Systematic Theology: Iamblichus' Reception of Plotinian Psychology
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The following inquiry seeks to demonstrate that Iamblichus’ account of theurgy, rather than an example of a theological critique emerging from outside of the Platonic school, represents a development of the tradition as mediated through Plotinus. In order to support such a reading, it will demonstrate that a prevalent scholarly treatment that opposes the two thinkers in terms of the tension between faith and reason or, more recently, between knowing and becoming, fails to account for the problem of perspective that emerges in an examination of the divided life of the soul. The fact that the soul manifests a double life requires both thinkers to make contradictory claims. If concrete, doctrinal positions are dogmatically affirmed in interpreting their thought, then the truth of the whole is obscured and unresolvable tensions remain in their individual systems and in relation to each other. Thus, the following paper will argue that Plotinus’ account is in general concord with Iamblichus’ and shares fundamental doctrines concerning the soul, the cosmos, salvation and theurgy. Furthermore, it will also show that Iamblichus’ critique of Plotinus is in the spirit of a Platonic dialogue and is meant to serve a pedagogical function and give form to a more subtle critique of an impulse in the Platonic tradition that blends the two lives of the soul. Through this critique, Iamblichus seeks to refine Plotinus’ thought and the tradition more generally, by giving form to a scientific theology in which theoretical oppositions between theology and philosophy are reconciled, thereby forming the intellectual foundation for a full account of theurgy.