ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel


Updated on December 2, 2016

Neo-Platonism is the revival and transformation of Platonic philosophy.

Primarily metaphysical with theological emphasis tending toward mysticism, Neo-Platonism started as a synthesis of Pythagoreanism, Platonism, Aristotelianism, and Stoicism, adapted Jewish and Oriental religious elements, crept, though professedly pagan, into patristic Christian theology, and finally influenced medieval and modern thought. Though the term's narrower meaning confines Neo-Platonism to its most potent phase from 200 to 550 A.D., where it was the chief philosophy of classical paganism, whose principal philosophers then were making a last attempt to explain the dualism of appearance and reality, yet its wider significance includes Neo-Platonism's long history, of which perhaps six periods may be suggested:

(1) Preparatory (1st century B.C. to 3rd century A.D.), wherein eclectic philosophers groped syncretically toward Neo-Platonism.

(2) Formulative (3rd century), when appeared the founders: Ammonius Saccas (242), who left no writings, but whose lectures led Plotinus (205-270), his greatest disciple and the sect's first systematic thinker, to supply the most complete corpus of philosophical principles (Enneads) between Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) and St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274); and Porphyry (232-304), who, the most prominent of Plotinus' many pupils, excelled all Neo-Platonists both in quantity of production and in quality of style.

(3) Propagative (4th century), when Neo-Platonism created important centers of instruction to counter Christian supernaturalism and monotheism, which opposed pagan philosophy and religion. Among the principal propounders were: Iamblichus (333), who introduced theosophy and magic into the dogma; Sallustius (63), who recorded the sect's religious system; Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius (400), whose commentary on Cicero's Somnium Scipionis influenced medieval schoolmen.

(4) Scholastic (400-550), wherein philosophical schools (principally at Alexandria and at Athens), before their suppression by Emperor Justinian I ended ancient Neo-Platonism (529), produced many notable Neo-Platonists, among whom were : Hypatia, antiquity's most famous female philosopher, who was murdered by a monk-led mob (415); Proclus (410-485), who, applying Aristotelian logic to Neo-Platonism, was the sect's last eminent savant; Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (480-524), last of Roman philosophers and first of scholastic theologians.

(5) Medieval (500-1600), wherein influential presentations of Neo-Platonism survived in such representatives as Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite (500), whose vogue was universal; Johannes Scotus Erigena (815-877) , Scotch-Irish theologian; Michael Psellus (1018-1078), Byzantille philosopher; and Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494), Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), three Italian philosophers.

(6) Modern (after 1600), wherein an attempt to revive Neo-Platonism occurred late in the 17th century among the Cambridge Platonists, whose religious idealism combated scientific materialism. Thereafter inspirational traces appeared intermittently among poets and philosophers, except for Thomas Taylor (1758-1835), who was the last European thorough-going Neo-Platonist.

Neo-Platonism preaches a poetical rather than a philosophical solution to the perennial problem of the dualism of mind and matter. The unity beyond all multiplicity is God, from whom emanates the nous (thought, mind, reason), whence proceeds in turn the world-soul, which in turn produces individual souls and the world of nature.

The nous is likened to light, which, as it recedes from God, grows dimmer by emanation until it ends in darkness, which is matter, essentially plural and evil. The individual soul's only escape from the material world is by purificatory stages, which start with practice of virtues and lead through mystical ecstasies until reabsorption with God is reached. But this is poetry, not philosophy, when rapture is exalted above reason, and in this essential process of Neo-Platonism ancient philosophy abdicates.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • PhiMaths ATB profile image

      PhiMaths ATB 

      8 years ago from Charlotte, NC, USA

      This was interesting. My only experience with Platonism is in the philosophy of mathematics (with a small p) where it is a strong version of anti-nominalism/realism about mathematical objects. (see my article if you like: )

    • dmop profile image


      8 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      An interesting take on the history of Neo-Platonism, I myself follow no specific philosophy, but enjoy a good debate or casual conversation on philosophical matters in general. Voted up and interesting.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)