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Neoplatonic Love: The Metaphysics of Eros in Plotinus, Proclus and the Pseudo-Dionysius

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

This thesis examines the notion of Love (Eros) in key texts of the Neoplatonic philosophers Plotinus (204/5–270 C.E), Proclus (c.412–485 C.E.) and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (late 5th-early 6th cent.). In the first chapter I discuss Plotinus’ treatise devoted to Love (Enneads,III.5) and I attempt to show the ontological importance of Eros within the Plotinian system. For Plotinus for an entity (say Soul) to be/exist is to be erotic, i.e. be directed to the intelligible realm. Hence, one of the conclusions is that Love implies deficiency, and, thus, it takes place in a vertical scheme, where an inferior entity has eros for its higher progenitor.

If this is so, then Proclus apparently diverges greatly from Plotinus, because in his Commentary on the First Alcibiades Proclus clearly states that inferior entities have reversive (/upwards) eros for their superiors, whereas the latter have providential (/downwards) eros for their inferiors. Thus, the project of my second chapter is to analyze Proclus’ position and show that in fact he does not diverge much from Plotinus; the former only explicates something that is already implicit in the latter. The first part of my discussion emphasizes the ethical aspect, whereas the second deals with the metaphysical aspect.

Finally, in the third chapter I examine pseudo-Dionysius’ treatment of God as Eros in his work On the Divine Names. One motivation was the verdict of a number of old scholars that the Areopagite is a plagiarizer of Proclus. Still, the examination of Eros is a characteristic case, where one can ascertain Dionysius’ similarities and divergences from Proclus. Supported by recent literature, we can suggest that
Dionysius uses more of a Proclean language (cf. providential and reversive eros), rather than Proclean positions, owing to ontological presuppositions that differentiate the Neoplatonic philosopher from the Church Father. Proclus forms the bridge between pagan Neoplatonism (Plotinus) and Christian philosophy (pseudo-
Dionysius).
Original languageEnglish
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Award date2014

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