Platonism

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Platonism

1. the teachings of the Greek philosopher Plato (?427--?347 bc) and his followers, esp the philosophical theory that the meanings of general words are real existing abstract entities (Forms) and that particular objects have properties in common by virtue of their relationship with these Forms
2. the realist doctrine that mathematical entities have real existence and that mathematical truth is independent of human thought

Platonism

 

an idealist current in philosophy that originated with Plato’s teachings. The basic content of Platonism is the theory of ideas. In Platonism, “idea” is understood as a vitally functioning logical concept, brought to the limit of generalization, containing the principle and method of comprehending each thing, possessing an artistic structure, and existing as a specific substance. Matter is the reflection and outflow of an idea.

For a long time after Plato’s death, his Academy continued to develop his teachings. In the first century B.C., Posidonius called for the strict systematization of Platonic philosophy, based primarily on the commentary to Plato’s Timaeus. The Stoic interpretation, a long-lived version of Platonism, found support in the theology of Philo of Alexandria and in gnosticism, Herme-tism, the writings of the early church fathers, and the works of Numenius (second and third centuries A.D.), who was the teacher of Plotinus and Origen.

By the third century A.D., the mythology of Stoic Platonism had been vanquished by the dialectic and speculative thought of a philosophical school that gravitated toward Aristotle. Antio-chus of Ascalon, a member of Plato’s Academy, had already successfully challenged Stoic ethics. Later, Ammonius Saccas, following the Platonic and Aristotelian tradition, developed a theory about the ideal world and liberated the doctrine of the soul from the methods of Stoic naturalism. Thus, in the first century B.C. the Platonists, resorting to Aristotelianism and Py-thagoreanism, launched a resolute struggle against the elements of naturalism in Plato’s works—elements that had been strengthened in the Hellenistic period by the Stoics, the Epicureans, and the Skeptics. Neoplatonism, and outgrowth of this centuries-long struggle, emerged in the third century A.D.

Through Neoplatonism, the philosophy of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance was influenced by Platonism (Augustine, Dionysius the Areopagite, Johannes Scotus Erigena, Averroës [Ibn Rushd], Ibn Gabirol, the Chartres school, J. Eckhart, Nicholas of Cusa, G. Pletho, M. Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, and G. Bruno). All of modern European idealist philosophy has been directly or indirectly influenced by Platonism.

REFERENCES

Istoriia filosofii, vol. 1. [Moscow] 1940. Pages 249–58.
Taylor, A. E. Platonism and Its Influence. New York, 1924.
Burnet, J. Platonism. Berkeley, Calif., 1928.
Shorey, P. Platonism Ancient and Modern. Berkeley, Calif., 1938.
Gilson, E. Platonisme, aristotélisme, christianisme. Paris, 1945.
Klibansky, R. The Continuity of the Platonic Tradition During the Middle Ages, 3rd ed. London, 1951.
Merlan, P. From Platonism to Neoplatonism, 2nd ed. The Hague, 1960.
Hoffman, E. Platonismus und christliche Philosophie. Zürich-Stuttgart, 1960.
Stein, H. von. Sieben Bücher zur Geschichte des Platonismus, new ed., parts 1–3. 1965.

A. F. LOSEV

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In his discussion of the Cambridge Platonists Gill explains their Calvinist upbringing and ultimate rejection of a basic tenet of Calvinism, the claim that human beings possess a deeply depraved nature.
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Part of the challenge for anyone purporting to tell the story--any story, really--of Platonism before the dominance of the schools of Plotinus and Syrianus is that the Platonists of the Hellenistic era by all accounts were a heterogeneous lot.
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