The present article is a new proposal to explain the origin of Plutarch’s conception of a separable intellect in human beings. Plutarch, who shows various signs of knowing a certain amount of Zoroastrianism, may have derived from his sources some notion of the Zoroastrian concept of the fravashi, which is the pre-existing external higher soul or essence of a person (according to some sources, also of gods and angels), designated by Ahura Mazdā to preside over humans as a sort of guardian daemon. There are certain features of the fravashi that are not reflected in Plutarch’s separable intellect, but I suggest that we may allow for a certain degree of creative adaptation on his part.
This paper concerns three chief aspects of Xenocrates’ exegetical activity as head of the Platonic Academy, his interpretation of certain key passages of Plato, his appropriation of Pythagoras and the Pythagorean tradition, and his exegesis of the poets, notably Homer, Hesiod and the Orphic poems, thus setting the stage for later developments in Platonism.
An issue which plainly exercised the thoughts of many intellectuals in the late antique world was that of man's relation to the gods, and specifically the problems of the mode of interaction between the human and divine planes of existence. Once one accepted, as anyone with any philosophical training did, that God, or the gods, were not subject to passions, and that, as not only Stoics but also Platonists, at least after the time of Plotinus, believed, the world-order was (either entirely or very largely) determined as a product of God's providence, it became a serious problem as to how precisely one could influence the gods, or the course of events, by one's prayers or sacrifices. And yet efforts to do this, on both the popular and the official level, continued unabated. What was the proper attitude for a Platonist philosopher to take up? This is very much the subject of the well-known controversy between Plotinus' pupil Porphyry and his own pupil Iamblichus which manifests itself in the exchange of public letters known as The Letter to Anebo and The Reply of the Master Abammon to the Letter of Porphyry to Anebo (popularly known, since Marsilio Ficino conferred this title upon it, as De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum). The present article involves a close and sympathetic study of Iamblichus' position in defence of theurgy, reflecting on the validity of the distinction between religion and magic.