CFP: 2014 Annual Meeting of the International Society for Neoplatonic Studies

John Finamore below relates the panels taking papers for the 2014 edition of ISNS, taking place in Lisbon, Portugal, 16-21 June.

Panels proposed for the ISNS Conference in Lisbon, June 16-21, 2014

Astrology, Divination and Theurgy in Neoplatonism
Crystal Addey (, Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum
(, and Marilynn Lawrence

Astrology and divination played a significant role in the culture of the
Second Sophistic and Late Antiquity, and had important connections
with and a complex relationship to philosophy of the time, particularly
middle Platonism and Neoplatonism. Drawing on Plato’s allusions to
divination, such as Socrates’ daimonion and his divinatory dreams,
philosophers within the Platonic tradition from Plutarch and Apuleius
through to Proclus, wrote about and actively engaged with various
forms of divination, including oracles, divination by statues (telestikê),
astrology and dream divination (oneiromancy), among many others.
Some Platonists, particularly Plotinus and Iamblichus, criticize certain
aspects of astrology while offering a hermeneutic of the practice that
attributes powers to the stars and planets fitting with their own
philosophies. Others, such as Porphyry, use astrology in their
allegorical exegeses of mythological narratives (De antro nympahrum)
and in their accounts of the descent of the soul (On What is Up To Us).
Astrology and divination are further linked through Neoplatonic
theurgy, in theory and practice. This panel aims to explore these links
in more detail, inviting papers that explore / examine topics such as
the role of the kairos in divination (e.g., opportune moments of time
and the planetary movements), the vexed relationship between
theurgy, magic and traditional religious practices, the role of planetary
gods in metaphysical, ontological and cosmological systems, the
relationship between fate, divine providence and divinatory practices,
as well as Neoplatonic critiques of these practices. Other related topics
will also be considered.

Plotinus and Alexandria
Aphrodite Alexandrakis (

Ancient Alexandria’s geographic location in the Mediterranean, its mild
climate, the fertile canals of the river Nile, contributed in to becoming
a favorite city of intellectuals and therefore the center of great
scientific, philosophical and artistic movements (See Strabo’s
geography). Thus Alexandria became the birthplace of great
philosophical, artistic and scientific minds from 331 B.C. (its
foundation by Alexander the Great) through the Ptolemaic and Roman
As known, one of Alexandria’s famous philosophers was Plotinus, the
student of Alexandrian Ammonius Saccas (232-243). At that time,
Alexandria was a cosmopolitan and intellectual center beautified by
great architectural and sculptural works of art. As such, Alexandria
consisted of diverse people of various religions, including the so-called
“pagans” (combination of diverse cults). Hence Plotinus lived in a
religiously “diverse” and aesthetically beautiful environment. However,
after his studies with Ammonius Saccas, he travelled to the east and
eventually he resided in Rome for the rest of his life; he never
returned to his birth country.
This panel will raise questions on the basis of certain facts such as:
-Plotinus departure from Alexandria to Rome.
-Rome’s environment and Plotinus freedom of expression.
-Did the Alexandrian or/and Roman aesthetic, religious and political
environment had any impact on him?
-Other than metaphysical, were there any other reasons for Plotinus in
refusing his portrait making?
-Why is his approach to beauty different than Plato’s?
-Why was he attached to the Roman emperor Gordian III.
By keeping in mind where Plotinus came from, there may be raised
other questions in order to determine who Plotinus really was.

Identity and Alterity in the Platonic Tradition
Oscar Federico Bauchwitz ( and Claudia
D’Amico (

This panel receives papers about these two concepts (“identity” and
“alterity”) in authors of the Platonic tradition.
In Plato’s Sophist the notion of héteron is presented as opposed to the
notion of tautón. The Neoplatonic authors use this same binomial,
linking it to the notions of Unity and Multiplicity. It is possible to see
this in the distinction between the One and the Intelligence. The
Medieval Latin world has translated these concepts as idem-alterum.
The medieval and renaissance Christian Neoplatonism has assimilated
the notion of Trinity, and in consequence it redefines the relation
between the concepts, because it understands that God is also the One
and the Intelligence. Therefore, the Christian Neoplatonism excludes
from the noetic aspect any alterity, and the alterity appears as being
linked to the matter and the mutability. These concepts are used by
the modern and the contemporary thought. Nowadays, the issue of the
alterity, which has a faraway Platonic root, it is more and more
important in the philosophical reflection.
Este panel recibe artículos sobre estos conceptos en autores de la tradición platónica.
Desde el Sofista de Platón se presenta la noción de héteron como opuesta a tautón. Este
binomio es recuperado por los autores neoplatónicos ligado al mismo tiempo a las nociones
de unidad y multiplicidad como se muestra de manera clara en la distinción entre lo uno y la
inteligencia. El mundo latino ha traducido estas nociones frecuentemente como idemalterum
y específicamente el neoplatonismo cristiano medieval y renacentista, al incorporar
la noción de Trinidad, redefine la relación al identificar en lo divino lo uno y la inteligencia.
De esta manera excluye del aspecto noético toda alteridad y ésta aparece ligada a la materia
y a la mutabilidad. La modernidad y el pensamiento contemporáneo recuperan también
estos conceptos y se advierte que el tema de la alteridad, de remota raíz platónica, va
ganando un lugar cada vez más destacado en la reflexión filosófica.

Platonism and Plato: Neoplatonic Approaches to Reading Plato
Florin George Calian ( ) and
Alexandru Pelin (

The way Neoplatonist philosophers deal with Plato’s dialogues suggests
a ‘scholastic’ way of reading divine texts. One fundamental question is
if they were interested in Platonism rather than in getting Plato right.
Overall, they took Plato’s dialogues as canonical texts. This means that
every thesis they propose must pass a conformity control to prove its
validity and truth, even when the dialogues seem to defy such canons.
Respecting the orthodoxy of a tradition may also be seen as a
potential pitfall. It can be seen as a threat to the liberty of the
philosopher to read Plato in different ways and on different layers of
meaning or to reconstruct his possible philosophical system. A
Neoplatonic philosopher must sometimes choose between conformity
with platonic texts and his ideas that may lead to diverse conclusions.
Due to the Neoplatonic attachment to their schools, these philosophers
will not contest Plato’s theses or his means of expression (the dialogic
form, the use of myth, the identity of the speaker, etc.), but rather will
build around them different ways of reading. Besides Plato’s dialogues,
the Neoplatonists included in the canonical corpus also standard
interpretations of Plato as they were accepted and taught by
Neoplatonic schools in Athens or Alexandria. So, in fact, Neoplatonic
thinking is working much more with what we would call a canonical
corpus than strictly with canonical Platonic texts. This gives them more
flexibility and, eventually, liberty, and allows them not to contradict
Plato directly, but to interpret Plato. Thus, the historian of philosophy
can easily detect contradictory or opposed theses based on the
interpretation of the same Platonic dialogue.
This panel aims to study how Plato is used to change canonical
interpretations in different philosophical contexts; how the
Neoplatonists were able to engage themselves in different
hermeneutical directions, as, for example, from allegorical or
theological speculations, to systematic readings of Plato. Our interest
is to bring to light, through different examples, how Plato’s theses are
changed according to the particular context of a philosopher, and to
contribute thus to the reconstruction of the genealogy of Neoplatonic

Aporia in Late Ancient Platonism
Damian Caluori ( and Christopher Noble

The notion of aporia plays a crucial role in ancient philosophy. While its
methodological importance for Aristotle and its fundamental role for
skepticism have been scrutinized in quite some detail, its functions in
later Platonism have been much less extensively explored. We propose
a panel dedicated to the notion of aporia in later ancient Platonism (by
which we mean both Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism). Some
issues that might be considered are: What are the sources of aporia
for later Platonist authors? What role do aporiai play in guiding or
structuring philosophical inquiry, and to what extent do authors aim to
offer definitive solutions to aporiai raised? Do Platonist philosophers
have a distinctive understanding of the uses of aporia? Papers on the
role or function of aporia (as well as illuminating case studies of
particular aporiai) in any Platonist philosopher of the imperial period or
late antiquity are welcome.

Neoplatonism and the Hypotheses of the Parmenides of Plato
Jean-Michel Charrue (

The hypotheses of the second part of the Parmenides give rise to the
creation of what is often called a metaphysics, even if this word is not
used in the texts, and to what we call “un système du monde” in our
Néoplatonisme (Préface, p. 3), à paraître, such as :
– if One is 1 God
2 Intellect
3 Soul
4 Forms joined with matter
5 matter
– if One is not 6 sensible beings
7 objects of knowledge
8 shadows, dreams
9 inferior beings
so summed up by Saffrey (in Proclus, Theol. Plat. I, LXXXV-VIII). That
is the complete expression we found in the School of Athens (Plutarch
of Athens, Syrianus, Proclus, and Damascius). But Plotinus already
developed the five first hypotheses; and this scheme went through all
The scholarship studied often the historical background in all its
aspects, but most of the time neglects the physical world and the why
of this interpretation. I have no doubt that some students or scholars
can renew or project a new light upon some points or authors of that
very important exegesis.

Cosmic and Moral Evil in Neoplatonism
Bernard Collette ( and Suzanne Stern-
Gillet (

The main purpose of the panel is to map interpretations of Plato’s
doctrine of evil from Plotinus to the late Neoplatonists. Plotinus’
concept of evil, as set up in various tractates, raises a number of
exegetical and philosophical problems. These problems have
bedevilled his immediate successors and challenged commentators of
the Enneads from the early middle-ages onwards. It is a measure of
the difficulties involved that no consensus of opinion appears so far to
have emerged.
Contributions on this general theme are welcome. While papers on the
following sub-topics would be of particular interest, discussions of
other authors and related issues are by no means excluded. While
papers in all the languages of the conference will be accepted, it is
suggested that presenters in languages other than English hold a
written text of their contribution at the disposal of those attending the
• Which Platonic texts on evil were deemed central by the
Neoplatonists and how did they interpret them?
• How coherent is Ennead I 8 [51] with Plotinus’s discussion of evil
in other tractates?
• How is evil related to the fall of the soul?
• Does Numenius’ identification of evil with matter depart from
Plotinus’ own view?
• What are the sources of Proclus’s account of evil?
• How did Christian Neoplatonists such as Dionysius the
Areopagite and John Scotus Eriugena deal with the problem of
relating providence and evil?

Soul and Souls in the Platonic Tradition
John Finamore (, Ilaria Ramelli
(, and Svetla Slaveva-Griffin

This panel will explore Platonic and other conceptions of the Psychic
Realm and the souls in it, human and otherwise. How do philosophers
describe the nature and function of the human soul? What is their
relation to other higher souls, such as those of gods, angels, daemons,
and heroes? How do human souls relate to their corporeal bodies?
Possible areas of focus include (but are not limited to) the inner
workings of the souls, the effects of the body on the soul, the role of
the higher forms of souls in the earthly life of human souls and in their
afterlife, and the effect of the various souls on theurgy and individual

Neoplatonic Metaphysics
Gary Gabor ( and D.M. Hutchinson

The Neoplatonic philosophers continued the investigation of
metaphysical problems initiated by earlier Greco-Roman philosophers.
Through reflection on, and engagement with, earlier philosophical
traditions, they offered new solutions to traditional metaphysical
problems as well as formulated and supplied answers to new problems
originating within their own metaphysical systems. Topics explored by
the Neoplatonists include, but are not limited to, categorical theory,
first-principles, natural kinds, the status of being qua being, powers,
creation, causation, and agency. Specific issues treated by Neoplatonic
thinkers include whether the fundamental categories of reality are
mind-independent or conventions of speech or thought; what these
basic categories are; whether intelligible entities can be described in
terms of natural kinds; what relation such natural kinds might have
with natural kinds of sensible entities; what the relation between
universals and particulars is; whether universal predication can be
underwritten by particular individuals; whether the number and nature
of first-principles can be known; whether and how such principles can
be usefully related from one domain (such as the natural world) to
another (like mathematics or the Forms); whether being is univocal,
equivocal, or something in between for the range of entities stretching
from the One to matter; whether the building blocks of reality are
objects or powers and how the natures of entities are related to
dispositional structures; whether the creation of the cosmos occurs
automatically or is the result of intention; whether human beings are
free or their actions are determined due to destiny; and whether
human agency is a species of natural causation or is a sui generis type
of ‘agent-causation’ that transcends the natural order?
This panel welcomes papers that (i) analyze Neoplatonic metaphysical
theses in the period beginning with Plotinus and ending with
Simplicius, (ii) examine the philosophical relation of Neoplatonic
metaphysical theses to previous schools such as the Platonists,
Aristotelians, and Stoics, and the historical contribution of
Neoplatonism to the history of reflection on metaphysical topics,
and/or (iii) draw on Neoplatonic resources for engaging with
contemporary metaphysical issues and topics.

Cambridge Platonists
Douglas Hedley (

The Cambridge Platonists had a major influence on modern thought,
between the first major reception of Descartes and European
Romanticism. They attempted to negotiate the claims, on the one
hand, of the inherited Hellenic–Christian synthesis of antiquity and, on
the other hand, the startling new mechanical vision of the universe
presented by Galilean-Cartesian science. In the period between
Descartes and Newton, they were fully engaged with the major
developments of contemporary philosophy and science. Trenchant
critics of leading seventeenth- century philosophers, such as
Descartes, Hobbes and Spinoza, they developed a distinctive
conception of nature as an antidote to the early modern mechanical
philosophy. Their contribution to their moral philosophy is a major
source for modern secular ethical theory and ideas of tolerance. Their
legacy to modern thought includes central concepts, such as
Monotheism, Materialism, Self-Consciousness. Among their fold we
find some of the first women writers of philosophy, including Anne
Conway, Mary Astell and Damaris Cudworth. Their influence in Europe
was sustained well into the late eighteenth-century. Through its takeup
by, among others, Lord Shaftesbury their moral philosophy was
mediated to the Scottish Enlightenment. They influenced the
development of the so-called ‘hylozoic’ atheism by Diderot, and of
German Naturphilosophie, which formed such a core element in
European Romanticism. They contributed most notably to the Greek-
Platonic revival in Germany of the 1760’s which affected such
luminaries as Herder and Goethe.

Plotinus: The First Philosopher of the Unconscious
John Hendrix (

Plotinus is sometimes referred to as “the first philosopher of the
unconscious.” What exactly was Plotinus’ unconscious? According to
Plotinus in the Enneads, there are “a great many valuable activities,
theoretical and practical, which we carry on both in our contemplative
and active life even when we are fully conscious, which do not make
us aware of them” (I.4.10). Plotinus asks, “Why then, when we have
such great possessions,” insights into the right and good, “do we not
consciously grasp them, but are mostly inactive in these ways, and
some of us are never active at all?” (V.1.12). It is the case that “not
everything which is in the soul is immediately perceptible.” It is only
when the activities of intellect are shared with perception, that
“conscious awareness takes place.” We cannot remember eternal mind
in us, because passive mind is perishable. Is the productive or divine
intelligence, the Intellectual, in our mind that of which we are not
conscious? Can productive intelligence be compared to unconscious
thought? The intellectual act in mind is only apprehended when it is
brought into the image-making power of mind through the logos
endiathetos. “The intellectual act is one thing” (IV.3.30), inaccessible
to conscious thought, but “the apprehension of it another,” through a
representation, a mirror reflection in the mind, as it were, of
intelligible form. While “we are always intellectually active,” we “do not
always apprehend our activity,” because we are distracted by our
discursive thought, sense perceptions, and pathos, affections and

The philosophical purpose of the Neoplatonic curriculum
Albert Joosse (

This panel concentrates on the philosophical purpose(s) behind the
organisation of the Platonic dialogues into a reading order in the
philosophical curriculum. (Middle- and) Neoplatonic philosophers
sometimes address this issue in its own right; in other contexts, their
comments on particular dialogues may give us insight into it, even if
they themselves do not make the link explicitly.
Papers may address (but are not limited to) the following, in relation
to their philosophical significance: the historical development of the
curriculum; the order in which the dialogues were read; the place any
particular dialogue has within this order; didactic strategies; relations
between the Platonic dialogues and non-Platonic texts included (at
some point) in the curriculum.

Hermias’ In Platonis Phaedrum Scholia
Christina-Panagiota Manolea ( and Sarah
Klitenic Wear (

In honor of Hermias Alexandrinus’ In Platonis Phaedrum Scholia,
recently edited by Carlo M. Lucarini and Claudio Moreschini (Teubner,
De Gruyter, 2012), we invite papers on all aspects of Hermias’
Commentary on the Phaedrus. This commentary on the Phaedrus is
the only extant work of Hermias, a late fifth century Neoplatonist from
Alexandria, who was the student of Syrianus the Platonist. The
commentary, moreover, is thought to be a rather faithful reproduction
of the teachings of Syrianus on the Phaedrus based on the lecture
notes of Hermias, and was, in fact, considered to be a collection of
scholia because of its derivative nature. As this work consists of
lecture notes, it illuminates the study of Syrianus, particularly
Syrianus’ teachings on Plato. Possible paper topics include: Hermias’
theory of the soul, theotaxonomy in the commentary, divine
providence, astral bodies, sense perception, and reception by Ficino or
Psellus. Other topics, are, of course encouraged.

Neoplatonism and Christianity in Byzantium: Dialogue,
Appropriation, Refutation
Sergei Mariev (

During the Early Byzantine period (4th-7th centuries AD) Platonism, on
the one hand, significantly contributed to the development of Christian
doctrines and, on the other hand, remained a rival world view that was
perceived by Christian thinkers as a serious threat to their own
intellectual identity. This problematic relationship was to become even
more complex during the following centuries. The Byzantines made
numerous attempts to harmonize Neoplatonic doctrines with
Christianity as well as to criticize, refute and even condemn them. The
panel aims to explore the complexity of the relationship between the
Neoplatonic heritage and Christian doctrines in Byzantium. We seek
contributions that examine various attempts to integrate (Ps.-
Dionysios, Bessarion) and to refute (John Philoponos, Nicholas of
Methone) Neoplatonic doctrines throughout the entire Byzantine period
(4th to 15th centuries). The panel also welcomes contributions that
investigate the relationship between Neoplatonism and Christianity
within such Byzantine authors as Michael Psellos and John Italos who
do not fit easily into a simplistic scheme of opposition between the two
rival world views but require new and more sophisticated
methodological approaches.

Plotinus and the Gnostics
Zeke Mazur (

Recent scholarship has increasingly focused attention on Plotinus’
dialogue with the Gnostics: an often tacit dialogue whose traces can be
found not only in his more or less explicitly anti–Gnostic tetralogy
(chronologically treatises 30 to 33), but also throughout the entirety of
his corpus. This panel therefore seeks papers on any aspect of the
relationship between Plotinus and the Gnostics, including questions of
‘influence’ or ‘dependence.’ All submissions are welcome (including
those that take a purely text–historical and / or philological approach),
but especially desirable would be studies that (1) respond to or at
least are informed by the recent work on this topic, and that (2) do not
rely uniquely on Plotinus’ account of Gnostic doctrine but also adduce
at least some additional Gnostic source material (first–hand Gnostic
texts, Patristic heresiologies, or other similar kinds of sources).

Mind in Nature: Process Approaches to Neoplatonism
Maria-Teresa Teixeira (

This panel welcomes papers on Neoplatonic themes relevant to Process
Philosophy. We are interested in a variety of topics including but not
limited to cosmology, holism, materialism and organism, causality,
time and space, levels of reality, unity and multiplicity.
Special emphasis will be laid on the relationship between body and
soul, the role of mathematics in the formulation of the laws of physics,
and the relevance of music to process views.
We also invite papers on the influence of Plotinus on Bergson,
Whitehead’s innovative re-interpretation of the Timaeus, the Platonic
myths and their relevance to process philosophy, the relevance of the
apophatic way to contemporary theories such as Jankélévitch’s
philosophy. Essays bridging creation and creativity are also most
welcome. Along the same lines we encourage innovative readings of
texts such as Proclus’ commentary on the Timaeus, Eriugena’s
Periphyseon and, of course, Plotinus’ Enneads.

Schelling and Neoplatonism
Tyler Tritten (

The connections between Hegel and Neoplatonism, particularly
Plotinus, are already well-established. This panel’s aim is to investigate
some of the similarities or, perhaps more importantly, differences
between Hegel’s first critic, F.W.J. Schelling, and his engagement with
the philosophies of Late Antiquity. Possible topics relevant for the
intersection between Schelling and Neoplatonism include but may not
be limited to: cosmology and readings of the Timaeus; allegorical vs.
tautegorical interpretation; the role of religious praxis for philosophical
theory (e.g. Iamblichus, the role of theurgy and philosophical religion);
the debate concerning the eternity of the world (e.g. Philoponus and
Proclus); the nature of time/becoming; the status of matter and the
problem of evil (e.g. Plotinus and Proclus); the ontological status of
reason, logic and nous (e.g. Porphyry); Schelling’s inheritance of
Neoplatonism through the Neoplatonism of the Renaissance period
(e.g. Bruno) or through the Neoplatonism of the Rheinland mystics
and theosophism (e.g. Eckhart, Böhme etc.); the question of whether
Schelling is Procline, Plotinian, Iamblichean, Damascian, Dionysian
etc.; and, finally, various themes surrounding the Platonic problems of
transcendence and immanence (e.g. Damascius). It is worthy of note
that Schelling-scholarship has enjoyed a resurgence in the last decade,
often due to his prescient criticisms of onto-theology while
Neoplatonism is often caricatured as the prime exemplar of the
beleaguered notion of onto-theology. If Schelling was influenced in
seminal ways by Neoplatonism and he somehow escapes that
condemning epithet, then perhaps Neoplatonism is not as neatly
“onto-theological” as it is customarily thought to be. Consequently, we
would also welcome abstracts dealing with the issue of onto-theology
in Schelling and Neoplatonism.

Platonism and German Idealism (Leibniz, Kant, Fichte,
Schelling, Hegel)

Robert M. Wallace (
Platonism and German Idealism both seek to articulate a coherent
alternative to scientistic materialism and empiricism. In this effort,
Leibniz, Schelling, and Hegel all have manifest debts to Plato, as well
as to those other major Platonists, Aristotle and Plotinus. Kant and
Fichte have important, if less manifest, debts of the same kind. As we
seek to identify what if anything is permanently true in Platonism and
likewise in the German Idealists, it can be very useful to compare the
two schools of thought. If we can identify more precisely what’s
defensible in one, we will probably get clearer about what’s defensible
in the other as well. So this panel invites comparisons between Plato,
Aristotle, or Plotinus, on the one hand, and one or more of the German
Idealists, on the other. And it invites contributions that address (more
or less explicitly) not just questions of historical influence, but also
questions of what is defensible and permanently valuable in these

If you wish to submit an abstract that does not fit neatly into any of the panels listed in the attached document, please send that abstract to the conference organizers:

António Pedro Mesquita (

Filipa Afonso (

John Finamore, University of Iowa (

Oscar Bauchwitz (

These abstracts are also due by February 24.

    Please note that anyone giving a paper at the conference must be a member of the ISNS. You may sign up and pay dues on the web site of the Philosophy Documentation Center:

Dues are $60.00 per year ($20.00 for students and retirees).

The conference web site is now up and running, although it is still under construction:  We hope to have information about conference fees and accommodations up in the coming weeks.

    If you have any questions about the program or the conference generally, please email Filipa Afonso at  Questions about ISNS policies, should be addressed to me at