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Iamblichus ca. One of the three major representatives of early Neoplatonism the third one being Plotinus himself , he exerted considerable influence among later philosophers belonging to the same tradition, such as Proclus, Damascius, and Simplicius.
His work as a Pagan theologian and exegete earned him high praise and made a decisive contribution to the transformation of Plotinian metaphysics into the full-fledged system of the fifth-century school of Athens, at that time the major school of philosophy, along with the one in Alexandria.
His birthplace is traditionally taken to be Chalcis ad Belum modern Qinnasrin , although support has recently been voiced in favor of a different Chalcis, Chalcis sub Libanum Aliquot and n. What is uncontroversial is that Iamblichus hailed from a very influential Syrian family, the Sampsigeramids of Emesa Damascius, Philosophical History , Athanassiadi Since this son is said by Porphyry to have married a Roman aristocrat, it is very likely that Iamblichus studied in Rome under Porphyry, who would have carried on the philosophical circle Plotinus had founded in After a break with Porphyry that seems impossible to date with precision, Iamblichus settled in Syria.
There, welcomed by a wealthy notable, Sopater, he founded a flourishing school: we know about a dozen of his students see below, Section 2. Pseudo-Julian, Ep. Four of these texts pertain to a summa On Pythagoreanism conflicting testimonies exist about its title: cf.
For a general characterization of On Pythagoreanism and its context, see Huffman [ sect. The work is a defense of Pagan religious practice sacrifice, prayer, divination etc. The whole debate is framed with a fictional Egyptian scenario: Porphyry had raised his objections in an epistle addressed to Anebo, an Egyptian priest, while Iamblichus wrote his reply under the assumed guise of the Egyptian prophet Abamon.
While it had limited direct transmission the only ancient testimonium being Proclus, In Timaeum I, Of these, the extensive excerpts given by Stobaeus of a work On the Soul as well as a dozen Letters , which have been the object of multiple independent editions, stand out as the most coherent, if not necessarily the most original.
By far the most influential part of his philosophical output, his Commentaries on key works by Plato and Aristotle are all lost, although in almost two cases his commentary on the Categories , transmitted by Simplicius; that on the Timaeus , transmitted by Proclus , quotations are so numerous that one can safely establish the main features of the exegesis given. A richly annotated edition of the Platonic fragments was given by D, while DL collected all fragments known to Dalsgaard Larsen as an appendix to his monograph, although his work can barely be described as an edition.
Another collection focusing on Aristotelian exegesis was recently produced by Romano [R]. Iamblichus is likely, as was mentioned above Section 1. Iamblichus is not the second founder of the Neoplatonic school for the simple reason that there is no unitary Neoplatonic school in Late Antiquity. What scholars call Greek Neoplatonism is actually a multifaceted philosophical movement that covers some three centuries and includes several schools scattered throughout the Roman Empire: these schools certainly shared doctrines and methods, but their relations were sometimes close, sometimes much more tenuous.
A typical Late Antique intellectual in this respect, Iamblichus considers the written work of authoritative figures to be sacred and claims to be a mere interpreter of their true, deeper meaning nous. This amounts to considering literary works living organisms, in accordance with what Plato writes in Phaedrus C see Coulter The crowning dialogue in the first cycle is the Philebus , because its skopos is the all-transcendent Good. References to other schools are scarce and mostly critical.
The Chaldean Oracles at least are known to have been commented upon by Iamblichus, in a huge commentary comprising at least 28 books Damascius, De Principiis II, 1. Iamblichus brought about a shift towards religion and theology in Neoplatonism which proved crucial for the later development of this movement and for its Christian appropriation. It would therefore be misleading to draw a strict opposition between theurgy and rational methods.
This emerges in two related areas. This approach will be carried further in Athenian Neoplatonism, especially by Proclus. Iamblichus goes one step further in that he connects the metaphysical reading of this dialogue with the gods of the Greek pantheon. In addition to this, Iamblichus provides a harmonising account of the different theological traditions, again paving the way for the later developments in Athenian Neoplatonism see below, Section 3.
In his Reply to Porphyry Iamblichus establishes a triad of foundational traditions: the Egyptian, the Chaldaic and the Greek, represented by the philosophical wisdom of Pythagoras and Plato.
The extant evidence suggests that Plotinus and Porphyry accorded limited significance to the Oracles which, instead, become a crucial source for Iamblichus: he wrote an extensive commentary on this work and the revealed Platonizing theology of the Oracles is an integral part of his thought.
The Egyptian tradition is represented by the so-called Hermetic books and, according to Iamblichus, this is the genuine source of Greek philosophy Reply to Porphyry I, 2 [SS 4. A picture of Late Antique philosophy jumping from Iamblichus to Proclus would however be misleading.
In addition, these philosophers are sometimes regarded as forming an ideologically engaged Pagan group threatened by Christian persecution after Constantine. Such views are somewhat oversimplistic. As already noted, Eunapius is a tendentious source, with his own hagiographical agenda and with little taste for philosophical technicalities.
This and other passages suggest that Pagan philosophical teaching definitely did not go underground under and after Constantine the elite of the Roman Empire was still largely Pagan at that time. Among these, Theodorus is likely to coincide with Theodorus of Asine who, while being a student of Iamblichus, is said to have held different philosophical views and reverted to an intellectualist Platonism of the Plotinian sort. So Eusebius of Myndus was a member of that school, but apparently held an attitude closer to that of Plotinus and he was inclined to reject theurgical and magical practices.
Maximus and Priscus were charismatic figures who are mainly known as masters and counsellors of the Emperor Julian Julian studied philosophy at Pergamon around Building on hierarchical hints already present in the Enneads as well as the work of his own teacher Porphyry, Iamblichus set about producing a far more complex picture of reality, while keeping the same fundamental patterns in place.
In this respect, Iamblichus seems to have wished to distinguish between two almost contradictory aspects of the first principle: its transcendence with respect to everything else negative theology , i.
It is likely that the same interpretation was already to be found in Iamblichus, given that both Pythagoras and the Chaldeans rank high in his list of authorities.
There is also another hint in support of this interpretation. From an historical point of view, this gradual diffusion of unity also represents a major contribution to the representation of reality as a continuum, thereby somewhat bridging the rift that, following Plotinus, had emerged between the One and the Intellect.
Before Iamblichus, noeron —not a very common word before the second century A. From Iamblichus onwards, it becomes a technical term which exclusively designates the order of gods located right below the Intelligible, and endowed with demiurgic functions. The word is found with such a meaning in fourth-century authors in the tradition of Iamblichus, such as the emperor Julian and Salustius. As opposed to, e. Iamblichus instead falls back on more traditional positions and expressly subordinates the Demiurge to the Intelligible Model.
From this point onwards, until the closing of the Neoplatonic schools, identifying the Demiurge with the First Principle is out of the question. This allows him to superpose the divine names found in theology Orpheus, the Chaldeans, and the dialogues of Plato dealing with the intelligible upon a conceptual armature: for instance, the Platonic Demiurge is to be identified with the Zeus of the Hellenic tradition. While Zeus creates the world insofar as it is governed by rational laws and populated with beings pertaining to species and genera themselves of intelligible nature , other demiurgic entities are tasked with informing matter and bodies which undergo a process of generation and corruption according to such laws.
In anticipation of this later use, they are meant to bridge the gap between the Demiurge and the sublunar realm, although their exact role remains unclear the aforementioned passage speaks of the help they give to souls in their ascent.
Such lower entities seem to be produced according to a geometric progression cf. In Timaeum [D Fr. This ambiguity explains why, depending on the context, it can be considered either a positive entity, insofar as it is part of a reality governed by Providence, or a deceitful, almost evil force, a view strongly influenced by the Chaldean Oracles see, e. Matter also displays both these traits—integration into the world order and a connection with corporeality and evil. In such passages, Iamblichus inherits the strongly negative views on matter developed by Middle Platonists such as Numenius and further developed by Plotinus.
However, a testimony from John Lydus De Mensibus Thus the possibility of a monistic interpretation remains open: this evidence is studied by Taormina Accordingly, several testimonies e. In particular, he stands out as an important theologian owing to the shift he brought about with respect to Plotinianism. Perhaps the most conspicuous trait of Iamblichean metaphysics is its highly vertical conception of causality.
For Iamblichus, an effect does not enjoy any ontological independence with respect to its cause: anything it adds amounts to failure and nothingness. This idea predates Iamblichus, but he was the first Pagan philosopher to apply it with absolute consistency. Most of his system follows from this one axiom, particularly his doctrine of the soul see Section 6.
This process of adaptation accounts for most of the diversity in the phenomenal world. The last words are the most important: superior beings keep their prerogatives in spite of the existence of a universal homology, which means for example that causes are present to their effects as causes , i.
In this way, Iamblichus manages to preserve at the same time the benefits of divine immanence the world is not abandoned by the gods and the requirement of divine transcendence, which he feels the need to constantly affirm, lest he be accused of debasing divinity.
It also relies on new structures such as divine orders diakosmoi , taxeis , a notion foreign to Plotinus. Their proliferation does not bother Iamblichus in the least, since centrifugal tendencies are curbed by constantly reasserting the fundamental unity of reality.
This is provided for through the return of the same processes in a more or less absolute form for instance, what exists in a unified manner in the universal Paradigm as a whole appears again in individual paradigms, yet only partially: see In Timaeum [D Fr. Recurring metaphysical laws serve the same purpose, as do schemes such as the regrouping of divine entities in accordance with meaningful numbers, e. Continuity is thereby introduced in the picture, although the latter remains resolutely holistic.
The whole stands in relation to its parts as a cause to its effect: in this sense, it may be said that Iamblichus created and almost deified the Neoplatonic system as a unified and coherent account of reality, avoiding any recourse to dualism. As we have seen, Iamblichus posited at the top of his system, below the One but above the Intelligible—and thus at a supra-essential level—the dual principles of Limit peras and the Unlimited or Infinite: apeiron.
These principles belong to the Pythagorean tradition see, e. The importance of this Pythagoreanizing slant can hardly be overstated. Since the power of the One, from which all quantity is generated, is extended unchanged … and gives definition to each thing as it proceeds from itself, in that it pervades the whole in an entirely undivided manner, it brings the continuous into being, by making its progression single and uninterrupted …: but in that it comes to a halt in its progression at each of the forms and defines each … it brings about the discrete trans.
Rather, while it is true that higher principles are more characterized by Limit and lower ones by the Unlimited, each and every thing reflects, to some extent, both of these principles. Limit and the Unlimited are also principles active among mathematical entities On General Mathematical Science , chap.
Nicomachus, Intr. I, 2, 4—5 , all of which concur to form a dynamic picture of reality. The four mathematical sciences—arithmetic, which takes precedence over the others; geometry, music and astronomy—each study a corresponding kind of being, and were the object of On Pythagoreanism vol. The study of mathematics allows the soul to disengage itself from the material world, thus providing a starting point towards higher being. More interestingly, mathematics is assigned symbolic significance in a variety of fields: vol.
Mathematics is therefore versatile and multivalent in its essence see, e. His views on the quadrivium , drawing upon Nicomachus, were also adopted by Martianus Capella and Boethius, and through them became an integral part of education in the Middle Ages.
If we intend to practice mathematics in a Pythagorean manner, it is necessary to pursue with zeal its divinely inspired, elevating, purifying and perfective way. On General Mathematical Science , chap. Book II of On Pythagoreanism , the Protrepticus , while using a variety of sources, also taps into the Pythagorean repertoire with wisdom texts such as the Golden Verses.
Iamblichus made the most conspicuous use of these texts in his lost Commentary on the Categories, where ps. This is crucial, since the Pythagorean Life in particular is one of our major sources on this subject for details, see the studies collected in Huffman ; von Albrecht et al.
In addition, Porphyry wrote an introduction to logic, the Isagoge , which is closely connected to the Categories. Simplicius informs us that Iamblichus followed the great and now lost commentary written by Porphyry, while adding two distinctive features.
Iamblichus De Anima: Text, Translation, and Commentary
Iamblichus , John F. Finamore , John M. Iamblichus — , successor to Plotinus and Porphyry, brought a new religiosity to Neoplatonism. His theory of the soul is at the heart of his philosophical system. For Iamblichus, the human soul is so far inferior to the divine that its salvation depends not on philosophy alone as it did for Plotinus but on the aid of the gods and other divinities.
Login via Institution. Authors: John Finamore and John Dillon. Iamblichus , successor to Plotinus and Porphyry, brought a new religiosity to Neoplatonism. His theory of the soul is at the heart of his philosophical system. For Iamblichus, the human soul is so far inferior to the divine that its salvation depends not on philosophy alone as it did for Plotinus but on the aid of the gods and other divinities.