GREEK PHILOSOPHY - III. SUPRA-RATIONALISM (AND SUPRA-NATURALISM)
§ 30 -
Porphyry and Other Commentators
Mention may be made of Porphyry, the
pupil and biographer of Plotinus, whose right to a place in the history of
philosophy seems to rest chiefly upon his services in diffusing the opinions of
Plotinus, and in expounding in an attractive manner writings of Plato and
Aristotle, particularly portions of the Organon of the latter. He taught piety
and asceticism, and inclined to theurgy.—Three other important commentators on
Aristotle are Themistius (fourth century A.D.), Simplicius, and Philoponus
(sixth century A.D.).
Jamblichus (fl. 306-337), a pupil
of Porphyry, "attempted a
speculative justification of superstition. He imitated Pythagoras more than
Plato, his philosophy resting rather on mystical speculations with numbers than on
Platonic ideas. In his system not only did all the gods of the Greeks and
Orientals (excepting the Christian God) and the gods of Plotinus find a place,
but he also took a quite peculiar pleasure in adding to the number of superior
divinities from the resources of his own fancy" (1). Above even the One of Plotinus, Jamblichus supposes an unknowable essence.
Below the One are the intelligible world, the world of thinking beings,
including Nous, Power, and Demiurge (Creator). Next in rank is a triplicity of
souls, and last the sense-world. Jamblichus blended with theology Neo-Pythagorean number-speculation.
He defended image-worship, theurgy, and
prophecy. His ethical creed is contained in the idea, held by Plotinus and
Porphyry, of purification. He is said to have been the intellectual ideal of
Proclus, the last great thinker of the school of the Neo-Platonists and the
last great mind in the history of Greek speculation.