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From persona to systema: Heumann’s Dethronement of Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus and the Biographical Model for Writing the History of Philosophy

  • Leo Catana
Chapter
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas Archives internationales d'histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 227)

Abstract

This chapter outlines the historical context of the eighteenth-century German reinterpretation of ancient Platonism. It does so by pointing out the intersection of four disciplines in that century, namely history, philology, theology and history of philosophy. One key figure in that context was Christoph August Heumann (1681–1764), a German Lutheran theologian, philologist and philosopher. Heumann rejected the biographical tradition as a legitimate medium for writing the history of philosophy, since he thought that this tradition had failed to root out fables and to assess in a philosophical manner the philosophical systems elaborated by the past philosopher(s) it portrayed. He used Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus to exemplify these characteristics, which he claimed were inherent in the biographical tradition. Moreover, this chapter comprises an edition of Heumann’s 1715 review of Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus; Heumann’s review, written in German, is accompanied by an English translation.

Keywords

Biographical tradition methodology for the history of philosophy Plotinus Porphyry Luther Thomasius Heumann Brucker Pietism 

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Leo Catana
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Philosophy, Faculty of HumanitiesUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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