Plotinus, Porphyry and Iamblichus: Philosophy and Religion in Neoplatonism, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Plotinus, Porphyry and Iamblichus

Philosophy and Religion in Neoplatonism, 1st Edition

By Andrew Smith


360 pages

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Hardback: 9781409421689
pub: 2012-01-28

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This selection of twenty-five essays by Andrew Smith is devoted to Neoplatonism and especially to Plotinus and Porphyry. It deals with Plotinus' development of the Platonic Forms, and includes a lengthy assessment of Porphyry's contribution to the Platonic tradition. The themes also embrace a number of issues that have become particularly prominent in the more recent growth of interest in these philosophers of late antiquity. For example, the importance of practical ethical activity is examined particularly in the case of Plotinus and it is argued from several perspectives that a theoretical basis for reconciling the life of contemplation with that of everyday living may be found in his metaphysics. This also involves his speculations on time and eternity as well as his observations about human consciousness. A closer examination of the role of religion, magic and myth in the life of the philosopher reveals a much richer and more nuanced appreciation of their importance than has been accorded them by an earlier generation of scholars. In particular the contribution of Iamblichus is recognised as a profound attempt to account for divine activity in the world and the first attempt to propose a solution to the problems involved in presenting metaphysics of religious ritual.


'The volume represents a collection of twenty-five articles by Andrew Smith on the three Neoplatonic philosophers mentioned in the title. Most articles, with the exception of no. XIX (Religion, magic and theurgy in Porphyry) are reprints. This is one major contribution of the collection: to assemble into one volume various pieces of great importance to scholars of Neoplatonism, thus facilitating access to the work of a key scholarly figure in the field… Assembling the isolated articles into a volume not only produces a helpful scholarly tool, but enables the readers to see some threads of thought in Plotinus or Porphyry which might otherwise not be so apparent.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review 'Analyzing the complex thought of these three ancient authors requires careful scholarship, which Smith is uniquely qualified to offer. Even so, suggesting the purchase of such a collection requires a defense in our increasingly digital age. However, not every library has electronic access to every lesser known journal, and certainly not to chapters in edited volumes. Even researchers with privileges at a world-class research library will appreciate having such distilled riches at their fingertips in one volume.' Religious Studies Review

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Part I Plotinus: Unconsciousness and quasiunconsciousness in Plotinus; The significance of practical ethics for Plotinus; Action and contemplation in Plotinus; Eternity and time; Soul and time in Plotinus; Reason and experience in Plotinus; Plotinus on fate and free will; Potentiality and the problem of plurality in the intelligible world; Dunamis in Plotinus and Porphyry; Plotinus and the myth of love; The object of perception in Plotinus; Plotinus on ideas between Plato and Aristotle; The neoplatonic Socrates. Part II Porphyry: Porphyrian studies since 1913; Porphyry: scope for a reassessment; A Porphyrian treatise against Aristotle?; Did Porphyry reject the transmigration of human souls into animals?; Porphyry and pagan religious practice; Religion, magic and theurgy in Porphyry; Porphyry and the Platonic theology; More noeplatonic ethics; Hypostasis and hyparxis in Porphyry; Philosophical objections to Christianity on the eve of the great persecution. Part III Iamblichus: Iamblichus' views on the relationship of philosophy to religion in De Mysteriis; Further thoughts on Iamblichus as the first philosopher of religion; Indexes.

About the Author

Andrew Smith is Professor of Classics at University College Dublin, Ireland.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
PHILOSOPHY / History & Surveys / Ancient & Classical