Worldly and otherworldly virtue: Likeness to God as educational ideal in Plato, Plotinus, and today

Educational Philosophy and Theory 50 (6-7):586-596 (2018)
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In Plato, ‘Becoming like God’ constitutes the telos of the philosophical life. Our ‘likeness to God’ is rooted in the relationship of the divine paradeigma to its image established in the generation of the Cosmos. This relationship makes knowledge and virtue possible, and informs Plato’s theory of education. Related concepts preexist in Judeo-Christian and other traditions and continue to inform our thought on moral and ethical issues, particularly as regards our understanding of what it means to be human. From the idea of ‘likeness to God’, emerges the tradition of philosophical mysticism which has its roots in Plotinus, whose aim is union of the individual soul with its ultimate principle. The task of realizing virtue in daily life appears opposed to assimilation to the divine, because the latter requires a stripping away of finite determinations, and preoccupation with particular things, in order that we may escape from the multiplicity of sensible and even intelligible reality. This article considers the opposition between ‘worldly’ and ‘otherworldly’ virtue, as well as previously neglected aspects of ‘likeness to God’ and ‘becoming like God’ in Plato and Plotinus, and explores their continued relevance for pedagogical theory and practice today.



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Author's Profile

Marie-Élise Zovko
Institute of Philosophy, Zagreb

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