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In: Hellenistic Astronomy


This chapter aims to provide a balanced judgment of Plotinus’ views and attitudes towards women and the female. As this is not a topic that Plotinus himself addresses explicitly, the task requires an assessment of the various pieces of evidence that we have. This certainly includes Porphyry’s reports about Plotinus’ life and teaching in the VP, and especially details surrounding Gemina and her daughter, in whose house Plotinus lived and taught (VP 9). These reports are valuable, but they are also filtered through Porphyry’s own interests and values. Thus, the Enneads themselves must form the main focus of this chapter, and here there are three key areas of investigation. First, it is well-known that Plato expressed both very problematic and very progressive views on women, and it is imperative to review to what extent Plotinus takes over these views. Given the fundamental importance of Plato’s dialogues to Plotinus’ own thought, every silence and omission bears some significance. Second, Plotinus’ selective interpretation and reinterpretation of female roles in mythology deserves assessment. Finally, one finds a number of brief remarks on women, often made in passing, and these, too, shall be collected and evaluated.

In: Women and the Female in Neoplatonism
In: Phronesis

Embryology was a subject that inspired great cross-disciplinary discussion in antiquity, and Plato’s Timaeus made an important contribution to this discussion, though Plato’s precise views have remained a matter of controversy, especially regarding three key questions pertaining to the generation and nature of the seed: whether there is a female seed; what the nature of seed is; and whether the seed contains a preformed human being. In this paper I argue that Plato’s positions on these three issues can be adequately determined, even if some other aspects of his theory cannot. In particular, it is argued that (i) Plato subscribes to the encephalo-myelogenic theory of seed, though he places particular emphasis on the soul being the true seed; (ii) Plato is a two-seed theorist, yet the female seed appears to make no contribution to reproduction; and (iii) Plato cannot be an advocate of preformationism.

In: Early Science and Medicine
In: History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis
THE CONTRIBUTORS / DIE AUTOREN Nicholas R. Baima Nathan Bauer Thomas C. Brickhouse Travis Butler Stefan Büttner Moritz Cordes Tsarina Doyle Terence Irwin Péter Lautner Nathan Rothschild Petter Sandstad Nicholas D. Smith Katja Maria Vogt Michael Wreen


Porphyry's account of the nature of seeds can shed light on some less appreciated details of Neoplatonic psychology, in particular on the interaction between individual souls. The process of producing the seed and the conception of the seed offer a physical instantiation of procession and reversion, activities that are central to Neoplatonic metaphysics. In an act analogous to procession, the seed is produced by the father's nature, and as such it is ontologically inferior to the father's nature. Thus, the seed does not strictly speaking contain a full-fledged vegetative soul. Rather, it acquires its vegetative soul only while it is being actualized by an actual vegetative soul. This actualization takes place primarily at conception, where the seed as it were reverts back and becomes obedient to the mother's nature, but continues through the period of gestation. In this way, Porphyry can account both for maternal resemblance and for ideoplasty. He uses the Stoic language of complete blending to describe the mother's relation to the seed and embryo, and this reveals that he thinks of individuals as having their own unique individual natures (as opposed to sharing in a single universal nature). In the course of developing this theory, Porphyry makes significant revisions to his philosophical predecessors' views in both embryology and botany. He revises Aristotle's verdict on the relative importance of the female in generation as well as Theophrastus' explanation of the biological mechanics of grafting. Although Plotinus nowhere addresses embryology in the same detail as Porphyry does, we can conclude from his remarks on seeds and plants that his own views were similar to those of his student.

In: Phronesis
Volume Editors: Jana Schultz and James Wilberding
Sosipatra, Hypatia, Macrina: some of the most famous female philosophers of antiquity were connected to Neoplatonism. But what does it mean to be a woman philosopher in late antiquity? How is the inclusive nature of the Neoplatonic schools connected to their ethical, political, and metaphysical ideas? What role does the religious dimension of late Neoplatonism and the role of women as priestesses play in understanding Neoplatonic women philosophers?
This book offers thirteen essays that examine women and the female in Neoplatonism from a variety of perspectives, paying particular attention to the interactions between the metaphysics, psychology, and ethics.
In: Women and the Female in Neoplatonism