Aesthetic Themes in Pagan and Christian Neoplatonism: From Plotinus to Gregory of Nyssa
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Whilst aesthetics as a discipline did not exist before the modern age, ancient philosophers give many insights about beauty and art. In Late Antiquity Plotinus confronted the problem of beauty and the value of the arts. Plotinus' reflections have an important role in the development of the concept of the value of artistic imagination during the Renaissance and the Romantic era, but he also influenced the artistic taste of his time.
Aesthetic Themes in Pagan and Christian Neoplatonism reconstructs the aesthetic philosophical views of Late Antiquity, and their relation to artistic production of the time. By examining the resonance of Plotinus' thought with contemporary artists and with Christian thinkers, including Gregory of Nyssa, the book demonstrates the importance of Plotinus' treatise On Beauty for the development of late ancient aesthetics. The Cappadocian fathers' interest in Plotinus is explored, as well as the consequent legacy of the pagan thinker's philosophy within Christian thought, such as the concept of beauty and the narration of the contemplative experience.
Uniquely utilising philological and philosophical insight, as well as exploring both pagan and Christian philosophy, Aesthetic Themes in Pagan and Christian Neoplatonism represents the first comprehensive synthesis of aesthetic thought of Late Antiquity.
can also be appreciated for the thauma it arouses in the soul, as Gregory says in letter 20.48 From this point of view, therefore, there is no opposition between divine beauty and the beauty of creatures, which derive from the former the reason for their being beautiful. If all creatures are beautiful, does ugliness exist? It seems from what we have observed so far that Gregory denies that natural objects can be deﬁned as ugly, because they are created according to the pattern that God has
constitution du beau’.24 On the other hand Narbonne believes that this conception, which might appear to be original and speciﬁc to Plotinus, derives in fact from Phaedo 100 c–d.25 Certainly Narbonne’s indications are punctual and enlightening, but it could be useful to add a comment. We should not miss what is the actual purpose of Plotinus in this case (and Narbonne in fact underlines that ‘le dessein exact de la critique de la symétrie qui constitue le cœur de l’argumentation de Plotin
the earth by a size many times as great as its own, enfolding it round about on all sides with its rays, unites at the limit of the cone the concurrent streams of light; so that if (to suppose the case) any one had the power of passing beyond the measure to which the shadow extends, he would certainly ﬁnd himself in light unbroken by darkness; – even so I think that we ought to understand about ourselves, that on passing the limit of wickedness we shall again have our conversation in light, as
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l’exégèse du Parménide’, in Revue de Théologie et de Philosophie 116 (1984), pp. 1–12; repr. in idem, Recherches sur le néoplatonisme après Plotin, Paris: Vrin, 1990, pp. 173–184). Saﬀrey, H.D., ‘Florence, 1492: The Reappearance of Plotinus’, in Renaissance Quarterly 49 (1996), pp. 488–508; repr. in idem, Le Néoplatonisme après Plotin, Paris: Vrin, 2000, pp. 277–293. Samellas, A., Death in the Eastern Mediterranean (50–600 A.D.): The Christianization of the East: an interpretation, Tübingen: Mohr