Great ideas and their history 2
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleFTR-FIME010-B
Credits (ECTS)10
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies; Opleiding Filosofie;
dr. A.H. Lammer
Other course modules lecturer
dr. A.H. Lammer
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
dr. A.H. Lammer
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2023
SEM2  (29/01/2024 to 01/09/2024)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesYes
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
At the end of this course you will be able to:
  • understand the importance of Neoplatonism within the history of philosophy;
  • read complex and difficult texts and comprehend them in the metaphysical context of Platonism;
  • comprehend philosophical issues about unity and multiplicity; and
  • appreciate late ancient cosmology as a attempt to grasp reality.
The One: From Plato to Platonism
Neoplatonism was one of the most influential and most powerful philosophical traditions in the history of philosophy. Unfortunately, its importance is often not fully appreciated and, what is worse, is occasionally even being ridiculed and made fun of. In this course, we will find out that Neoplatonism is philosophy rather than nonsense, reasoning rather than mysticism, and interesting rather than strange.

Thematically, this course will focus on “The One” – the ultimate metaphysical principle in Neoplatonism, which is considered to be even beyond being and which Platonists conceptualised by studying Plato’s dialogues alongside his other teachings and by pondering about unity and goodness. The transcendent One was typically associated with two other metaphysical principles, in particular with Intellect and Soul. We will read about their relation to each other and about their position and purpose within the Neoplatonic cosmos.

The course will probably be divided into four parts. In the first, we will make us familiar with the ancient background by reading Plato and Aristotle. Via the so-called “harmony of Plato and Aristotle,” we will approach, in our second part, the philosopher Plotinus (d. 270), who is often credited as the “father of Neoplatonism.” Active during the third century AD, Plotinus lived at a time of vibrant philosophical discussions, to which he contributed through a set of treatises called collectively the Enneads. We will read three of his best known (and difficult) treatises. In the third part we will read a number of treatises of some of Plotinus’ followers, who refined and elaborated upon his system, ultimately reaching Proclus (d. 485), a true philosophical genius. Finally, in our short fourth part, we will have a look at the aftermath of Neoplatonism and its fruitful adaptation in the Christian, Islamic, and Jewish traditions.
Test information
The course grade consists in the grade of the final paper. Students are expected to complete mandatory coursework assignments during the semester, in order to be eligible to submitting the final paper.
Required materials
A selection of texts in translation will be made available in digital form.

Instructional modes
Attendance MandatoryYes

Test weight1
Test typePaper
OpportunitiesBlock SEM2, Block SEM2