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420Re: [neoplatonism] Platonism and Atheism

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  • Edward Moore
    Apr 11, 2004
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      Monte Morris wrote:

      > I'm not entirely certain what you mean by Plato's
      > conception of the Gods as "virtuous abstractions." I
      > don't remember the name of the exact writing, but he
      > used Socrates to ask the question of someone about
      > what makes something good. THe person replied by
      > saying, "because the gods love it."

      The dialogue you are referring to is the _Euthyphro_. I cannot speak for
      Jim (author of the original message), but I think that by "virtuous
      abstractions" he meant simply that Plato did not hold an anthropomorphic
      view of the gods, but considered them in terms befitting deity (as Plato
      understood it). In other words, there is no real difference between
      'abstractions' or "ideal forms" such as moderation, courage -- in a word,
      virtue (_arete^_) -- and the nature or character of the gods. Of course, a
      bit later, in Stoicism, Zeus (Dios) was interpreted as _di' hon_, "the one
      through whom" all things come into being. Earlier, the Pre-Socratics
      interpreted the gods largely in terms of physical processes. It is safe to
      say that no Greek philosopher was satisfied with the traditional portrayal
      of the gods, as contained in Homer and Hesiod. Indeed, many were accused of
      atheism. But it is not the type of atheism we encounter today, which is
      usually a blanket denial of any divine forces whatsoever. What the ancient
      philosophers were doing was engaging in a radical (for the time)
      re-definition of deity according to pure reason, as opposed to revelation,
      which is what would occur when Christians began re-defining deity on the
      basis of Scripture (though with philosophy as a critical tool). The charge
      of atheism in the Classical and Hellenistic eras was usually leveled against
      a conception of the gods that was not in accordance with traditional piety.
      To deny that Zeus thunders upon Mount Olympus and has spousal spats with
      Hera, and instead claiming that he is the rational fire pervading the
      universe, was tanatmount (in the minds of conservatives of that era) to
      claiming that he does not exist.



      Edward Moore, S.T.L., Ph.D. (candidate)
      Department of Philosophy
      3rd & Jackson Streets
      St. Elias School of Orthodox Theology
      Seward, Nebraska 68434
      E-mail: emoore@...
      Homepage: www.theandros.com/emoore

      Theandros: An Online Journal of
      Orthodox Christian Theology and
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