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Burnet's text at Pl. Ti. 55c7–d6 is at least questionable, and opting for a different reading at 55d5 (θεός instead of θεόν) would shed light on an intriguing argumentative aspect of Plato's cosmological account: God confirms the metaphysical reasons why there is just one perfect world.
After some decades of transition, in the first half of the first century bc, (almost) everything changed. This happened in the Stoa, where non-Athenian scholarchs felt the need for new perspectives, and for a clearer integration of Plato’s doctrine.1 This happened in the Garden, which found new life in Italy with Philodemus’ ‘adaptation’.2 This happened in the Peripatos, where both the recovery of Aristotle’s esoteric writings (in whatever form this may have occurred) and the introduction of a new approach to Aristotle’s philosophy ushered in a new era.3 More generally, the so-called decentralisation of philosophy strongly affected all schools, and determined the need for new ways of thinking and new approaches to authoritative texts.
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.
All disciplines can count on a noble founder, and the representation of this founder as an authority is key in order to construe a discipline's identity. This book sheds light on how Plato and other authorities were represented in one of the most long-lasting traditions of all time. It leads the reader through exegesis and polemics, recovery of the past and construction of a philosophical identity. From Xenocrates to Proclus, from the sceptical shift to the re-establishment of dogmatism, from the Mosaic of the Philosophers to the Neoplatonist Commentaries, the construction of authority emerges as a way of access to the core of the Platonist tradition.