Conventional wisdom suggests that the Platonist philosophers of Late Antiquity, from Plotinus (third century) to the sixth-century schools in Athens and Alexandria, neglected the political dimension of their Platonic heritage in their concentration on an otherworldly life. Dominic O'Meara presents a revelatory reappraisal of these thinkers, arguing that their otherworldliness involved rather than excluded political ideas, and he reconstructs for the first time a coherent political philosophy of Late Platonism.
The first part of this paper traces back to Plotinus a strategy applied by Augustine and Descartes whereby sceptical arguments are used to set aside sensualist forms of dogmatic philosophy, clearing the way for a dogmatism independent of sense-perception which is 'self-authenticating' and thus immune to, and even proven by, sceptical doubt. It is argued that Plotinus already uses this strategy in the opening chapters of "Enneads" V 5 and V 3. The second part of the paper argues that Plotinus' (...) account of how the ineffable One is said (we do not actually say the One, but merely express our own affections) is inspired by the structure of sceptic discourse (the sceptic does not say things as they are, but merely expresses personal affections). Finally, similarities and differences between sceptic discourse about things and Plotinian discourse about the ineffable are explored. (shrink)
This book is addressed to readers new to the Enneads. One of the greatest of ancient philosophers, Plotinus is attracting ever-increasing attention from those interested in ancient philosophy, late Antiquity, and the importance of this period for the Western intellectual tradition. O'Meara presents a brief outline of Plotinus's life, and of the composition of the Enneads, placing Plotinus within the intellectual context of the philosophical schools and religious movements of his time. He then discusses selected Plotinian texts in relation to (...) a number of central philosophical issues to show how Plotinus's thinking on these issues evolved, and to assess the historical importance of his philosophy. (shrink)
The Pythagorean idea that numbers are the key to understanding reality inspired philosophers in late Antiquity (4th and 5th centuries A.D.) to develop theories in physics and metaphysics based on mathematical models. This book draws on some newly discovered evidence, including fragments of Iamblichus's On Pythagoreanism, to examine these early theories and trace their influence on later Neoplatonists (particularly Proclus and Syrianus) and on medieval and early modern philosophy.