Date of Award

Spring 1935

Document Type



Languages & Literature


There is a fundamental principle in philosophy to the effect that the world of thought revolves in cycles, a principle which all schools of thought allow. So deep-rooted in the very entrails of the history of the world are the repercussions of this principle that it has been laid down as a fixed law in philosophy that every worthwhile system of thought passes through three stages in its development and decline. There exists a succession of philosophical cycles in the history of thought: first there is a gradual progress towards an ideal; next, that ideal becomes a system of philosophy; then there is a period of decay and of retrogression. It is especially to he noted that new problems arise in each one of these three cycles. It is likewise an accepted fundamental principle in psychology that human nature is so constituted that men naturally tend to imitate one another. Children of all races and times harbor an affection for their parents, adolescents an admiration for their teachers, and men a reverence for those whom they look upon as their superiors. But mere subjective feelings of affection or of admiration or of reverence do not suffice of themselves; they tend to diffuse themselves outwardly: whether consciously for some specific reason or unconsciously through constant association, these emotions result in direct, outright imitation.

Such, therefore, are the basic principles underlying the study which we are to make. There were, so to speak, a series of graduated steps leading up to the pinnacle of the philosophy of which we are to treat; on each upward step stood a philosopher eloquently expounding the thoughts and theories which he espoused; at the head of the steps and pacing the rostrum stood Plato himself— Plato the Poet, Plato the Master Philosopher, Plato the Mystic— that Plato whose thoughts reverberated down through the centuries and swayed the history of the world; on the steps leading down from the rostrum stood the neo-Platonists , men who imitated their master but who were no mean thinkers themselves. Inasmuch as we are to deal intimately with neo-Platonism, perhaps it would not be amiss if we were to pause to consider a review of the history, the principal proponents, and the main tenets of that philosophy of life. It is obvious that such a review must, in the nature of circumstances, be a superficial and a cursory one in all respects.