Astrology and divination played a significant role in the culture of the Second Sophistic and Late Antiquity, and had important connections with and a complex relationship to philosophy of the time, particularly middle Platonism and Neoplatonism. Drawing on Plato’s allusions to divination, such as Socrates’ daimonion and his divinatory dreams, philosophers within the Platonic tradition from Plutarch and Apuleius through to Proclus, wrote about and actively engaged with various forms of divination, including oracles, divination by statues (telestikê), astrology and dream divination (oneiromancy), among many others. Some Platonists, particularly Plotinus and Iamblichus, criticize certain aspects of astrology while offering a hermeneutic of the practice that attributes powers to the stars and planets fitting with their own philosophies. Others, such as Porphyry, use astrology in their allegorical exegeses of mythological narratives (De antro nympahrum) and in their accounts of the descent of the soul (On What is Up To Us). Astrology and divination are further linked through Neoplatonic theurgy, in theory and practice. This panel aims to explore these links in more detail, inviting papers that explore / examine topics such as the role of the kairos in divination (e.g., opportune moments of time and the planetary movements), the vexed relationship between theurgy, magic and traditional religious practices, the role of planetary gods in metaphysical, ontological and cosmological systems, the relationship between fate, divine providence and divinatory practices, as well as Neoplatonic critiques of these practices. Other related topics will also be considered.
Plotinus and Alexandria
Aphrodite Alexandrakis (email@example.com)
Ancient Alexandria’s geographic location in the Mediterranean, its mild climate, the fertile canals of the river Nile, contributed in to becoming a favorite city of intellectuals and therefore the center of great scientific, philosophical and artistic movements (See Strabo’s geography). Thus Alexandria became the birthplace of great philosophical, artistic and scientific minds from 331 B.C. (its foundation by Alexander the Great) through the Ptolemaic and Roman times.
As known, one of Alexandria’s famous philosophers was Plotinus, the student of Alexandrian Ammonius Saccas (232-243). At that time, Alexandria was a cosmopolitan and intellectual center beautified by great architectural and sculptural works of art. As such, Alexandria consisted of diverse people of various religions, including the so-called “pagans” (combination of diverse cults). Hence Plotinus lived in a religiously “diverse” and aesthetically beautiful environment. However, after his studies with Ammonius Saccas, he travelled to the east and eventually he resided in Rome for the rest of his life; he never returned to his birth country.
This panel will raise questions on the basis of certain facts such as:
-Plotinus departure from Alexandria to Rome.
-Rome’s environment and Plotinus freedom of expression.
-Did the Alexandrian or/and Roman aesthetic, religious and political environment had any impact on him?
-Other than metaphysical, were there any other reasons for Plotinus in refusing his portrait making?
-Why is his approach to beauty different than Plato’s?
-Why was he attached to the Roman emperor Gordian III.
By keeping in mind where Plotinus came from, there may be raised other questions in order to determine who Plotinus really was.
This panel receives papers about these two concepts (“identity” and “alterity”) in authors of the Platonic tradition.
In Plato’s Sophist the notion of héteron is presented as opposed to the notion of tautón. The Neoplatonic authors use this same binomial, linking it to the notions of Unity and Multiplicity. It is possible to see this in the distinction between the One and the Intelligence. The Medieval Latin world has translated these concepts as idem-alterum. The medieval and renaissance Christian Neoplatonism has assimilated the notion of Trinity, and in consequence it redefines the relation between the concepts, because it understands that God is also the One and the Intelligence. Therefore, the Christian Neoplatonism excludes from the noetic aspect any alterity, and the alterity appears as being linked to the matter and the mutability. These concepts are used by the modern and the contemporary thought. Nowadays, the issue of the alterity, which has a faraway Platonic root, it is more and more important in the philosophical reflection.
Este panel recibe artículos sobre estos conceptos en autores de la tradición platónica.
Desde el Sofista de Platón se presenta la noción de héteron como opuesta a tautón. Este binomio es recuperado por los autores neoplatónicos ligado al mismo tiempo a las nociones de unidad y multiplicidad como se muestra de manera clara en la distinción entre lo uno y la inteligencia. El mundo latino ha traducido estas nociones frecuentemente como idem-alterum y específicamente el neoplatonismo cristiano medieval y renacentista, al incorporar la noción de Trinidad, redefine la relación al identificar en lo divino lo uno y la inteligencia. De esta manera excluye del aspecto noético toda alteridad y ésta aparece ligada a la materia y a la mutabilidad. La modernidad y el pensamiento contemporáneo recuperan también estos conceptos y se advierte que el tema de la alteridad, de remota raíz platónica, va ganando un lugar cada vez más destacado en la reflexión filosófica.
In Neoplatonism demonology has no longer the central role it had in the Middle-Platonic tradition and this change can be partly explained by the growing importance of theurgy in the definition of modus communicandi between men and gods. However, the Neoplatonic authors continue to use demonology in order to explain certain rites or traditional mythological elements (e.g. Proclus, in Resp.) or to define the kind of individual providence illustrated by the personal daimôn (e.g. Iambl., De myst . IX). At the same time, especially in Iamblichus, the daimones have a well defined place in the theurgic ritual. Theurgy in turn cannot be rigorously defined independent of demonology.
This panel aims to redefine the relationship between demonology and theurgy by analysing their specific functions in the Neoplatonic tradition and welcomes any contribution on a particular aspect of Neoplatonic demonology or theurgy.
The way Neoplatonist philosophers deal with Plato’s dialogues suggests a ‘scholastic’ way of reading divine texts. One fundamental question is if they were interested in Platonism rather than in getting Plato right. Overall, they took Plato’s dialogues as canonical texts. This means that every thesis they propose must pass a conformity control to prove its validity and truth, even when the dialogues seem to defy such canons. Respecting the orthodoxy of a tradition may also be seen as a potential pitfall. It can be seen as a threat to the liberty of the philosopher to read Plato in different ways and on different layers of meaning or to reconstruct his possible philosophical system. A Neoplatonic philosopher must sometimes choose between conformity with platonic texts and his ideas that may lead to diverse conclusions. Due to the Neoplatonic attachment to their schools, these philosophers will not contest Plato’s theses or his means of expression (the dialogic form, the use of myth, the identity of the speaker, etc.), but rather will build around them different ways of reading. Besides Plato’s dialogues, the Neoplatonists included in the canonical corpus also standard interpretations of Plato as they were accepted and taught by Neoplatonic schools in Athens or Alexandria. So, in fact, Neoplatonic thinking is working much more with what we would call a canonical corpus than strictly with canonical Platonic texts. This gives them more flexibility and, eventually, liberty, and allows them not to contradict Plato directly, but to interpret Plato. Thus, the historian of philosophy can easily detect contradictory or opposed theses based on the interpretation of the same Platonic dialogue.
This panel aims to study how Plato is used to change canonical interpretations in different philosophical contexts; how the Neoplatonists were able to engage themselves in different hermeneutical directions, as, for example, from allegorical or theological speculations, to systematic readings of Plato. Our interest is to bring to light, through different examples, how Plato’s theses are changed according to the particular context of a philosopher, and to contribute thus to the reconstruction of the genealogy of Neoplatonic philosophy.
Aporia in Late Ancient Platonism
Damian Caluori (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Christopher Noble (email@example.com)
The notion of aporia plays a crucial role in ancient philosophy. While its methodological importance for Aristotle and its fundamental role for skepticism have been scrutinized in quite some detail, its functions in later Platonism have been much less extensively explored. We propose a panel dedicated to the notion of aporia in later ancient Platonism (by which we mean both Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism). Some issues that might be considered are: What are the sources of aporia for later Platonist authors? What role do aporiai play in guiding or structuring philosophical inquiry, and to what extent do authors aim to offer definitive solutions to aporiai raised? Do Platonist philosophers have a distinctive understanding of the uses of aporia? Papers on the role or function of aporia (as well as illuminating case studies of particular aporiai) in any Platonist philosopher of the imperial period or late antiquity are welcome.
Neoplatonism and the Hypotheses of the Parmenides of Plato
Jean-Michel Charrue (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The hypotheses of the second part of the Parmenides give rise to the creation of what is often called a metaphysics, even if this word is not used in the texts, and to what we call “un système du monde” in our Néoplatonisme (Préface, p. 3), à paraître, such as
– if One is
4 Forms joined with matter
– if One is not
6 sensible beings
7 objects of knowledge
8 shadows, dreams
9 inferior beings
so summed up by Saffrey (in Proclus, Theol. Plat. I, LXXXV-VIII). That is the complete expression we found in the School of Athens (Plutarch of Athens, Syrianus, Proclus, and Damascius). But Plotinus already developed the five first hypotheses; and this scheme went through all Neoplatonism.
The scholarship studied often the historical background in all its aspects, but most of the time neglects the physical world and the why of this interpretation. I have no doubt that some students or scholars can renew or project a new light upon some points or authors of that very important exegesis.
Cosmic and Moral Evil in Neoplatonism
Bernard Collette (email@example.com) and Suzanne Stern-Gillet (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The main purpose of the panel is to map interpretations of Plato’s doctrine of evil from Plotinus to the late Neoplatonists. Plotinus’ concept of evil, as set up in various tractates, raises a number of exegetical and philosophical problems. These problems have bedevilled his immediate successors and challenged commentators of the Enneads from the early middle-ages onwards. It is a measure of the difficulties involved that no consensus of opinion appears so far to have emerged.
Contributions on this general theme are welcome. While papers on the following sub-topics would be of particular interest, discussions of other authors and related issues are by no means excluded. While papers in all the languages of the conference will be accepted, it is suggested that presenters in languages other than English hold a written text of their contribution at the disposal of those attending the panel:
- Which Platonic texts on evil were deemed central by the Neoplatonists and how did they interpret them?
- How coherent is Ennead I 8  with Plotinus’s discussion of evil in other tractates?
- How is evil related to the fall of the soul?
- Does Numenius’ identification of evil with matter depart from Plotinus’ own view?
- What are the sources of Proclus’s account of evil?
- How did Christian Neoplatonists such as Dionysius the Areopagite and John Scotus Eriugena deal with the problem of relating providence and evil?
This panel will explore Platonic and other conceptions of the Psychic Realm and the souls in it, human and otherwise. How do philosophers describe the nature and function of the human soul? What is their relation to other higher souls, such as those of gods, angels, daemons, and heroes? How do human souls relate to their corporeal bodies? Possible areas of focus include (but are not limited to) the inner workings of the souls, the effects of the body on the soul, the role of the higher forms of souls in the earthly life of human souls and in their afterlife, and the effect of the various souls on theurgy and individual salvation.
The Neoplatonic philosophers continued the investigation of metaphysical problems initiated by earlier Greco-Roman philosophers. Through reflection on, and engagement with, earlier philosophical traditions, they offered new solutions to traditional metaphysical problems as well as formulated and supplied answers to new problems originating within their own metaphysical systems. Topics explored by the Neoplatonists include, but are not limited to, categorical theory, first-principles, natural kinds, the status of being qua being, powers, creation, causation, and agency. Specific issues treated by Neoplatonic thinkers include whether the fundamental categories of reality are mind-independent or conventions of speech or thought; what these basic categories are; whether intelligible entities can be described in terms of natural kinds; what relation such natural kinds might have with natural kinds of sensible entities; what the relation between universals and particulars is; whether universal predication can be underwritten by particular individuals; whether the number and nature of first-principles can be known; whether and how such principles can be usefully related from one domain (such as the natural world) to another (like mathematics or the Forms); whether being is univocal, equivocal, or something in between for the range of entities stretching from the One to matter; whether the building blocks of reality are objects or powers and how the natures of entities are related to dispositional structures; whether the creation of the cosmos occurs automatically or is the result of intention; whether human beings are free or their actions are determined due to destiny; and whether human agency is a species of natural causation or is a sui generis type of ‘agent-causation’ that transcends the natural order?
This panel welcomes papers that (i) analyze Neoplatonic metaphysical theses in the period beginning with Plotinus and ending with Simplicius, (ii) examine the philosophical relation of Neoplatonic metaphysical theses to previous schools such as the Platonists, Aristotelians, and Stoics, and the historical contribution of Neoplatonism to the history of reflection on metaphysical topics, and/or (iii) draw on Neoplatonic resources for engaging with contemporary metaphysical issues and topics.
Douglas Hedley (email@example.com)
The Cambridge Platonists had a major influence on modern thought, between the first major reception of Descartes and European Romanticism. They attempted to negotiate the claims, on the one hand, of the inherited Hellenic–Christian synthesis of antiquity and, on the other hand, the startling new mechanical vision of the universe presented by Galilean-Cartesian science. In the period between Descartes and Newton, they were fully engaged with the major developments of contemporary philosophy and science. Trenchant critics of leading seventeenth- century philosophers, such as Descartes, Hobbes and Spinoza, they developed a distinctive conception of nature as an antidote to the early modern mechanical philosophy. Their contribution to their moral philosophy is a major source for modern secular ethical theory and ideas of tolerance. Their legacy to modern thought includes central concepts, such as Monotheism, Materialism, Self-Consciousness. Among their fold we find some of the first women writers of philosophy, including Anne Conway, Mary Astell and Damaris Cudworth. Their influence in Europe was sustained well into the late eighteenth-century. Through its take-up by, among others, Lord Shaftesbury their moral philosophy was mediated to the Scottish Enlightenment. They influenced the development of the so-called ‘hylozoic’ atheism by Diderot, and of German Naturphilosophie, which formed such a core element in European Romanticism. They contributed most notably to the Greek-Platonic revival in Germany of the 1760’s which affected such luminaries as Herder and Goethe.
Plotinus: The First Philosopher of the Unconscious
John Hendrix (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Plotinus is sometimes referred to as “the first philosopher of the unconscious.” What exactly was Plotinus’ unconscious? According to Plotinus in the Enneads, there are “a great many valuable activities, theoretical and practical, which we carry on both in our contemplative and active life even when we are fully conscious, which do not make us aware of them” (I.4.10). Plotinus asks, “Why then, when we have such great possessions,” insights into the right and good, “do we not consciously grasp them, but are mostly inactive in these ways, and some of us are never active at all?” (V.1.12). It is the case that “not everything which is in the soul is immediately perceptible.” It is only when the activities of intellect are shared with perception, that “conscious awareness takes place.” We cannot remember eternal mind in us, because passive mind is perishable. Is the productive or divine intelligence, the Intellectual, in our mind that of which we are not conscious? Can productive intelligence be compared to unconscious thought? The intellectual act in mind is only apprehended when it is brought into the image-making power of mind through the logos endiathetos. “The intellectual act is one thing” (IV.3.30), inaccessible to conscious thought, but “the apprehension of it another,” through a representation, a mirror reflection in the mind, as it were, of intelligible form. While “we are always intellectually active,” we “do not always apprehend our activity,” because we are distracted by our discursive thought, sense perceptions, and pathos, affections and emotions.
The philosophical purpose of the Neoplatonic curriculum
Albert Joosse (email@example.com)
This panel concentrates on the philosophical purpose(s) behind the organisation of the Platonic dialogues into a reading order in the philosophical curriculum. (Middle- and) Neoplatonic philosophers sometimes address this issue in its own right; in other contexts, their comments on particular dialogues may give us insight into it, even if they themselves do not make the link explicitly.
Papers may address (but are not limited to) the following, in relation to their philosophical significance: the historical development of the curriculum; the order in which the dialogues were read; the place any particular dialogue has within this order; didactic strategies; relations between the Platonic dialogues and non-Platonic texts included (at some point) in the curriculum.
In honor of Hermias Alexandrinus’ In Platonis Phaedrum Scholia, recently edited by Carlo M. Lucarini and Claudio Moreschini (Teubner, De Gruyter, 2012), we invite papers on all aspects of Hermias’ Commentary on the Phaedrus. This commentary on the Phaedrus is the only extant work of Hermias, a late fifth century Neoplatonist from Alexandria, who was the student of Syrianus the Platonist. The commentary, moreover, is thought to be a rather faithful reproduction of the teachings of Syrianus on the Phaedrus based on the lecture notes of Hermias, and was, in fact, considered to be a collection of scholia because of its derivative nature. As this work consists of lecture notes, it illuminates the study of Syrianus, particularly Syrianus’ teachings on Plato. Possible paper topics include: Hermias’ theory of the soul, theotaxonomy in the commentary, divine providence, astral bodies, sense perception, and reception by Ficino or Psellus. Other topics, are, of course encouraged.
Neoplatonism and Christianity in Byzantium: Dialogue, Appropriation, Refutation
Sergei Mariev (firstname.lastname@example.org)
During the Early Byzantine period (4th-7th centuries AD) Platonism, on the one hand, significantly contributed to the development of Christian doctrines and, on the other hand, remained a rival world view that was perceived by Christian thinkers as a serious threat to their own intellectual identity. This problematic relationship was to become even more complex during the following centuries. The Byzantines made numerous attempts to harmonize Neoplatonic doctrines with Christianity as well as to criticize, refute and even condemn them. The panel aims to explore the complexity of the relationship between the Neoplatonic heritage and Christian doctrines in Byzantium. We seek contributions that examine various attempts to integrate (Ps.-Dionysios, Bessarion) and to refute (John Philoponos, Nicholas of Methone) Neoplatonic doctrines throughout the entire Byzantine period (4th to 15th centuries). The panel also welcomes contributions that investigate the relationship between Neoplatonism and Christianity within such Byzantine authors as Michael Psellos and John Italos who do not fit easily into a simplistic scheme of opposition between the two rival world views but require new and more sophisticated methodological approaches.
Plotinus and the Gnostics
Zeke Mazur (email@example.com)
Recent scholarship has increasingly focused attention on Plotinus’ dialogue with the Gnostics: an often tacit dialogue whose traces can be found not only in his more or less explicitly anti–Gnostic tetralogy (chronologically treatises 30 to 33), but also throughout the entirety of his corpus. This panel therefore seeks papers on any aspect of the relationship between Plotinus and the Gnostics, including questions of ‘influence’ or ‘dependence.’ All submissions are welcome (including those that take a purely text–historical and / or philological approach), but especially desirable would be studies that (1) respond to or at least are informed by the recent work on this topic, and that (2) do not rely uniquely on Plotinus’ account of Gnostic doctrine but also adduce at least some additional Gnostic source material (first–hand Gnostic texts, Patristic heresiologies, or other similar kinds of sources).
Mind in Nature: Process Approaches to Neoplatonism
Maria-Teresa Teixeira (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This panel welcomes papers on Neoplatonic themes relevant to Process Philosophy. We are interested in a variety of topics including but not limited to cosmology, holism, materialism and organism, causality, time and space, levels of reality, unity and multiplicity.
Special emphasis will be laid on the relationship between body and soul, the role of mathematics in the formulation of the laws of physics, and the relevance of music to process views.
We also invite papers on the influence of Plotinus on Bergson, Whitehead’s innovative re-interpretation of the Timaeus, the Platonic myths and their relevance to process philosophy, the relevance of the apophatic way to contemporary theories such as Jankélévitch’s philosophy. Essays bridging creation and creativity are also most welcome. Along the same lines we encourage innovative readings of texts such as Proclus’ commentary on the Timaeus, Eriugena’s Periphyseon and, of course, Plotinus’ Enneads.
This panel will explore the influence of Platonism and Neoplatonism in fifteenth- and sixteenth- century Europe and the role played by Renaissance Platonism in the history of Platonic thought. Possible areas of focus may include:
– Platonism in particular countries (France, Spain, Mexico, England, Germany, Hungary, Bohemia, Poland).
– The relationship between Platonism and Christianity – as evidenced in the writings of many Renaissance thinkers such as Nicholas of Cusa, Pico della Mirandola, Marsilio Ficino and Leone Ebreo –.
– The role of Ficino’s translations of and commentaries on Plato, Plotinus and other Platonic philosophers.
– Key early-modern Platonists.
The influence of Renaissance interpretations of Neoplatonism on later thought
Schelling and Neoplatonism
Tyler Tritten (TylerTritten@hotmail.com)
The connections between Hegel and Neoplatonism, particularly Plotinus, are already well-established. This panel’s aim is to investigate some of the similarities or, perhaps more importantly, differences between Hegel’s first critic, F.W.J. Schelling, and his engagement with the philosophies of Late Antiquity. Possible topics relevant for the intersection between Schelling and Neoplatonism include but may not be limited to: cosmology and readings of the Timaeus; allegorical vs. tautegorical interpretation; the role of religious praxis for philosophical theory (e.g. Iamblichus, the role of theurgy and philosophical religion); the debate concerning the eternity of the world (e.g. Philoponus and Proclus); the nature of time/becoming; the status of matter and the problem of evil (e.g. Plotinus and Proclus); the ontological status of reason, logic and nous (e.g. Porphyry); Schelling’s inheritance of Neoplatonism through the Neoplatonism of the Renaissance period (e.g. Bruno) or through the Neoplatonism of the Rheinland mystics and theosophism (e.g. Eckhart, Böhme etc.); the question of whether Schelling is Procline, Plotinian, Iamblichean, Damascian, Dionysian etc.; and, finally, various themes surrounding the Platonic problems of transcendence and immanence (e.g. Damascius). It is worthy of note that Schelling-scholarship has enjoyed a resurgence in the last decade, often due to his prescient criticisms of onto-theology while Neoplatonism is often caricatured as the prime exemplar of the beleaguered notion of onto-theology. If Schelling was influenced in seminal ways by Neoplatonism and he somehow escapes that condemning epithet, then perhaps Neoplatonism is not as neatly “onto-theological” as it is customarily thought to be. Consequently, we would also welcome abstracts dealing with the issue of onto-theology in Schelling and Neoplatonism.
Platonism and German Idealism (Leibniz, Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel)
Robert M. Wallace (email@example.com)
Platonism and German Idealism both seek to articulate a coherent alternative to scientistic materialism and empiricism. In this effort, Leibniz, Schelling, and Hegel all have manifest debts to Plato, as well as to those other major Platonists, Aristotle and Plotinus. Kant and Fichte have important, if less manifest, debts of the same kind. As we seek to identify what if anything is permanently true in Platonism and likewise in the German Idealists, it can be very useful to compare the two schools of thought. If we can identify more precisely what’s defensible in one, we will probably get clearer about what’s defensible in the other as well. So this panel invites comparisons between Plato, Aristotle, or Plotinus, on the one hand, and one or more of the German Idealists, on the other. And it invites contributions that address (more or less explicitly) not just questions of historical influence, but also questions of what is defensible and permanently valuable in these thinkers.
The Philosophical Attraction of Systems: Neoplatonism and Hegel
José M. Zamora (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In the section dedicated to Neoplatonism that testifies of his Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Hegel defines it as a “rebirth of the world” and a ” radical change” ( III , p. 4). This section is organized in an Introduction, followed by three parts: the first devoted to Philo of Alexandria, the second to the Kabbalah and Gnosticism, and the third to what Hegel calls “Alexandrian Philosophy”. In this last portion, he devotes ample space to Plotinus, a reduced one to Porphyry and Iamblichus, and a medium one to Proclus and his heirs. In his interpretation of Plotinus, Hegel assimilates the One with “thinking of thinking” (Met. Λ 9, 1074b 34–5) and with the “pure being”, in which actuality and potentiality coincides, what testifies an ontological interpretation of the One. Attracted by his systematically way of thinking, Hegel interprets Proclus’ actual totality as the being-life-spirit (οὐσία-ζωή-νοῦς) triad, understanding unity as unification.
To contribute to a fruitful academic debate, this panel proposes the analysis -choosing the considered convenient method- of the relationship of Hegel with a particular Neoplatonist philosopher, or the links between Hegel and a problem, or set of problems, that are part of the architecture of Neoplatonist Philosophy.