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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

Representative of New Platonism


style="text-align: justify;"> SECTION XXI.

NEW PLATONISM.

In New Platonism, the ancient mind made its last and almost despairing attempt at a philosophy which should resolve the dualism between the subjective and the objective. The attempt was made by taking on the one side a subjective standpoint, like the other philosophies of the post-Aristotelian time (_cf._ Sec. XVI 7); and on the other with the design to bring out objective determinations concerning the highest conceptions of metaphysics, and concerning the absolute; in other words, to sketch a system of absolute philosophy. In this respect the effort was made to copy the Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy, and the claim was set up by the new system to be a revival of the original Platonism. On both sides the new attempt formed the closing period of an ancient philosophy. It represents the last struggle, but at the same time the exhaustion of the ancient thinking and the dissolution of the old philosophy.

The first, and also the most important, representative of New Platonism, is _Plotinus_. He was a pupil of Ammonius Saccas, who taught the Platonic philosophy at Alexandria in the beginning of the third century, though he left no writings behind him. Plotinus (A. D. 205-270) from his fortieth year taught philosophy at Rome. His opinions are contained in a course of hastily written and not closely connected treatises,

which, after his death, were collected and published in six enneads by _Porphyry_ (who was born A. D. 233, and taught both philosophy and eloquence at Rome), his most noted disciple. From Rome and Alexandria, the New Platonism of Plotinus passed over in the fourth century to Athens, where it established itself in the Academy. In the fourth century, _Jamblichus_, a scholar of Porphyry, and in the fifth, Proclus, (412-485), were prominently distinguished among the New Platonists. With the triumph of Christianity and the consequent fall of heathenism, in the course of the sixth century, even this last bloom of Grecian philosophy faded away.

The common characteristic of all the New Platonists is a tendency to mysticism, theosophy, and theurgy. The majority of them gave themselves up to magic and sorcery, and the most distinguished boasted that they were the subjects of divine inspiration and illumination, able to look into the future, and to work miracles. They professed to be hierophants as much as philosophers, and exhibited the unmistakable tendency to represent a Pagan copy of Christianity, which should be at the same time a philosophy and a universal religion. In the following sketch of New Platonism we follow mainly the track of Plotinus.

1. ECSTASY AS A SUBJECTIVE STATE.--The result of the philosophical strivings antecedent to New Platonism had been Scepticism; which, seeing the impracticability of both the Stoic and Epicurean wisdom, had assumed a totally negative relation to every positive and theoretical content. But the end which Scepticism


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