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31. What was Commentary in Late Antiquity? The Example of the Neoplatonic Commentators

PHILIPPE HOFFMANN


Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631210610.2006.00036.x


Extract

Neoplatonic thought at the end of antiquity – like that of most of the schools of the Hellenistic and Roman period – has an essentially exegetical and scholastic dimension. Beginning with the classical and Hellenistic period, philosophy in Greece is inseparable from the existence of schools (private or public), often organized as places of communal life ( sunousia ), in which the explication of the texts of the school's founders came to be one of the main activities. The practice of exegesis of written texts supplanted the ancient practice of dialogue. It was sustained through its application to canonical texts, and was put to everyday use in the framework of courses in the explication of texts. The social reality of the school as an institution, with its hierarchy, its diadochos (i.e., the successor to the school's founder), its structure as a conventicle in which communal life was practiced, its library, its regulation of time, and its programs organized around the reading of canonical texts, constitutes a concrete context into which we should reinsert the practice of exegesis, which is the heart of philosophical pedagogy and the matrix of doctrinal and dogmatic works. From the third to the sixth century ce , from Plotinus, who taught in Rome, to the professors of the school of Alexandria (Ammonius, Olympiodorus, David, Elias) and to those of the school of Athens (Plutarch ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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