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Neoplatonism

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Neoplatonism is a modern term[1] used to designate a tradition of philosophy that arose in the 3rd century AD
and persisted until shortly after the closing of the Platonic Academy in Athens in AD 529 by Justinian I.
Neoplatonists were heavily influenced by Plato, but also by the Platonic tradition that thrived during the six
centuries which separated the first of the Neoplatonists from Plato.
In defining the term "Neoplatonism", it is difficult to reduce the school of thought to a concise set of ideas that
all Neoplatonic philosophers shared in common. The work of Neoplatonic philosophy involved describing the
derivation of the whole of reality from a single principle, "the One". While the Neoplatonists generally shared

some basic assumptions about the nature of reality, there were also considerable differences in their views and
approaches, and so it can be difficult to summarize the philosophical content of Neoplatonism briefly. Instead,
the most concise definition of Neoplatonism casts it as an historical term.[2] It refers to the dynamic
philosophical tradition that Neoplatonism was over the course of its history: to the work of Plotinus, who is
traditionally identified as the founder of Neoplatonism,[3] and to the many thinkers after him, who developed,
responded to and criticized his ideas.[4]
There are multiple ways to categorize the differences between the Neoplatonists according to their differing
views, but one way [5] counts three distinct phases in Neoplatonism after Plotinus: the work of his student
Porphyry, that of Iamblichus and his school in Calchis, and the period in the fifth and sixth centuries, when the
Academies in Alexandria and Athens flourished. Thinkers of this final period include Syrianus, Olympiodorus
the Younger, Proclus and Damascius. An important feature that distinguishes Neoplatonism after Porphyry from
earlier periods is that later Neoplatonists embraced a certain kind of spiritual exercise, called theurgy, as a
means of developing the soul through a process called henosis.
Neoplatonism has been very influential throughout history. In the Middle Ages, Neoplatonic ideas were
integrated into the philosophical and theological works of many of the most important mediaeval Islamic,
Christian, and Jewish thinkers. In Muslim lands, Neoplatonic texts were available in Arabic translations, and
notable thinkers such as al-Farabi, Avicenna and Moses Maimonides[6] incorporated Neoplatonic elements into
their own thinking. Although the revitalisation of Neoplatonism amongst Italian Renaissance thinkers such as
Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola is perhaps more famous, Latin translations of Late Ancient
Neoplatonic texts were first available in the Christian West much earlier, in the Middle Ages. Thomas Aquinas,
for instance, had direct access to works by Proclus, Simplicius and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, and he
knew about other Neoplatonists, such as Plotinus and Porphyry, through secondhand sources.[7] The influence of
Neoplatonism also extends into forms of culture beyond philosophy, and well into the modern era, for instance,
in Renaissance Aesthetics, and in the work of modernist poets such as W. B. Yeats[8] and T.S. Eliot, among many
more.