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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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The Platonic philosophy is denominated from Plato, who was born about B.C. 426. He founded the old academy on the opinions of Heraclitus, Pythagoras, and Socrates; and by adding the information he had acquired to their discoveries, he established a sect of philosophers, who were esteemed more perfect than any who had before appeared in the world. The outlines of Plato's philosophical system were as follows:—that there is one God, eternal, immutable, and immaterial; perfect in wisdom and goodness, omniscient, and omnipresent: that this all-perfect Being formed the universe out of a mass of eternally preexisting matter, to which he gave form and arrangement: that there is in matter a necessary, but blind and refractory force, which resists the will of the supreme Artificer, so that he cannot perfectly execute his designs; and this is the cause of the mixture of good and evil which is found in the material world: that the soul of man was derived by emanation from God; but that this emanation was not immediate, but through the intervention of the soul of the world, which was itself debased by some material admixture; that the relation which the human soul, in its original constitution, bears to matter, is the source of moral evil; that when God formed the universe, he separated from the soul of the world inferior souls, equal in number to the stars, and assigned to each its proper celestial abode: that these souls were sent down to earth to be imprisoned in mortal bodies; hence arose the depravity and misery to which human nature is liable: that the soul is immortal; and by disengaging itself from all animal passions, and rising above sensible objects to the contemplation of the world of intelligence, it may be prepared to return to its original habitation: that matter never suffers annihilation, but that the world will remain for ever; and that by the action of its animating principle it accomplishes certain periods, within which everything returns to its ancient place and state. This periodical revolution of nature is called the Platonic, or great year.

The Platonic system makes the perfection of morality to consist in living in conformity to the will of God, the only standard of truth, and teaches that our highest good consists in the contemplation and knowledge of the supreme Being. In this divine Being, Plato admitted a sort of trinity of three hypostases. The first he considered as self-existent, calling him, by way of eminence, το δ ν , the Being, or το εν , the One. The only attribute which he acknowledged in this person was goodness; and therefore he frequently styles him, το αγαθοι , the good. The second he considered as, νους , the mind, or, λογος , the wisdom or reason of the former, and the δημιουργος , maker of the world. The third he always speaks of as, ψυχη , the soul of the world. He taught that the second is a necessary emanation from the first, and the third from the second, or perhaps from both; comparing these emanations to those of light and heat from the sun. From the above use of Logos for the second person of the Platonic trinity, it has been thought that St. John borrowed the term from Plato; but it is not likely that this Apostle was conversant with his writings, and therefore both Le Clerc and Dr. Campbell think it more probable that he took it from the Old Testament. The end of all knowledge, or philosophy, according to Plato, was to make us resemble the Deity as much as is compatible with human nature. This likeness consists in the possession and practice of all the moral virtues. After the death of Plato, many of his disciples deviated from his doctrines. His school was then divided into the old, the middle, and the new academy. The old academy strictly adhered to his tenets. The middle academy partially receded from his system, without entirely deserting it. The new academy almost entirely relinquished the original doctrines of Plato, and verged toward the skeptical philosophy. An infusion of Platonism, though in a perverted form, is seen in the philosophy most prevalent in the times of the Apostles. It was Judaized by the contemplative Hellenists, and, through them, their native Judaism was Platonized. The eclectic philosophy added other ingredients to the compound, from the oriental systems. All however issued in pride, and the domination of bewildering and monstrous imaginations.

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Platonists'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary.​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​p/platonists.html. 1831-2.