when we refer to the problem of universals (not forms) we know we are in an
it is so tempting to make philosopher's systems work. YOu can only take them as what
they are saying.
porphyry is a 3rd century AD thinker
aristotle and plato are usually held to differ fundamentally but they can be held to
be so similar as to compliment one another.
GNOSTICISM - there are many kinds of gnosticisms. gnosis - knowledge. there are a
selct few who have knowledge of very good very divine things, and that has to be
passed on.. but you only want the select few to have the knowledge. one of the things
it teaches is that materiality is evil. in contrast to that unenviable state of being
a bodily thing, there is a divine spark in every thing.
if you read enough plato, you can tease that out of it.
you see the seeds for that kind of dualism in plato (the soul as charioteer)
if you were living in 2C AD mediterranean, and you were trying to pick which religion
will be of world historical importance in the future. you probably wouldnt say judaism
or christianity but probably gnosticism cause it was really important back then.
one of the ways you would combat gnosticism if you were pagan (not jewish or
christian) YOU WOULD GO BACK TO PLATO TO PROVE HOW BADLY THE GNOSTICS MISUSE PLATO.
one of the people who does this was PLOTINUS (270 ad), a pagan, who wanted to discount
gnostics. his importance is difficult to overstate. he writes enneads and "against the
gnostics." gnosticism is seen to have fundamental errors that lead to all kind of bad
Porphyry was the editor of Plotinus' Enneads.
One thing Plotinus does is use Aristotle in a couple key moments to help explain
Plato. For the most part he thinks aristotle misunderstands plato, to be sure, but
this use of him is important cause Porphyry picks up on this.
PORPHYRY, inspired by Plotinus, writes "AGAINST THE CHRISTIANS"
he writes an introduction to Aristotle's "Categories" called "ISAGOGUE" isogogue is
the greek word for introduction.
ONE OF THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF CHRISTIANITY IS THAT IT IS UNIVERSAL. this sets it
apart from Judaism, which isn't universalist.
Christians undertake to educate themselves in the philosophy of the day because
everyone is making fun of their lack of sophistication. The philosophy of the day is
Plato and Aristotle. They need to explain how God is three and one. Also they say that
God creates ex nihilo, from nothing, which violates Greco/Roman logic as well. So the
christians have to do some explaining.
So they go and learn as much as they possibly can from that philosophy. These early
christians find in Plato a certain harmony, especially in PLOTINUS.
PLOTINUS posits that there are three fundamental divine realities:
3.and the Soul so the one, there is nothing beyond this, it is totality
nous is thought thinking itself. it descends in some order from the one.
the christians do this, and this is not platonic.
the One >>>> FATHER
Nous >>>> SON
Soul >>>> HOLY SPIRIT
it is a divine triad of sorts.
now plotinus thought of these three as distinct and not the same, whereas the
christians thought that the three were the same but somehow distinct at the same time.
In PLATO we see the "curb the passions" doctrine. That's a norm for christians and
they can use Plato to defend that norm of theirs.
then someone comes along after Plotinus
He becomes infatuated, as he grows up, with a specific form of GNOSTICISM.
He also has an extrordinary sexual appetite.
But he hates this about himself. So gnosticism draws him in with his rejection of
He ends up rejecting gnosticism cause it cannot allow for natural philosophy and
He becomes a skeptic. he doesn't need things to be provable as much as rational.
Then 10 years later he becomes a Christian.
He reads the bible allegorically and not literally.
He reads into the great platonists. his conversion is in large part because of plato
and plotinus maybe moreso than the gospels.