Neoplatonism

   A philosophical movement that developed out of Middle Platonism, Neoplatonism flourished in different schools in the years 250-529 ce. The father of Neoplatonism was Plotinus, and the second most influential Neoplatonist, his disciple, Porphyry. Their thought had an enormous impact on Christian theology despite Porphyry's writing a book entitled Against the Christians. Other schools of Neoplatonism were the school of Pergamum, of which Emperor Julian the Apostate was a member, and the school of Alexandria, established by Ammonius, which included Origen as a member. Later Christians influenced by Neoplatonism to some degree include Augustine, Boethius and Pseudo-Dionysius, who in the fifth century ce combined Neoplatonism with adherence to the via negativa and a strong sense of the hierarchy of creation. These three and others formed a conduit for the influence of Neoplatonism on medieval philosophy. When Marsilio Ficino translated the Enneads into Latin in 1492, the influence of Neoplatonism was able to spread yet further. One group of Christian philosophers on whom Plotinus thus had a strong influence was the group known as 'the Cambridge Platonists', which was active from the 1630s to the 1680s. This group, composed of Ralph Cudworth, Nathaniel Culverwell, Henry More, John Smith and Benjamin Whichcote, attempted to develop a distinctively Christian, though rather mystical, version of Neoplatonic philosophy. Even in recent decades Neoplatonism has influenced Christian philosophers such as Stephen Clark and theologians such as Paul Tillich.
   Further reading: Armstrong and Markus 1960; O'Meara 1982; Rist 1985; Wallis 1995

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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