Are the Neo-platonists worth reading? They intrigue me, but aside from their aid in the forming of Christianity, what did they bring to the table? Could one gain as an individual through reading them?
I've heard the Enneads are quite difficult, is reading Plato sufficient? Or are there any secondary sources I should read?
Thank you in advance for any aid or advice :)
he breastfed from his wet nurse until he was like 8 years old, then she called him disgusting or something and he stopped
later he fought in persia, trying to learn about eastern philosophy. his commander died and he had to make his way back home by himself
he never liked to talk about his upbringing or past, and he wouldn't do it unless he was forced to
funny tidbit by porphyry (his friend):
"Plotinus, the philosopher our contemporary, seemed ashamed of being in the body.
So deeply rooted was this feeling that he could never be induced to tell of his ancestry, his parentage, or his birthplace.
He showed, too, an unconquerable reluctance to sit to a painter of a sculptor, and when Amelius persisted in urging him to allow of a portrait being made he asked him, 'Is it not enough to carry about this image in which nature has enclosed us? Do you really think I must also consent to leave, as a desired spectacle to posterity, an image of the image?'
In view of this determined refusal Amelius brought his friend Carterius, the best artist of the day, to the Conferences, which were open to every comer, and saw to it that by long observation of the philosopher he caught his most striking personal traits. From the impressions thus stored in mind the artist drew a first sketch; Amelius made various suggestions towards bringing our the resemblance, and in this way, without the knowledge of Plotinus, the genius of Carterius gave us a lifelike portrait."
also apparently he had really shitty spelling.. what I like is his humility, seems uncommon in antiquity
last words: "Strive to give back the Divine in yourselves to the Divine in the all."
When he died, a snake (lucifer in muh headcanon) crawled under his bed and out through a hole in the wall
I mean, this stuff could be in a movie
>I myself at one period had formed the intention of ending my life; Plotinus discerned my purpose; he came unexpectedly to my house where I had secluded myself, told me that my decision sprang not from reason but from mere melancholy and advised me to leave Rome.
The greatest thing about the Neo-Platonists today is that they are an antidote to materialism, because they stress Idealism so much. The same goes for Plato himself. I couldn't be a materialist anymore after reading Plato.
What dialogues converted you? I've read the Trial and Death dialogues (Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo) but while Phaedo was very well written and profound, it didn't particularly convince me into idealism.
Plato's Socrates also says a lot of crazy shit that people who fall under idealism wouldn't like though. Like his rants against poetry and his dislike of writing itself.
Not that you can even use the word idealism in reference to the Greeks in the first place.
I think Phaedo more than any other. It's not any one dialogue really, though, it's the entire process of dialogue itself. You have to see Plato's dialogues as a ritual, an initiation. If you read Plato in an analytic way to break down his points and discover his opinions and try to assess where he fits in the history of Western philosophy, etc., you are reading him wrong (or, at least, not on his own terms). The point is to have your mind swept up in the process of the dialogue, to be fully and completely engaged in it. The dialogue begins with the presentation of an idea, then that idea is attacked, a new idea is offered to correct it, etc., all the while your mind is being trained to contemplate ideas fairly without dismissing them out of hand. Then, when the dialogue reaches its peak, your mind reaches a state of aporia (loss, confusion). This is when your mind feels completely blank. It's hard to describe. Your mind loses all perception, you totally forget the world, your surroundings, your self, and are just in the immediate presence of your own mind. This is when you realise that you have a mind and how immanent it is. The danger here is that you will fall into the Hindu trap of believing that you are part of the divine mind that makes up existence, the experience is that powerful. And then the dialogue introduces its best take of the ideal (usually given by Socrates), and your now freed-up mind is able to contemplate the idea as though it were a statue stood right in front of you.
>Plato's Socrates also says a lot of crazy shit that people who fall under idealism wouldn't like though. Like his rants against poetry and his dislike of writing itself.
Actually, this is just a result of his extreme form of Idealism. He thought that the point was to contemplate the eternal, immaterial Ideas in heaven, especially the Good. A painting or a poem creates an image of a natural object, and a natural object is just an image of an Idea, so a painting or a poem is an image of an image, twice removed from the Truth. Therefore, art is something of a hindrance.
I do understand what you mean by the way Plato makes you contemplate. During my reading of Phaedo I found my self contemplating Socrates (and Simmias' and Cebes') suggestions and debating them. Plato is a great teacher, and the nature of the dialogues leads you to think about the points rather than accept them.
I also thought Phaedo, rather than simply being about the fate of the soul, was about the ideal philosopher. An example would be after Cebes and Simmias made their objections to Socrates, the rest of Socrates gang were depressed and lost focus on the philosophy. Socrates calmly brought them back to philosophising, and carried on the process.
That all said, the arguments presented didn't convince me--I retain my sceptical position on things, but I'm certainly more curious about what-is and it's nature, rather than simply accepting things as they are, since reading Plato.
Most of the Neoplatonists wrote commentaries, usually of Plato's dialogues, but also of Aristotle's writings, and sometimes of mathematical works, like Euclid's Elements. Of those figures, Proclus, Iamblichus, and Simplicius are worth reading. Some of the later Renaissance Neoplatonists are interesting as well, especially Ficino.
It's a bit hard for me to point to "what they bring to the table"; maybe an especially interesting syncretic hermeneutic of the Greek philosophers? A lot of their work could be described as trying to fit Plato, Aristotle, and Pythagoreanism together, with a huge emphasis on the elements in Plato that look more Pythagorean (Timaeus, Phaedo).
As far what you could get, that might well be up to you. I think they're interesting, but I largely read them to see whether they shed any interesting light on Plato or Aristotle's writings, and don't find myself especially compelled by them otherwise.
Enneads can be rough going, but they're not impossible to understand if you're willing to acknowledge that you'll be confused for a bit. Plato's Phaedo, Timaeus, and Parmenides and Aristotle's Physics and Metaphysics were important to the Neoplatonists.
>Your mind loses all perception, you totally forget the world, your surroundings, your self, and are just in the immediate presence of your own mind
it seems that you reach a pure conciousness. how long does it last ?
Yeah, Plotinus being mysterious and incomprehensible is almost a running joke at the study.
The baseline of his philosophy (the emanation of the One) is fairly easy to get, but there's little to no consensus on the details of it.
He's fun to read, though.
I really like Plotinus' idea of the One and how it cannot help but emanate successively imperfect realities much like how a sun cannot help but give off warmth and light. It's a very elegant theodicy on its own. The physical universe exists because the One would be less perfect without it.
His aesthetics are also based. They read more like sacred prose than a dry philosophical text. Guy just really loved beauty, and that's a huge part of the reason his works appeal to me so much
And yeah, Plotinus was the last nail in materialism's coffin for me as well
I have two questions, if you don't mind.
So by materialism, do you mean the materialist philosophies that reduce all things to material, and/or a rejection of matter and bodies?
And for my second question, I was wondering how you make sense of the Laws as Plato's longest dialogue, but as the one with a very conspicuous absence of forms and mathematics (the Athenian Stranger does refer to an education resulting in astronomy, but that seems to emphasize how different his treatment is with that of Socrates in the Republic for whom astronomy culminates in study of harmonics, leading from there to dialectics).