Neoplatonism is a thought form rooted in the philosophy of Plato (c. 428-347
B.C.E.), but extending beyond or transforming it in many respects. Neoplatonism
developed as a school of thought in the Roman Empire from the third to the fifth
century of the common era (C.E.). However, the term itself was coined only
recently in the mid-ninteenth century, when German scholars used it to
distinguish the ideas of later Greek and Roman Platonists from those of Plato
himself. Plotinus (c. 204-270 C.E.) is considered the first main proponent of
Neoplatonism, and his intent was to use Plato's thought as an intellectual basis
for a rational and humane life.
Neoplatonist ideas are more explicitly religious than those of Plato, and they
developed largely to counter dualistic interpretations of Plato's thought. For
example, Neoplatonism sought to overcome the Platonic cleavage between thought
and reality, or Ideal and Form. Platonism is characterized by its method of
abstracting the finite world of Forms (humans, animals, objects) from the
infinite world of the Ideal, or One. Neoplatonism, on the other hand, seeks to
locate the One, or God in Christian Neoplatonism, in the finite world and human
experience. This is evidenced in Plotinus's now-famous maxim that the Absolute
"has its center everywhere but its circumference nowhere."
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