plato on god as nous
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Plato On God As Nous by Stephen Philip Menn
This book is the first sustained modern investigation of Plato’s theology. A central thesis of the book is that Plato had a theology—not just a mythology for the ideal city, not just the theory of forms or the theory of cosmic souls, but also, irreducible to any of these, an account of God as Nous (Reason), the source of rational order both to souls and the world of bodies. The understanding of God as Reason, and of the world as governed directly or indirectly by Reason, is worked out in the dialogues of Plato’s last period, the Statesman, Philebus, Timaeus, and Laws. These dialogues offer a strategy for explaining the physical world that goes beyond anything in the middle dialogues, and gives the best starting point for understanding the cosmologies and theologies of Aristotle, the Stoics, and later ancient thinkers. Menn focuses on the Timaeus as Plato’s most sustained effort to provide what (according to the Phaedo) Anaxagoras had failed to deliver: an explanation of the world through Reason, showing that things are as they are because it is best, or because it best serves the order of the world as a whole. Anaxagoras was disappointed because he explained things through their material constituents, without explaining why the constituents are ordered as they are; but the theory of forms has the same defect, since it cannot explain why different parts of the universe participate in different forms according to a particular order. The Timaeus and other late dialogues attempt to supply the missing explanation of the ordering of the physical world. These dialogues do not retreat from the middle dialogue theory of forms, nor do they escape into an esoteric theory of numbers; but they add to the middle dialogues an analysis of the principles necessary to account for the existence and partial intelligibility of the sensible world—not only forms and a material substance but also Nous and souls. Although the demiurge of the Timaeus (and his counterpart the Nous of Philebus) is represented as a cause both to souls and bodies, most scholars have been reluctant to identify the demiurge as a being separate from and superior to souls, because they think that both the meaning of the Greek word nous and Plato’s own statements require that Nous is either a kind of soul (mind or rational soul) or something inseparable from souls (rational mental activity). Reexamining the linguistic evidence and the Platonic texts, Menn argues that nous can mean something separate from souls, namely the virtue of rationality or intelligence that souls participate in. Menn argues that Anaxagoras’ Nous should be construed as such a virtue; then he examines what status this virtue has in the context of the Platonic theory of forms, and how it is a cause both to souls and to bodies. Soul plays a crucial role in mediating the causality of Nous and introducing rational order into the world of bodies, but neither soul in general nor the world-soul in particular can be identified with Nous. Menn stresses the pre-Socratic context for the cosmology and theology of Plato’s late dialogues; he argues for the importance of Diogenes of Appolonia in particular, and he reconstructs a possible new fragment of Diogenes from the Timaeus and from the Hippocratic treatise On Breaths. In the Timaeus and other late dialogues Plato attempts to do better than his predecessors by standards implicit in Socrates’ critique of Anaxagoras in the Phaedo, but what Plato offers remains consciously provisional. Aristotle argues that the Timaeus remains liable to some of the same criticisms that Socrates had leveled against Anaxagoras, and Aristotle’s own cosmology and theology take up Plato’s challenge to carry out Anaxagoras’ promise of an explanation of the world through Nous, and attempt to improve on the Timaeus as Plato had improved on Anaxagoras. In this way the Timaeus serves as an essential starting point, not only for those later ancient philosophers who took it as an authoritative statement on the world and on God but also for those who took it as a challenge to do better.
Timaeus by Plato
OF all the writings of Plato the Timaeus is the most obscure and repulsive to the modern reader, and has nevertheless had the greatest influence over the ancient and mediaeval world. The obscurity arises in the infancy of physical science, out of the confusion of theological, mathematical, and physiological notions, out of the desire to conceive the whole of nature without any adequate knowledge of the parts, and from a greater perception of similarities which lie on the surface than of differences which are hidden from view. Aeterna Press
Plato S Gods by Gerd Van Riel
This book presents a comprehensive study into Plato's theological doctrines, offering an important re-valuation of the status of Plato's gods and the relation between metaphysics and theology according to Plato. Starting from an examination of Plato's views of religion and the relation between religion and morality, Gerd Van Riel investigates Plato's innovative ways of speaking about the gods. This theology displays a number of diverging tendencies - viewing the gods as perfect moral actors, as cosmological principles or as celestial bodies whilst remaining true to traditional anthropomorphic representations. Plato's views are shown to be unified by the emphasis on the goodness of the gods in both their cosmological and their moral functions. Van Riel shows that recent interpretations of Plato's theology are thoroughly metaphysical, starting from aristotelian patterns. A new reading of the basic texts leads to the conclusion that in Plato the gods aren't metaphysical principles but souls who transmit the metaphysical order to sensible reality. The metaphysical principles play the role of a fated order to which the gods have to comply. This book will be invaluable to readers interested in philosophical theology and intellectual history.
The Laws is Plato's last and longest dialogue. Although it has been neglected (compared to such works as the Republic and Symposium), it is beginning to receive a great deal of scholarly attention. Book 10 of the Laws contains Plato's fullest defence of the existence of the gods, and his last word on their nature, as well as a presentation and defence of laws against impiety (e.g. atheism). Plato's primary aim is to defend the idea that the gods exist and that they are good - this latter meaning that they do not neglect human beings and cannot be swayed by prayers and sacrifices to overlook injustice. As such, the Laws is an important text for anyone interested in ancient Greek religion, philosophy, and politics generally, and the later thought of Plato in particular. Robert Mayhew presents a new translation, with commentary, of Book 10 of the Laws . His primary aim in the translation is fidelity to the Greek. His commentary focuses on philosophical issues (broadly understood to include religion and politics), and deals with philological matters only when doing so serves to better explain those issues. Knowledge of Greek is not assumed, and the Greek that does appear has been transliterated. It is the first commentary in English of any kind on Laws 10 for nearly 140 years.
Descartes And Augustine by Stephen Menn
This book is the first systematic study of Descartes' relation to Augustine. It offers a complete re-evaluation of Descartes' philosophy, and of the philosophical ideas in Augustine that were Descartes' starting point. Descartes and Augustine will engage the attention of historians of medieval, neo-Platonic, and early modern philosophy. That Descartes was indebted to Augustine is not in itself a fresh discovery. What distinguishes Stephen Menn's book is his detailed demonstration that the key to the Meditations is Descartes' use of Augustine's method for establishing a knowledge of God and the soul independent of any theory of the physical world. This method gives Descartes an independent starting point for reconstructing the system of the sciences. Where the scholastics had tried to show that Augustine's metaphysics of God and the soul is compatible with an Aristotelian physics of matter and form, Descartes argues that they are not compatible, and that Augustinian metaphysics provides the foundation for an anti-Aristotelian mechanistic physics. Menn gives a detailed analysis of the Meditations, showing how the novel form of Descartes' argument arises from the challenge of presenting Augustine's metaphysics in a way that makes it suitable for its new foundational task. Descartes and Augustine includes a complete reading of the Meditations, a historical and philosophical introduction to Augustine's thought and to Plotinian neo-Platonism, and a discussion of the contemporary context of Descartes' earlier and later philosophical projects.
Classical Philosophy by Peter Adamson
Classical Philosophy is the first of a series of books in which Peter Adamson aims ultimately to present a complete history of philosophy, more thoroughly but also more enjoyably than ever before. In short, lively chapters, based on the popular History of Philosophy podcast, he offers an accessible, humorous, and detailed look at the emergence of philosophy with the Presocratics, the probing questions of Socrates, and the first full flowering of philosophy with the dialogues of Plato and the treatises of Aristotle. The story is told 'without any gaps', discussing not only such major figures but also less commonly discussed topics like the Hippocratic Corpus, the Platonic Academy, and the role of women in ancient philosophy. Within the thought of Plato and Aristotle, the reader will find in-depth introductions to major works, such as the Republic and the Nicomachean Ethics, which are treated in detail that is unusual in an introduction to ancient philosophy. Adamson looks at fascinating but less frequently read Platonic dialogues like the Charmides and Cratylus, and Aristotle's ideas in zoology and poetics. This full coverage allows him to tackle ancient discussions in all areas of philosophy, including epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, ethics and politics. Attention is also given to the historical and literary context of classical philosophy, with exploration of how early Greek cosmology responded to the poets Homer and Hesiod, how Socrates was presented by the comic playwright Aristophanes and the historian Xenophon, and how events in Greek history may have influenced Plato's thought. This is a new kind of history which will bring philosophy to life for all readers, including those coming to the subject for the first time.
Thinking, Knowing, Acting: Epistemology and Ethics in Plato and Ancient Platonism aims to offer a fresh perspective on the correlation between epistemology and ethics in Plato and the Platonic tradition from Aristotle to Plotinus, by investigating the social, juridical and theoretical premises of their philosophy.
Philosophical Religions From Plato To Spinoza by Carlos Fraenkel
"For many thinkers from Antiquity until the Enlightenment, no meaningful distinction between philosophy and religion was possible. Instead, the concept of a philosophical religion was strongly influential on pagan, Jewish, Christian and Muslim philosophers alike. Carlos Fraenkel provides the first account of this concept and traces its history back to Plato, the Jewish Philo of Alexandria and the Christians Clement of Alexandria and Origen. He then follows it through the medieval period in both Islamic and Jewish forms; he closely analyses its appearance in the work of Spinoza in the early modern period; and he shows how it largely disappeared after the Enlightenment, when religion began to be increasingly regarded as a promoter of ignorance and superstition from which philosophy needed to be liberated. His rich and wide-ranging book will appeal to anyone interested in how philosophy has interacted with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious traditions over the centuries"--
John Climacus by John Chryssavgis
John Chryssavgis explores the ascetic teaching and theology of St John Climacus, a classical and formative writer of the Christian medieval East, and the author of the seventh-century Ladder of Divine Ascent. This text proved to be the most widely used handbook of the spiritual life in the Christian East, partly because of its unique and striking symbol of the ladder that binds together the whole book. It has caught the attention of numerous readers in East and West alike through the ages and is a veritable classic of medieval spirituality, whose popularity in the East equals that of The Imitation of Christ in the West. Chryssavgis follows the development and influence of earlier desert literature, from Egypt through Palestine into Sinai, and includes a discussion of the theology of tears, the concept of unceasing prayer, as well as the monastic principles of hesychia (silence) and eros (love).
The Cambridge Companion To Ancient Ethics by Christopher Bobonich
The field of ancient Greek ethics is increasingly emerging as a major branch of philosophical enquiry, and students and scholars of ancient philosophy will find this Companion to be a rich and invaluable guide to the themes and movements which characterised the discipline from the Pre-Socratics to the Neo-Platonists. Several chapters are dedicated to the central figures of Plato and Aristotle, and others explore the ethical thought of the Stoics, the Epicureans, the Skeptics, and Plotinus. Further chapters examine important themes that cut across these schools, including virtue and happiness, friendship, elitism, impartiality, and the relationship between ancient eudaimonism and modern morality. Written by leading scholars and drawing on cutting-edge research to illuminate the questions of ancient ethics, the book will provide students and specialists with an indispensable critical overview of the full range of ancient Greek ethics.