Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
M. J. Edwards
Neo-Platonism is an interpretation of Plato that posits not only a realm of eternal essences, or Forms, above the flux of material existence, but a principle of unity higher than being, to which the forms owe their integrity, both as individual entities and as a class. Because the philosopher's goal is approximation to this perfect unity, the regulation of corporate or individual life in the lower sphere can be of interest to him or her not as an end but as a means to emancipation. The founder of neo-Platonism, Plotinus (c. 205–270 CE), regards the political virtues as the lowest in an ascending scale. His pupil Porphyry (c. 232-c. 305) devised a more rigid system in which the political or practical virtues are the lowest of four categories. They must, however, be achieved before the higher virtues can be cultivated, and Porphyry, as an adherent of the Pythagorean tradition, believes ...