(excerpted by Clifford Stetner)
…the history of Western philosophy may be characterized as a series of footnotes to Plato
…only during the last 150 years or so that modern scholarship has attempted to cleanse the genuine thought of Plato from the mire of the Platonic tradition.
since Plato rarely speaks in his own name, it seems difficult to identify his own definite opinions, or to separate the from those of Socrates, Parmenides, and his other characters.
…not only on his dialogues which were generally available to the reading public, but also on the school which he founded and which continued as an institution for many centuries until 529 A.D…
…Plato left no systematic writings
…subject to much greater changes and fluctuations than in the other philosophical schools of antiquity.
…during the third century BC the Academy turned towards a more or less radical skepticism…for more than two hundred years.
…beginning of our era, a popular and somewhat eclectic kind of Platonism that borrowed various elements from Aristotle and especially from Stoicism had replace Skepticism in the Athenian Academy, had established a kind of school in Alexandria…
…elements in common with…Neopythagoreanism…
…and with the Hermetics…Alexandria…Egyptian divinity Hermes Trismegistus
Plotinus added a more explicit emphasis on a hierarchical universe that descends through several levels from the transcendent God or One to the corporeal world, and on an inner, spiritual experience that enables the self to reascend through the intelligible world to that supreme One….
In Proclus…Elements of Theology and Platonic Theology…Aristotle’s logic and metaphysics, divested of their specific and concrete reference, are used as elements of a highly abstract and comprehensive ontology
…Neoplatonism supplied practically all later Greek Church Fathers and theologians with their philosophical terms and concepts, most of all that obscure father of most Christian mysticism who hides under the name of Dionysius the Areopagite.
The prevalence of Plato over Aristotle within a synthesis of both was justified by Neoplatonic precedent, and the tendency to harmonize Plato rather than Aristotle with Christian theology was amply sanctioned by the Greek patristic authors.
Plato…representative of…old pagan theology…Hermes Trismegistus and Zoroaster, Orpheus and Pythagoras, and which parallels both in age and content the revelation of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures
…the arabs derived many Platonist conceptions from the Aristotelian commentators, and they possessed at least two Aristotelian apocrypha, the liber de causis and the Theologia Aristotelis,…based entirely on Proclus and Plotinus
…medieval jewish mysticism known as the Cabala ocntains sevral ideas derived from Neoplatonic and other late ancient philosophies.
These pseudo sciences also derived…from …later phases of Greek antiquity…became associated with Platonist and Hermetic philosophy…shared such notions as the world soul …affinities and antipathies of all things natural
…not only the skepticism…but also the first phases of that eclectic or Middle Platonism
Middle Platonic ideas appear in Apuleius,…Neoplatonism…basis Macrobius, and for Boethius;…consolation of Philosophy
…most important representative of Platonism…St. Augustine
Typical Platonist doctrines, such as the eternal presence of the universal forms in the mind of god, the immediate comprehension of these ideas by human reason, and the incorporeal nature and the immortality of the human soul
…combined with different Biblical or specifically Augustinian conceptions or because Augustine rejected other Platonic or Neoplatonic doctrines
…early Middle Ages, when philosophical studies were not much cultivated in western Europe
Eriugena…strongly imbued with Neoplatonic conceptions
…Timaeus was apparently used as a textbook in natural philosophy
…Augustinian or Neoplatonic notions even in the thought of many Aristotelian philosophers of the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.
Augustinian tradition persisted…speculative mysticism of master Eckhart…inspiration from the Areopagite, Proclus
The Augustinian trend in theology and metaphysics went on without interruption; the increasing religious literature for laymen contained strong Augustinian elements, and even some of the Platonizing works written in Chartres during the twelfth century still found attentive readers
Petrarch…attack on the authority of Aristotle among the philosophers of his time, he used at least Plato’s name…then…by his humanist successors.
…Platonic Theology…authoritative summary of Platonist philosophy,…immortality of the soul is emphasized, reasserting…Thomist position against the Averroists
…younger contemporary, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola.
…attempt…synthesis between Platonism and Aristotelianism.
…also Arabic and Hebrew language and thought
…first Western scholar who became acquainted with the Jewish Cabala,…
…reconcile the Cabala with Christian theology and to associate it with the Platonist tradition. His Oration on the dignity of man…most famous expression of that humanist credo…
academies—a new type of institution, half learned society and half literary club,…Italy throughout the century…
…lectures and courses on the so-called philosophy of love,…based on Platonizing poems…influenced by Plato’s Symposium…Florence
…ancient Platonists,…Orpheus and Zoroaster, to Hermes…Pythagoreans…printed and reprinted
…Paracelsus, Telesio, or Bruno,…indebted to the Platonic tradition
…astrological and alchemical literature…increased during the sixteenth century, also presupposes such notions as a world soul or the inner powers and affinities of things celestial
John Colet…impressed by the Areopagite…in touch with …Ficino. Sir Thomas More translated the life and a few letters of Pico into English…Utopia,…hardly have been conceived without the reading of Plato’s Republic. Erasmus…Praise of Folly,…diluted form of Platonism…opposed the higher folly of the inner spiritual life to the lower folly of ordinary existence,…
…Pico apparently affected Zwingli, and his Christian cabalism was adopted by Reuchlin
Ficino’s notion of Platonic love, that is, of the spiritual love for another human being that is but a disguised love of the soul for God
…found favor with…Lorenzo de’Medici…
Ficino’s doctrine of Platonic love…many sonnets…of the sixteenth century,…prose literature…around the literary academies
Bembo and Castiglione, for whom Platonist philosophy was but a passing fancy,…Tasso, whose philosophical prose writings have not yet been sufficiently studies,
Plato’s doctrine of divine madness as expressed in the Ion and Phaedrus appealed to many poets and literary critics who would either add this Platonic doctrine to an otherwise Aristotelian system of poetics, or use it as the cornerstone of an anti-Aristotelian theory, as was done by Patrizi
…analogy between the conceptions of the artist and the ideas of the divine creator which appears in Cicero, Seneca, Plotinus, and other Middle and Neoplatonic authors
…iconography of …Botticelli, Raphael, and Michelangelo.
…musical proportions in Plato’s Timaeus, together with Ficino’s extensive commentary on them,
…in medicine, astrological and alchemical theories exercised a good deal of influence.. medical writings of Ficino,…read, especially in Germany…main impact of Platonism…mathematical sciences,…most cultivated and respected by Plato and his followers.
Kepler,…cosmology is rooted in Renaissance Platonism,…mathematical conception of the universe…notion of cosmic harmony…
…positive scientific discoveries of the past were never unrelated to the theoretical and philosophical assumptions the investigating scientist,
…no modern history of the controversy about the superiority of Plato or Aristotle
…textbooks of the history of philosophy,…contrast between medieval and Renaissance thought in the West may be roughly described as a contrast between Aristotelianism and Platonism. Medieval scholastic thought was dominated by ‘the master of those who know,’ whereas the Renaissance discovered ‘Plato who in that group came closest to the goal that may be reached by those whom heaven favors.
..also during the middle ages a more or less continuous Platonist current…
Renaissance Platonism remains,…an established fact,…we are still confronted with the task of understanding and explaining it. Cusanus, Ficino, and Pico were the most vigorous thinkers of the fifteenth century,
‘Platonism,’…under this label we may expect to find in each instance a different combination of ideas and doctrines…
…Platonic and Platonist influences in…Cicero,…translated a part of Plato’s Timaeus…
…philosophical treatises of Apuleius…sources for that school of ancient philosophy…Middle Platonism…
Apuleius…also…translator of the dialogue Asclepius,…only complete source of Hermetism known to Western readers…
…certain acquaintance…Aristotelian logic…Cicero…Augustine…Boethius
…twelfth century….beginning of that intellectual revolution that was to bear fruit during the following two centuries. In the vast number of philosophical and scientific texts which were than translated for the first time from Greek and Arabic into Latin, the most important philosophical texts were those of Aristotle and his commentators.
…almost the entire, Corpus
…new universities in the thirteenth century introduced a systematic instruction in the philosophical disciplines and especially in logic and natural philosophy, the writings of Aristotle were naturally adopted
despite…gradually diminishing importance, through the Renaissance down to the eighteenth century…academic and scientific philosophy of the Latin West during the later Middle Ages was dominated by the writings of Aristotle in a manner that had its precedent among the Arabs
…lead to …Bruni…Ficino’s first complete translation
…new interest in Plato ..turn…toward Byzantium, where the original texts of Plato and of his school had been preserved and studied during those long centuries…
…Marsilio Ficino was able to say…impression made by Plethon on Cosimo de’Medici that led to the founding of his own Platonic Academy and to the revival of Platonism brought about by the activities of that Academy.
Following the precedent of Proclus, Psellos included as a part of the Platonic tradition the writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus and the Chaldaic Oracles. The Corpus Hermeticum, as it has come down to us in Greek, is perhaps an edition or anthology due to Psellos, and also the collection of Chaldaic Oracles as we have it goes back to Psellos, who added a commentary to it. This commentary was known to Ficino,…
It is often asserted that the philosophical and theological tradition of the Byzantine East was predominantly Aristotelian or anti-Platonist...