Friday, December 15, 2006
The question was posed in a comment: What is neoplatonism? I now take it upon myself to provide an answer.
It should first be noted that "neoplatonism" is a label. Labels are for curators of museums, not for actual thinking. Living thought needn't fuss with labels. Who cares what "-ism" a thought reflects? The thought is either a fool's or a wise man's.
I do not deny that some labels can be useful; I only point out that all labels tend to mislead. I refer my readers to the Wikipedia article on Neoplatonism for a discussion of the label's various applications.
I'd prefer to tout my own favorite Neoplatonists:
1. Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy heads my list. C.S. Lewis observed that there was a time no one could be considered educated were they ignorant of this book. When I'm locked up in prison I hope that the book I write is at least half as influential.
2. Augustine - In the Confessions Augustine says the certain "libri platonisti" gave him a sneak preview of John's claim that "in principio erat verbum." What better reason could there be to dive into the whacky world of...
3. Plotinus - The Enneads nourished W.B. Yeats as well as Augustine. Penguin publishes the McKenna edition Yeats was familiar with.
4. Marsilio Ficino - Borders sells the beautiful four volume set of Ficino's Platonic Theology. I own three. I needn't remind my more learned readers that Ficino's work is modelled on Aquinas's Summa Contra Gentiles.