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Neoplatonism

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Neo-Platonism is an ancient school of philosophy beginning in the 3rd century A.D. It was based on the teachings of Plato and Platonists; but it interpreted Plato in many new ways, such that Neo-Platonism was quite different from what Plato taught, though many Neo-Platonists would not admit the distinction.

Neo-Platonism began with the philosopher Plotinus, though Plotinus claimed to have received his teachings from Ammonius Saccas, an illiterate dock-worker in Alexandria. His most important work was the Six Enneads[?], in which he explains his philosophy.

Plotinus taught the existence of an indescribable One, which emanated the rest of the universe as a sequence of lesser beings. Later Neo-Platonic philosophers, especially Iamblichus, added hundreds of intermediate gods and beings as emanations between the One and humanity; but Plotinus' system was much simpler in comparison.

Later Neo-Platonic philosophers included Porphyry, Proclus, Iamblichus and Hypatia of Alexandria.

Neo-Platonism was frequently used as a philosophical foundation for paganism, and as a means of defending paganism against Christianity; but many Christians were also influenced by Neo-Platonism. In Christian versions of Neo-Platonism, the One is identified as God. Most important of these was Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, whose work was very influential in the Middle Ages. Augustine was also deeply influenced by Neo-Platonism. Some scholars have shown that Neo-Platonism was also influenced by Christian theology.

Neo-Platonism was revived in the Italian Renaissance by figures such as Marsilio Ficino.



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