Abstract and Keywords
The development of a specifically Platonic philosophy in the Academy or elsewhere was checked by the advent of the Hellenistic schools, which advocated a more empirical approach to philosophical inquiry. As a result, the idea that Plato’s dialogues already presented a well-defined, comprehensive, and essentially correct philosophical system seems not to have arisen until the first century b.c. And it was probably not until toward the beginning of the second century a.d. that a disparate set of philosophers who identified themselves as “Platonists” conceived the project of advocating and defending a specifically Platonic philosophy of this kind by systematically interpreting and explaining Plato’s texts. Over the next 500 years (c. 100–600 a.d.), Platonist philosophers produced a huge corpus of philosophical work inspired by their interpretations of Plato. This chapter introduces the reader to this immensely varied and philosophically exciting—but, as yet, still largely unexplored tradition. It discusses the reasons why a modern student of Plato might be interested in historical Platonism. Then, it investigates the origins and evolution of the Platonist movement; and sketches its shifting epistemological foundations and their relation to the Platonic dialogues.
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