John Dillon presents an English translation of Alcinous' Handbook of Platonism, accompanied by an introduction and a philosophical commentary which explain the ideas in the work and show their intellectual and historical context. The Handbook purports to be an introduction to the doctrines of Plato, but in fact gives us an excellent survey of Platonist thought in the second century AD.
A study of the influence of Platonism on two central areas of Early Christian doctrine, the relation of God the Son to the Father, and the mutual relations of the persons of the Trinity. In the former case, logos-theory and the figure of the demiurge are important; the latter, particularly Porphyry’s theory of the relation between Being, Life and Mind.
An issue which plainly exercised the thoughts of many intellectuals in the late antique world was that of man's relation to the gods, and specifically the problems of the mode of interaction between the human and divine planes of existence. Once one accepted, as anyone with any philosophical training did, that God, or the gods, were not subject to passions, and that, as not only Stoics but also Platonists, at least after the time of Plotinus, believed, the world-order was (either (...) entirely or very largely) determined as a product of God's providence, it became a serious problem as to how precisely one could influence the gods, or the course of events, by one's prayers or sacrifices. And yet efforts to do this, on both the popular and the official level, continued unabated. What was the proper attitude for a Platonist philosopher to take up? This is very much the subject of the well-known controversy between Plotinus' pupil Porphyry and his own pupil Iamblichus which manifests itself in the exchange of public letters known as The Letter to Anebo and The Reply of the Master Abammon to the Letter of Porphyry to Anebo (popularly known, since Marsilio Ficino conferred this title upon it, as De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum). The present article involves a close and sympathetic study of Iamblichus' position in defence of theurgy, reflecting on the validity of the distinction between religion and magic. (shrink)