Platonic Scraps

1: There was a legend in antiquity that Plato plagiarized Pythagorean teachings:          

A big scandal in antiquity was the rumor that Plato purchased documents containing secret Pythagorean teachings and passed them off as his own insights without divulging his sources.

  • Schrodinger: Nature and the Greeks and Science and Humanism (Cambridge University Press 1996) p. 34n1

2: Neoplatonism is a confusing term, and the Neoplatonists should rather be called Paleo-Platonists:

“The term ‘Neoplatonism’ is an artefact of 19th century German scholarship and reflects a contemporary academic trend. … Although the prefix ‘neo-’ is intended to suggest that something significantly new is to be found in the thought of this period, it is worth stressing … [they] would all have probably preferred to identify themselves as ‘paleo’-Platonists; that is, as non-innovating expositors and defenders of Platonic philosophy.”

  • Dillon & Gerson: Neoplatonic Philosophy (Hackett 2004) p. xiii-xiv

3: Like Buddhists, the Neoplatonists thought ordinary mental processes and book knowledge were only the shadow of their true doctrine:

Plotinus said that it was not enough to read and understand the Platonic texts. According to Porphyry, he complemented his academic studies with “unique” and “unusual” methods for absorbing their deeper meaning. Remarking on the studies of Longinus, an academic expert on Plato in antiquity, Plotinus supposedly remarked: “Longinus is a great scholar, though not at all a great philosopher.” Indeed, to the Neoplatonists, the true gist of “philosophy” (i.e. “love of wisdom”) was the “mystical” element of it (as opposed to the logical or analytical).

  • Gerson: Aristotle and Other Platonists (Cornell University 2005) p. 12n37

4: Why study Greek thought in relation to personality?

“A [cognitive] prejudice is more easily detected in the primitive, ingenuous form in which it first arises than as the sophisticated, ossified dogma it is apt to become later.”

  • Schrodinger: Nature and the Greeks and Science and Humanism (Cambridge University Press 1996) p. 18

5: A few select scholars have revived the notion that the difference between Plato and Aristotle has been exaggerated:

The Neoplatonists of late antiquity generally held that Aristotle had applied Plato’s principles to the sensible world while Plato himself had only taken an interest in their transcendental application. Thus, while both Plato and Aristotle were Platonists under this view, each man’s personal temperament played a role in their division of labor, leaving Aristotle as the master of the physical world and Plato as the master of the metaphysical world. This theory was rejected in both medieval and modern times, and yet – since it seems that the Neoplatonists were right about a great many things that were initially dismissed by posterity (such as the Unwritten Doctrine) – there is good reason to take it seriously.

  • Guenon: The Essential Rene Guenon (World Wisdom 2009) pp. 54-55

6: Platonists (had they known the functions) would not have been axial in their conception of them, but hierarchical. They would also have placed Ni at the top of their order:

“[To Platonists] the epistemological order is included within the metaphysical order. Modes of cognition are hierarchically gradable according to the hierarchical levels of objective reality. The highest mode of cognition corresponds to the first explanatory principles. All modes of cognition including sense perception and requiring sense perception as a condition for their operation are inferior … [to] the ideal disembodied cognitive agent.”

  • Gerson: Aristotle and Other Platonists (Cornell University 2005) p. 34


  1. Re 6: The Republic gives a function hierarchy. Wisdom (Ni), courage (very Fe in the communitarian context he gives but can also imply Ti), and temperance (repressed Se).

    Porphyry strikes me as an ENFJ – very similar to Pythagoras, emphasizing vegetarianism on the grounds of transmigration (I admit I’ve yet to read anything from him)

  2. I don’t mean to say that those virtues necessarily correspond to the given functions, only that Plato’s understanding of them is very INFJ

  3. Never mind about my intuition about Porphyry. I see how Jung thought Luther was an ESFP. ;) I have a bad habit of philosophical face reading

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