Aesthetic Themes in Pagan and Christian Neoplatonism: From Plotinus to Gregory of Nyssa

Aesthetic Themes in Pagan and Christian Neoplatonism: From Plotinus to Gregory of Nyssa

Language: English

Pages: 144

ISBN: 1350007935

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Whilst aesthetics as a discipline did not exist before the modern age, ancient philosophers give many insights about beauty and art. In Late Antiquity Plotinus confronted the problem of beauty and the value of the arts. Plotinus' reflections have an important role in the development of the concept of the value of artistic imagination during the Renaissance and the Romantic era, but he also influenced the artistic taste of his time.

Aesthetic Themes in Pagan and Christian Neoplatonism reconstructs the aesthetic philosophical views of Late Antiquity, and their relation to artistic production of the time. By examining the resonance of Plotinus' thought with contemporary artists and with Christian thinkers, including Gregory of Nyssa, the book demonstrates the importance of Plotinus' treatise On Beauty for the development of late ancient aesthetics. The Cappadocian fathers' interest in Plotinus is explored, as well as the consequent legacy of the pagan thinker's philosophy within Christian thought, such as the concept of beauty and the narration of the contemplative experience.

Uniquely utilising philological and philosophical insight, as well as exploring both pagan and Christian philosophy, Aesthetic Themes in Pagan and Christian Neoplatonism represents the first comprehensive synthesis of aesthetic thought of Late Antiquity.

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περιωρίσθαι τῆς κακίας τὴν φύσιν. Καθάπερ γὰρ οἱ δεινοὶ τὰ μετέωρα, τοῦ μὲν φωτὸς πάντα λέγουσι τὸν κόσμον εἶναι κατάπλεων, τὸ δὲ σκότος τῇ ἀντιφράξει τοῦ κατὰ τὴν γῆν σώματος ἀποσκιαζόμενον γίνεσθαι (ἀλλὰ τοῦτο μὲν κατὰ τὸ σχῆμα τοῦ σφαιροειδοῦς σώματος, κατὰ νώτου τῆς ἡλιακῆς ἀκτῖνος κωνοειδῶς κατακλείεσθαι, τὸν δὲ ἥλιον πολλαπλασίονι τῷ μεγέθει τὴν γῆν ὑπερβάλλοντα, πανταχόθεν αὐτὴν ταῖς ἀκτῖσιν ἐν κύκλῳ περιπτυσσόμενον, συνάπτειν κατὰ τὸ πέρας τοῦ κώνου τὰς τοῦ φωτὸς συμβολὰς, ὥστε καθ’

first identified the ambiguous nature of love. Plotinus describes the powerful emotions aroused by the sight of beauty. Beauty is Platonically the chief object of eros, and therefore these emotions can be classified as emotions of love. Plotinus thus belongs to a tradition, not strictly philosophical, which recognizes the contradictory and oxymoric nature of the πάθη related to love. The context of the passage concerns the contemplation of beauty: in order to perceive true beauty, that of justice

διαθέσεως κεχωρισμένον, τὸ δὲ ἀκήρατον κάλλος ἐκεῖνο ἡ φοβερά τε καὶ κατάπληκτος ἀνδρεία ἐστίν. ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ἡ ἐμπαθὴς καὶ ῥυπῶσα τῶν σωμάτων ἐπιθυμία τοῖς τῆς σαρκὸς μέλεσιν ἐγκαθημένη καθάπερ τι σύνταγμα λῃστρικὸν ἐνεδρεύει τὸν νοῦν καὶ αἰχμάλωτον ἄγει πολλάκις πρὸς τὸ ἑαυτῆς βούλημα συναρπάσασα, ἐχθρὸν δὲ τῷ θεῷ τὸ γινόμενον, [. . .] διὰ τοῦτο ἀκόλουθόν ἐστιν ἐκ τῶν ἐναντίων τῇ σωματικῇ ἐπιθυμίᾳ τὸν θεῖον ἔρωτα γίνεσθαι, ὥστε εἰ ταύτης καθηγεῖται ἔκλυσις καὶ 86 Aesthetic Themes in Pagan and

Hendrickson, 1999. Basile de Césarée, Homélies sur l’Hexaéméron, ed. by S. Giet, Paris: Cerf 1968. Grégoire de Nysse, Traité de la Verginité, ed. by M. Abineau, Paris: Cerf, 1966. Grégoire de Nysse, Lettres, ed. by P. Maraval, Paris: Cerf, 1990. Gregorii Nysseni quae supersunt omnia, ed. by G.H. Forbes, Burntisland 1855–1861 (Apologia in Hexaëmeron, De hominis opificio and part of the De vita Moysis). Gregorii Nysseni Opera quae reperiri potuerunt omnia, accurante J. P. Migne, Paris: apud Fratres

focus on some elements of the aesthetics of the period. The first two, of a more general character, will concern Plotinus’ use of metaphors related to art and Gregory of Nyssa’s connection with Neoplatonism, and Plotinus in particular. The other three chapters will analyse more specific issues, from the paraenetic metaphor of sculpting in Plotinus and Gregory of Nyssa, to the Cappadocian Fathers’ view on the didactic role of painting, reflections on the beauty of gold and light, and the paradoxical

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