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The First Principles of Latin Neoplatonism: Augustine, Macrobius, Boethius

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Abstract This essay attempts to provide more evidence for the notions that there actually is a Latin (as opposed to a Greek) Neoplatonic tradition in late antiquity, that this tradition includes a systematic theory of first principles, and that this tradition and theory are influential in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. The method of the essay is intended to be novel in that, instead of examining authors or works in a chronological sequence and attempting to isolate doctrines in the traditional manner, it proceeds by identifying certain philosophemes (a concept borrowed from structuralist and post-structuralist thought and here signifying certain minimal units from which philosophical “systems” can be constructed), and then studying the combination and re-combination of these philosophemes consciously and unconsciously by a selection of important medieval writers. These philosophemes occur in Augustine, De Genesi ad Litteram; Augustine, De Trinitate; Augustine, De Vera Religione; Augustine, De Musica; Macrobius, Commentarius in Somnium Scipionis; and Boethius, De Consolatione Philosophiae. The sampling of medieval authors who use these philosophemes includes Eriugena, William of Conches, Thierry of Chartres, and Nicholas of Cusa.

Affiliations: 1: University of Notre Dame

10.1163/15685349-12341236
/content/journals/10.1163/15685349-12341236
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/content/journals/10.1163/15685349-12341236
2012-01-01
2016-12-08

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