Frege and his mentor Bolzano.—Husserl explicitly mentioned Bolzano, G. W. Leibniz and Hermann Lotze as inspirations for his position in his Logical Investigations (1900–1). Other prominent contemporary Continental philosophers interested in Platonism in a general sense include Leo Strauss, Simone Weil, and Alain Badiou.
Ammonius Saccas was a Greek philosopher from Alexandria who was often referred to as one of the founders of Neoplatonism. He is mainly known as the teacher of Plotinus, whom he taught for eleven years from 232 to 243. He was undoubtedly the biggest influence on Plotinus in his development of Neoplatonism, although little is known about his own philosophical views. Later Christian writers stated that Ammonius was a Christian, but it is now generally assumed that there was a different Ammonius of Alexandria who wrote biblical texts.
In the Platonic, Neopythagorean, Middle Platonic, and Neoplatonic schools of philosophy, the demiurge is an artisan-like figure responsible for fashioning and maintaining the physical universe. The Gnostics adopted the term "demiurge". Although a fashioner, the demiurge is not necessarily the same as the creator figure in the monotheistic sense, because the demiurge itself and the material from which the demiurge fashions the universe are both considered to be consequences of something else. Depending on the system, they may be considered to be either uncreated and eternal or the product of some other entity.
Platonic idealism usually refers to Plato's theory of forms or doctrine of ideas. It holds that only ideas encapsulate the true and essential nature of things, in a way that the physical form cannot. We recognise a tree, for instance, even though its physical form may be most untree-like. The treelike nature of a tree is therefore independent of its physical form. Plato’s idealism evolved from Pythagorean philosophy, which held that mathematical formulas and proofs accurately describe the essential nature of all things, and these truths are eternal. Plato believed that because knowledge is innate and not discovered through experience, we must somehow arrive at the truth through introspection and logical analysis, stripping away false ideas to reveal the truth.
Platonic realism is the philosophical position that universals or abstract objects exist objectively and outside of human minds. It is named after the Greek philosopher Plato who applied realism to such universals, which he considered ideal forms. This stance is ambiguously also called Platonic idealism but should not be confused with idealism as presented by philosophers such as George Berkeley: as Platonic abstractions are not spatial, temporal, or mental, they are not compatible with the later idealism's emphasis on mental existence. Plato's Forms include numbers and geometrical figures, making them a theory of mathematical realism; they also include the Form of the Good, making them in addition a theory of ethical realism.
Proclus Lycaeus, called the Successor, was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, one of the last major classical philosophers. He set forth one of the most elaborate and fully developed systems of Neoplatonism. He stands near the end of the classical development of philosophy and influenced Western medieval philosophy.
Plotinus was a major Hellenistic philosopher who lived in Roman Egypt. In his philosophy, described in the Enneads, there are three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas, who was of the Platonic tradition. Historians of the 19th century invented the term Neoplatonism and applied it to Plotinus and his philosophy, which was influential during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Much of the biographical information about Plotinus comes from Porphyry's preface to his edition of Plotinus' Enneads. His metaphysical writings have inspired centuries of Pagan, Jewish, Christian, Gnostic, and Islamic metaphysicians and mystics, including developing precepts that influence mainstream theological concepts within religions, such as his work on duality of the One in two metaphysical states. This concept is similar to the Christian notion of Jesus being both god and man, a foundational idea in Christian theology.
Apophatic theology, also known as negative theology, is a form of theological thinking and religious practice which attempts to approach God, the Divine, by negation, to speak only in terms of what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is God. It forms a pair together with cataphatic theology, which approaches God or the Divine by affirmations or positive statements about what God is.
"Form of the Good", or more literally "the idea of the good" is a concept in the philosophy of Plato. It is described in Plato's dialogue the Republic (508e2–3), speaking through the character of Socrates. Plato introduces several forms in his works, but identifies the Form of the Good as the superlative. This form is the one that allows a philosopher-in-training to advance to a philosopher-king. It cannot be clearly seen or explained, but once it is recognized, it is the form that allows one to realize all the other forms.
Plato's influence on Western culture was so profound that several different concepts are linked by being called "Platonic" or Platonist, for accepting some assumptions of Platonism, but which do not imply acceptance of that philosophy as a whole.
Christianity and Hellenistic philosophies experienced complex interactions during the first to the fourth centuries.
Middle Platonism is the modern name given to a stage in the development of Platonic philosophy, lasting from about 90 BC – when Antiochus of Ascalon rejected the scepticism of the New Academy – until the development of Neoplatonism under Plotinus in the 3rd century. Middle Platonism absorbed many doctrines from the rival Peripatetic and Stoic schools. The pre-eminent philosopher in this period, Plutarch, defended the freedom of the will and the immortality of the soul. He sought to show that God, in creating the world, had transformed matter, as the receptacle of evil, into the divine soul of the world, where it continued to operate as the source of all evil. God is a transcendent being, which operates through divine intermediaries, which are the gods and daemons of popular religion. Numenius of Apamea combined Platonism with Neopythagoreanism and other eastern philosophies, in a move which would prefigure the development of Neoplatonism.
Numenius of Apamea was a Greek philosopher, who lived in Apamea in Syria and Rome, and flourished during the latter half of the 2nd century AD. He was a Neopythagorean and forerunner of the Neoplatonists.
Nous, sometimes equated to intellect or intelligence, is a term from classical philosophy for the faculty of the human mind necessary for understanding what is true or real. English words such as "understanding" are sometimes used, but three commonly used philosophical terms come directly from classical languages: νοῦς or νόος, intellēctus and intellegentia. To describe the activity of this faculty, the word "intellection" is sometimes used in philosophical contexts, as well as the Greek words noēsis and noeîn. This activity is understood in a similar way to the modern concept of intuition.
Gnosticism refers to a collection of religious groups originating in Jewish religiosity in Alexandria in the first few centuries CE. Neoplatonism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century, based on the teachings of Plato and some of his early followers. While Gnosticism was influenced by Middle Platonism, neo-Platonists from the third century onward rejected Gnosticism.
Classical theism is a form of theism in which God is characterized as the absolutely metaphysically ultimate being, in contrast to other conceptions such as pantheism, panentheism, polytheism, deism and process theism.
Hellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy and Middle Eastern philosophy that was developed in the Hellenistic period following Aristotle and ending with the beginning of Neoplatonism.
Neoplatonism was a major influence on Christian theology throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages in the West. This was due to St. Augustine of Hippo, who was influenced by the early Neoplatonists Plotinus and Porphyry, as well as the works of the Christian writer Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, who was influenced by later Neoplatonists, such as Proclus and Damascius.
Neoplatonism is a strand of Platonic philosophy that emerged in the third century AD against the background of Hellenistic philosophy and religion. The term does not encapsulate a set of ideas as much as it encapsulates a chain of thinkers which began with Ammonius Saccas and his student Plotinus and which stretches to the sixth century AD. Even though neoplatonism primarily circumscribes the thinkers who are now labeled Neoplatonists and not their ideas, there are some ideas that are common to neoplatonic systems, for example, the monistic idea that all of reality can be derived from a single principle, "the One".
Academic skepticism refers to the skeptical period of ancient Platonism dating from around 266 BC, when Arcesilaus became head of the Platonic Academy, until around 90 BC, when Antiochus of Ascalon rejected skepticism, although individual philosophers, such as Favorinus and his teacher Plutarch continued to defend Academic skepticism after this date. Unlike the existing school of skepticism, the Pyrrhonists, they maintained that knowledge of things is impossible. Ideas or notions are never true; nevertheless, there are degrees of probability, and hence degrees of belief, which allow one to act. The school was characterized by its attacks on the Stoics and on their belief that convincing impressions led to true knowledge. The most important Academic skeptics were Arcesilaus, Carneades, and Philo of Larissa.
Many Plato interpreters held that his writings contain passages with double meanings, called 'allegories' or 'symbols', that give the dialogues layers of figurative meaning in addition to their usual literal meaning. These allegorical interpretations of Plato were dominant for more than fifteen hundred years, from about the first century CE through the Renaissance and into the Eighteenth Century, and were advocated by major figures such as Plotinus, Proclus, and Ficino. Beginning with Philo of Alexandria, these views influenced Jewish, Christian and Islamic interpretation of their holy scriptures. They spread widely in the Renaissance and contributed to the fashion for allegory among poets such as Dante, Spenser, and Shakespeare.
Plato in some sense anticipated the Catholic realism, as attacked by the heretical nominalism, by insisting on the equally fundamental fact that ideas are realities; that ideas exist just as men exist.
The truth is that the historical Catholic Church began by being Platonist; by being rather too Platonist.
Both Aristotle and Plato were crucial in shaping Catholic thinking
Roman Church doctrine is founded on many platforms, such as Plato's concept of the soul and of life after death
To the extent that the Catholic Church incorporated Greek philosophy into the structure of its doctrines and dogmatic beliefs
Greek philosophers—who believed that spirit is good but matter is evil—also influenced the church, says Randy Alcorn, author of Heaven (Tyndale, 2004). He coined the term "Christoplatonism" to describe that kind of dualism, which directly contradicts the biblical record of God calling everything he created "good."