George Gemistos Plethon on God: Heterodoxy in Defense of Orthodoxy

George Gemistos Plethon on God: Heterodoxy in Defense of Orthodoxy

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George Gemistos Plethon on God: Heterodoxy in Defense of Orthodoxy

DeBolt, Darien C. (University of Oklahoma)

Paper delivered at the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy, Boston, Massachusetts (1998)


In this paper I examine George Gemistos Plethon’s defense in hisDe Differentiis of Plato’s conception of God as superior to that of Aristotle’s. Plethon asserts that the Platonic conception of God is more consistent with Orthodox Christian theology than the Aristotelian conception. This claim is all the more interesting in light of the fact that Plethon is, as it turns out, a pagan. I argue that Plethon takes the position he does because his interpretation of the Platonic God better fits his own neo-pagan theological conceptions. Part of the evidence for this is supplied by the first English translation of Plethon’sSummary of the Doctrines of Zoroaster and Plato.

George Gemistos, who called himself Plethon, (1355?-1452) lived during the last years of the Byzantine empire. Constantinople fell to the Turks less than one year after his death. Yet he had a significant, direct influence on the study of Plato in the Latin West. This resulted from his membership in the Byzantine delegation to the Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1438-39. The purpose of this council was to effect the union of the two churches and thus, hopefully, to preserve the Byzantine Empire with the help of the West.

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