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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 February 2021

Michael Erler
Affiliation:
Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Germany
Jan Erik Heßler
Affiliation:
Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Germany
Federico M. Petrucci
Affiliation:
Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy
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Summary

If one had to provide a formal account of what ‘being a Platonist’ means, it would be tempting to refer to the broad idea that a Platonist is, in general, a follower of Plato, which implies a commitment to Plato’s authority. After all, this would be a reasonable description for all heirs of Plato, from the Academics – the scholarchs of the Academy were in any case the successors of Plato, and claimed for themselves the privilege of this relationship – to late-antique Platonists, who regarded themselves as exegetes and interpreters of Plato’s thought. Things are not that easy, however, for once one examines such a general account in detail a series of serious questions emerge. A first – and clearer – puzzle is related to the discontinuity of the tradition: while on the one hand one can say that there is a continuous stream of heirs of Plato from the Early Academy to late Neoplatonism, on the other it is quite obvious that, even admitting a strong continuity between Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism, the philosophical history of the ‘Platonist tradition’ from the Early Academy to the early Imperial Age hardly constitutes a unified whole. As a consequence, just stating that all followers of Plato were committed to his authority would amount to an empty and uninformative statement: the more one generalises the notion in order to make it comprehensive, the less it is specific and able to really include the distinguishing features of each stage of the tradition.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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