From Plotinus to Proclus

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Ancient Platonists after Plotinus maintain some central Plotinian tenets regarding the One as first cause, followed by Intellect and Soul, and the metaphysical processes of emanation and reversion, but are also critical of some of his views, and elaborate on them in crucial ways, often to solve perceived problems therein, or to incorporate other sources of wisdom. This chapter discusses three pagan Platonists, Porphyry, Iamblichus and Proclus, starting from their criticism, and subsequent development, of Plotinus' Platonism. The main changes they introduce concern the harmonization of Aristotle and Plato, an increased attention for logic and mathematics, a resort to a more religious approach (esp. theurgy), and the addition of numerous metaphysical distinctions. For the latter, most influential are a revision of the causal role of the One, and the introduction of a layer right below the One, of henads or 'ones'; the incorporation of the principle that everything is present in everything, in some relevant mode ("all in all"); a revision of the principles of causation, and an accompanying revaluation of matter; the more emphatic elaboration of intellect into a triad; the separation of universal and individual soul, and the view of the individual soul as completely descended; and the rejection of substantial evil.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe New Cambridge Companion to Plotinus
EditorsJames Wilberding, Lloyd Gerson
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781108770255
ISBN (Print)9781108726238
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


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