Georgius Gemistus Pletho

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Pletho, Georgius Gemistus

 

Born circa 1355 in Constantinople; died June 25, 1452, in Mistra. Byzantine Platonic philosopher, scholar, and political figure.

Pletho taught philosophy in Mistra. He developed plans for broad political reforms to centralize the government and oppose encroaching domination by the monasteries. These reforms were intended to rescue Greece from the crisis of the Byzantine state system and return it to its ancient classical principles. (See “Rechi o reformakh” [Treatises on Reforms], Vizantiiskii vremennik, 1953, vol. 6.) While attending the Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1438 and 1439, Pletho became a close friend of the Italian humanists and energetically advocated the study of science and Greek philosophy, especially Platonism. His influence led to the creation of the Platonic Academy in Florence.

An adherent of scholastic methodology, Pletho strove to construct a new and universal religious system. This system would stand in opposition to the existing monotheistic religions, particularly Christianity, and would coincide in its chief features with Greco-Roman paganism. Laws, a religious and political Utopian work, envisaged services worshiping Zeus and other divinities of the Greek pantheon; in 1460, the work was burned as atheistic by the patriarch Georgios Scolarios. To the Christian concept of grace Pletho opposed a sharply expressed naturalism and a determinism that approached fatalism. He presented a criticism of Aristotle in his On the Differences Between Aristotle and Plato (1540). Pletho carried to the limit the freethinking tendencies of Byzantine Neoplatonism as reformed by Michael Psellus.

A number of thinkers after Pletho advanced a reconsidered and revised Platonism as an alternative to the official religion. These thinkers ranged from Ficino and Pico della Mirandola to G. Bruno and J. W. von Goethe.

REFERENCES

Tatakis, B. N. La Philosophie byzantine. Paris, 1949.
Masai, F. Pléthon et la platonisme de Mistra. Paris, 1956.

S. S. AVERINTSEV