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Irish Platonisms Conference

Conference poster

28/29/30th April 2022

The purpose of this conference is to survey the various forms that Platonism has taken in Ireland’s history (from the seventh century to the present) in a broad sense which includes the development of Platonic ideas implicit in texts not necessarily identified as Platonic (such as patristic theological texts), the influence of Irish Platonisms elsewhere, and the work of Irish Platonists outside of Ireland.

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Registration for the conference is free, or you can also attend the conference dinner for an extra charge.


Julieta Abella (Buenos Aires)
Elizabeth Boyle (Maynooth)
John Carey (UCC)
Caleb de Jong (Aarhus)
William Desmond (Maynooth)
John Dillon (TCD)
Douglas Hedley (Cambridge)
Christian Hengstermann (Wuppertal)
Agnieszka M. Kijewska (KUL)
Victoria Krivoshchekova (Maynooth)
Mícheál Mac Craith (NUI Galway)
Dermot Moran (Boston)
Chris Morash (TCD)
Síle Ní Mhurchú (UCC)
Carl O’Brien (Heidelberg)
Rocío G. Sumillera (Granada)
Isabelle Torrance (Aarhus)
Daniel James Watson (Aarhus)

Remote access

While we hope to see as many of you as possible in person, we realise that complications or concerns regarding travel and health may make this impossible. For those who are unable to attend, remote participation is option. Those wishing to do so, please email us at chdejong@cc.au.dk, so that we can send you the necessary Zoom link.


Thursday 28th

Opening Remarks

13.45-14.00 – Ruairí Ó hUiginn (DIAS) / Isabelle Torrance (Aarhus) / Daniel Watson (Aarhus)

Panel 1

14.00-14.45 – Daniel Watson (Aarhus), From the Sensible to the Divine: Platonic Ascent without the Parmenides in Early Medieval Ireland
14.45-15.30 – Victoria Krivoshchekova (Maynooth), Linguistic Meaning from Immanence to Transcendence in Hiberno-Latin Tradition

15.30-16.00 – Tea Break

Panel 2

16.00-16.45 – Agnieszka M. Kijewska (KUL), Eriugena’s Platonism
16.45-17.30 – John Carey (UCC), An Early Follower of Eriugena? Five Metaphysical Propositions in the Reichenauer Schulheft

Friday 29th

Panel 3

9.45-10.30 – Elizabeth Boyle (Maynooth), ‘Is mebul dom imrádudand Middle Irish Theories of Cognition

10.30-11.00 – Tea Break

Panel 4

11.00-11.45 – Dermot Moran (Boston and UCD), Eriugena’s Influence on Meister Eckhart and Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa
11.45-12.30 – Mícheál Mac Craith (NUI Galway), Platonism in Early Modern Ireland: the case of Giolla Brighde Ó hEódhasa

12.30-14.00 – Lunch Break

Panel 5

14.00-14.45 – Rocío G. Sumillera (Granada), Jonathan Swift’s Platonism and the Utopian Tradition in Early Novel Writing
14.45-15.30 – Carl O’Brien (Heidelberg), Neoplatonic Influences in Berkeley’s ‘Siris’

15.30-16.00 – Tea Break

Panel 5 (continued)

16.00-16.45 – Caleb de Jong (Aarhus), Interpreting ‘The Interpreters’: On the Plotinian Core of Æ’s ‘Symposium on Politics’.

17.30ff. – Reception

Saturday 30th

Panel 6

9.00–9.45 – Christian Hengstermann (Wuppertal), Pastoral Origenism – The Irish Funeral Sermons of Bishop George Rust
9.45-10.30 – Chris Morash (TCD), The Platonic Theatre of W.B. Yeats

10.30-11.00 – Tea Break

Panel 7

11.00-11.45 – Julieta Abella (Buenos Aires), “the improbable, insignificant and undramatic monologue, as shallow as Plato’s”: Philosophical Debates around Platonism in Ulysses’ “Scylla and Charybdis”
11.45-12.30 – Síle Ní Mhurchú / Isabelle Torrance (UCC / Aarhus), Plato in Irish in the Early Twentieth Century

12.30-14.00 – Lunch

Panel 8

14.00-14.45 – Douglas Hedley (Cambridge), Some reflection of eternal Beauty and Wisdom’: C.S. Lewis and Edmund Spenser
14.45-15.30 – William Desmond (Maynooth), Irish Murdoch and Aesthetic Platonism

Conference Summary

15.30-16.00 – John Dillon (TCD)

16.00-16.30 – Tea Break

18.30ff. – Conference Dinner

School of Celtic Studies DIAS and the ERC research project, Classical Influences
and Irish Culture (CLIC) at Aarhus Universitet, Denmark.


“the improbable, insignificant and undramatic monologue, as shallow as Plato’s”: Philosophical Debates around Platonism in Ulysses’ “Scylla and Charybdis”

Julieta Abella
University of Buenos Aires
National Research and Technical Council

Ulysses’ ninth chapter, “Scylla and Charybdis”, has been traditionally read by scholars as a quasi-platonic dialogue where Stephen plays the role of Socrates (Gilbert 1930), as its style reflects the dialectical technique employed in Platonic dialogues. Notable here are Wood (1999) and Bassoff (1986), who established close structural links between the dialogue taking place in the National Library and those of Plato’s Phaedrus and Symposium. Yet other scholars, such as Wiedenfield (2013), Dilworth (1990) and Sharpe (1963), have assessed its Platonism at a thematic level and reflected on the different philosophical discussions taking place in that particular chapter.

While previous scholarship has focused separately on either the formal or thematic parallelism between Joyce and Plato, this work will link the structural influence of the Platonic dialogues on Ulysses chapter nine to its philosophical discussion of Platonic themes. In the first instance, this paper will trace its lexical and syntactical similarities to Plato’s dialogues beyond the isolated examples considered by Wood and Bassoff. The more comprehensive account of chapter nine’s dialogic form which results from this study will, in turn, establish a connection between this chapter’s form and the thematic debates present in it. Thus, I will argue that its Platonic discursive structure is not simply expressive of Platonism, but enables dialogue between Platonism and other philosophical perspectives, particularly those of Antisthenes and Aristotle, on the role of dialogue itself and the significance of Ideas.

Is mebul dom imrádud’ and Middle Irish Theories of Cognition

Elizabeth Boyle
Maynooth University

The early Middle Irish poem Is mebul dom imrádud (usually known in English as ‘On the flightiness of thought’) is frequently included in anthologies of Irish poetry, but has not been the subject of sustained analysis. This paper will take as its starting point a close reading of the poem, exploring and elucidating the theory of the structure of the mind which underpins it. The poet’s model of cognition will be situated within a broader context of Irish texts (both vernacular and Latin, poetry and prose) of the tenth and eleventh centuries. I have already demonstrated elsewhere* a textual relationship between Is mebul dom imrádud and the Latin allegorical verse Mentis in Excessu, which also presents a complex understanding of cognitive processes, but this paper will offer a much more detailed analysis than has been presented hitherto and will show connections with a broader range of sources across genres. I will show the influence of Platonic and Platonising theories of cognition on the dominant philosophical paradigms of the structure of the mind in the Middle Irish period, and their role in shaping literary expressions of the mechanisms of ‘memory’, ‘intellect’ and ‘will’.

*Elizabeth Boyle, ‘Aspects of Philosophical Discourse in Eleventh- and Twelfth-Century Ireland: Metaphor, Morality and the Mind’, in Philosophy in Ireland: Past Actualities and Present Challenges, ed. S. Gottlöber (Newcastle, 2019), pp. 2-26

An Early Follower of Eriugena? Five Metaphysical Propositions in the Reichenauer Schulheft’

John Carey
University College Cork

The brief manuscript known as the ‘Reichenauer Schulheft’ (Sankt Paul im Lavanttal, Stiftsbibliothek MS 86b/1) is best known for its Old Irish poems; but some of its other contents are also of interest. Among these, but largely overlooked by previous scholarship, are five theological/philosophical statements on the manuscript’s final page. These adopt quite radical positions, and are in several respects reminiscent of the thought of Eriugena. Given the manuscript’s apparent date of c. 850, the propositions may afford a glimpse of Eriugena’s influence at a very early stage in his career.

Interpreting The Interpreters: On the Plotinian Core of Æ’s ‘Symposium on Politics’.

Caleb de Jong
Aarhus Universitet

George William Russell (1867-1935), better known by his penname ‘Æ’, was an outstanding figure of the Irish Literary Revival. A man of many talents, he achieved widespread renown as, among other things, a poet, painter, mystic, and economist. Lesser known is Æ’s fascination with Platonism. Throughout his oeuvre, one finds copious references Platonist literature and, on multiple occasions, he underscores the importance of Plato and Plotinus to his spiritual and intellectual formation. It is no surprise then, that when Æ’s friend and compatriot Stephen MacKenna embarked on his groundbreaking translation of Plotinus’ Enneads into modern English, Æ responded with enthusiasm. Such is evident, for example, in his private correspondence with MacKenna, in his glowing reviews of the translation in the Irish Statesman, and, most conspicuously, in the dedication of his first work of long-form fiction, The Interpreters (1922), to ‘Stephen MacKenna, for the Delight I have in in his Noble Translation of Plotinus’. Surprisingly, given the dedication, an interpretation of The Interpreters along Plotinian lines remains untried. This is yet more surprising when we consider that Æ styles the novel as a ‘Symposium on politics’, that Plotinus is named and paraphrased within, and that each of the central symposiasts—Leroy, Culain, Lavelle—ostensibly corresponds to one of Plotinus’ three metaphysical hypostases: the One, Nous, and Soul. With respect to the history of Platonism, it is also intriguing that Æ explicitly links the hypostatic affiliation of each character with his political affiliation, Anarchism, Socialism, and Nationalism respectively. Politics, Æ insists, is derivative of metaphysics, from which it follows that the consistent devotee of the One (i.e., the consistent Plotinian) must needs be a political anarchist. All of this, I submit, needs unpacking. In my paper, then, I will attempt two things: (1) to demonstrate the correspondence between the central characters of The Interpreters and the Plotinian hypostases, and (2) to explore the text’s assumptions about the causal link between the political and the metaphysical, or what Æ calls the ‘the politics of Time’ and ‘the politics of Eternity’.

Irish Murdoch and Aesthetic Platonism

William Desmond
University of Maynooth

A self-identified “Platonist” from an early date, Iris Murdoch’s final collection of philosophical writings (Existentialists and Mystics) concludes with the section “Re-Reading Plato, 1964–1986,” which itself culminates in two Platonic dialogues (“Art and Eros” and “Above the Gods”). This paper will present the main assumptions and features of Murdoch’s “re-reading,” focusing especially on these late “Acanthos” dialogues, evaluated with an eye to their Platonic inspiration as well as aspects of their Kantian, Freudian and existential backgrounds. Ireland is not obviously central to the preoccupations in Murdoch’s “re-reading,” yet in her distinctly aesthetic approach to Plato and Platonism one can tentatively place her among some mainstream twentieth-century Irish writers who ambiguously welcomed and distrusted Plato—at once a passionate artist and an austere puritan, an inspiring poet and a fearsome “enemy” of poetry.

Some reflection of eternal Beauty and Wisdom’: C.S. Lewis and Edmund Spenser

Douglas Hedley
Cambridge University

Edmund Spenser is the one of the great Platonic poets in the English language. Spenser was an author of particular significance for C.S. Lewis, especially the 1590 classic The Faerie Queene. Spenser’s poetry was a favourite of the Cambridge Platonist, Henry More, and notably, C.S. Lewis intended to write a thesis on Henry More. I argue in this paper that the legacy of Edmund Spenser and Henry More is of considerable significance in assessing the Platonism of C.S. Lewis.

Pastoral Origenism – The Irish Funeral Sermons of Bishop George Rust

Christian Hengstermann
Bergische Universität Wuppertal

George Rust, known primarily for his defence of the Church Father Origen in his anonymous Letter of Resolution Concerning Origen and the Chief of His Opinions, is one of the finest philosophers of the group of religious philosophers commonly known as the Cambridge Platonists. A student and ardent admirer of Henry More, he developed an Origenian metaphysics of divine goodness from which he sought to deduce in compelling axiomatic argument the principal features of the divine nature and an animate world exclusively driven by moral volition and agency. His two late Irish funeral sermons, delivered as dean of Connor and as Bishop of Dromore, built upon his early Cambridge university exercises. In the vein of Plato’s Phaedo, they provide philosophical solace to those close to the deceased nobleman Hugh Montgomery and Bishop Jeremy Taylor. They envisage a dynamic afterlife in which the soul comes to inhabit higher aerial and ethereal vehicles, conversing with their loved ones and with Christ himself in blissful union.

Eriugena’s Platonism

Agnieszka Kijewska
Katholieke Universiteit Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski Jana Pawła II

Medieval Platonism was undoubtedly taken over and developed in a mediated form by various Late Antique interpretations of Plato’s teachings, hence it is customary to refer to it as Neoplatonism. Undertaking an extensive discussion of the relations between Platonism and Neoplatonism, Stephen Gersh concludes: ‘One can perhaps conclude from even this brief discussion that the proposed definition of Neoplatonism as that philosophy which is concerned with the elaboration of certain underlying tendencies in Plato’s own teaching has a number of advantages’ (1986. Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism. The Latin Tradition, vol. 1, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, p.45).

One such tendency in Plato’s teaching, picked up by Eriugena and originally developed in his ‘physiologia’ (i.e. science of nature), is to direct the Platonic system to seek the « Father », the First Cause of the entire reality. Plato in his Timaeus states (28 C): ‘Now to discover the poet and father of this all is quite a task, and even if one discovered him, to speak of him to all men is impossible’ (tr. P. Kalkavage, Hackett, Indianapolis 2001). In this presentation I would like to show how Eriugena focuses all his philosophical endeavours (rationabilis investigatio) to discover the First Cause of all Reality. Is it a feasible task? And if the « Father » is discovered, could we make Him known to others?

Linguistic Meaning from Immanence to Transcendence in Hiberno-Latin Tradition

Victoria Krivoshchekova
Maynooth University

Problems of signification are always at the heart of any intellectual endeavour concerned with language. With the rise of the vernaculars in early medieval Europe, the problems of linguistic meaning were becoming increasingly pertinent as scholars in non-Romance-speaking territories were learning to operate in a bilingual mindset.

One of the most prolific of such bilingual traditions is the Irish. The terminology of signification in vernacular Irish glosses has been recently discussed by Pierre-Yves Lambert with fruitful results.¹ Following in his footsteps, in this paper I propose to conduct a similar investigation of Hiberno-Latin evidence. The sources will comprise Latin texts written by Irish scholars on the continent in the eighth and ninth centuries. I will focus on works of grammar and exegesis as these two disciplines are fundamentally concerned with language. Considering grammatical and exegetical texts together offers an opportunity to compare two different approaches to meaning: one rooted in the practice of etymology and focused on individual words and their semantic connection to immediate referents, and the other concerned with the interpretation of extended pieces of discourse, which often involves reading texts in a non-literal way.

Both approaches share Platonic roots to some extent: the foundations of etymological analysis are articulated already in Plato’s own work (Cratylus), while allegoresis and multi-level signification became increasingly explicit features of Platonic tradition as it developed, and made their way into medieval exegesis via patristic engagement with this tradition. Despite their seemingly opposing premises, the two methods are far from being contradictory and were, in fact, often used by medieval scholars in tandem. The paper will therefore explore how these two branches of Platonic tradition co-existed and interacted in Hiberno-Latin texts that reflect upon the theoretical underpinnings of linguistic meaning.

¹ See Pierre-Yves Lambert, “The Expression of ‘Sense, Meaning, Signification’ in the Old Irish Glosses, and Particularly in the Milan and Saint-Gall Glosses,” in Grammatica, gramadach and gramadeg: Vernacular Grammar and Grammarians in Medieval Ireland and Wales, ed. Deborah Hayden and Paul Russel (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2016), 85–100.

Platonism in Early Modern Ireland: the case of Giolla Brighde Ó hEódhasa

Mícheál Mac Craith
National University of Ireland, Galway

Giolla Brighde Ó hEódhasa was a member of a Gaelic hereditary literary family from Fermanagh. Around 1600 he abandoned his poetic craft and went to Douai in the Spanish Netherlands to study for the priesthood. Wishing to transfer to Leuven because of its superior academic standards, he was one of the first group of novices to be received into the new Irish Franciscan college in Leuven in 1607, taking the name Bonabhentura in religion. Ordained in Mechelin on 4 April 1609, Ó hEódhasa was to spend the last five years of his life putting his linguistic and literary skills at the service of the Catholic Reformation. Renowned for composing the first Catholic book in Irish to go into print, his teagasg críosdaidhe /catechism was published in Antwerp in 1611. In 1614, the year of his death, he obtained permission from the Archdukes in the Spanish Netherlands to procure a printing-press for the Irish Franciscans in Leuven, and a second edition of the catechism soon followed.

Given his talents and training, Ó hEódhasa’s catechism can hardly have taxed his linguistic skills. The inclusion of summaries of his catechisis in popular verse, while a clever mnemonic ploy for an illiterate audience, meant that the friar was functioning at a much lower poetic level of skill than that he practised in his former life. His introductory poem, however, is of a totally different standard as Ó hEódhasa skilfully employs the most prominent slogans of the Reformers, ad fontes, sola fide, sola scriptura, sola gratia in favour of the Catholic rather than the Protestant Reformation.

A booklet of three poems by Ó hEódhasa was also produced on the Leuven printing press. While some think this pamphlet was little more than a trial run by the friars, one could also argue that it was an in-house production for the formation of Irish Franciscan novices. Ailbhe Ó Corráin has shown how one of these poems is permeated with platonic imagery, especially that of the cave and the prison. Contrasting light with darkness is a feature of hÉódhasa’s work and Platonism gave him further scope to exploit this contrast. Marsilio Ficino’s leading role in reconciling Platonism with Christianity is reflected in the Irish friar’s poem. Ó hEódhasa uses the Ficinian metaphor of describing seekers of wisdom as physicians of the soul. In discoursing on the role of the will in choosing between good and evil, Ó hEódhasa once more resorts to platonic imagery when he describes it as an each fiadhtha, an unruly horse. In another composition, a somewhat free translation of the famous medieval Cur mundus militat?, Ó hEódhusa once more adopts Platonic vocabulary. In using the words coitcheann, universal and gan chlaochlódh, unchanging, the poet is thinking of Platonic Ideas or Forms that are located in the mind of God according to Augustine’s interpretation of Platonism.

While it easy to conclude that Ó hEodhasa became acquainted with Platonism during his years of study in Douai and Leuven, another factor must be taken into consideration. During his sojourn in Ireland, Ó hEódhusa was very involved both professionally and personally with the Old English Nugent circle, and he remained in touch with William Nugent and his wife Janet during his years on the continent. A poem he sent to William Nugent is couched in the form of an epistola familiaris and the qualities of virtuous Christian friendship extolled in this piece remind us of Petrarch and Ficino, not omitting Erasmus and Castiglione. Similar qualities are expressed in the poem of consolation Ó hEódhasa composed for Janet Nugent on the death of her son Richard, and the ability to offer solace in time of grief was considered an essential component of the art of friendship, Neither William nor Janet could have appreciated these poems unless they too were already permeated with Christian humanist Renaissance values and familiar with Platonic concepts and imagery. Perhaps Ó hEódhasa’s Platonism derived more from Irish contacts than his European formation.

Eriugena’s Influence on Meister Eckhart and Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa

Dermot Moran
Boston College and University College, Dublin

Johannes Scottus Eriugena offers the most radical version of Dionysian Christian Platonism in the Early Middle Ages, through his translations of, and commentaries on, Dionysius the Areopagite, as well as his dialogue Periphyseon (and its twelfth-century summary, Clavis Physicae) and his Homily, Vox spiritualis aquilae, which circulated widely in the High Middle Ages (sometimes ascribed to Origen). In this paper, I am going to look at the influence of Eriugena on Meister Eckhart and Nicholas of Cusa (Cusanus). Cusanus (especially in his Apologia doctae ignorantiae and De li non aliud, but also in some of his Latin sermons), characterizes his Platonism as stemming from Dionysius and Dionysius’ Latin translators and commentators, among whom he names Eriugena (‘Johannes Scotigena’), Albertus Magnus’ Commentary on the Divine Names, Robert Grosseteste (whose translations of Dionysius’s Mystical Theology and Celestial Hierarchy he owned in manuscript), Thomas Gallus and Meister Eckhart. Cusanus possessed copies of part of Eriugena’s Periphyseon Book One.¹ Meister Eckhart probably knew some of Eriugena’s writings, but exactly what is not clear.² Eriugena’s Homilia (or Vox spiritualis aquilae) had been translated into German and survives in two manuscripts and it is likely to have been available to Eckhart. Eckhart may also have had access to Eriugena through the twelfth-century summary by Honorius Augustodunensis, Clavis Physicae. Possibly also, Eriugena influenced Eckhart’s Expositio Sancti Evangelii secundum Iohannem. In this paper, I shall review more broadly the doctrinal similarities between Eriugena, Eckhart and Cusanus, and especially their notions of the superessential divine nothingness,³ the divine as the ‘negation of negation’, and the uncircumscribed nature of the human intellect.

¹ Cusanus owned a manuscript of Periphyseon, now British Museum Codex Additivus 11035, the Clavis Physicae of Honorius Augustodunensis (Paris Bib. Nat. cod. lat. 6734), a compendium of Eriugenian excerpts, and the homily Vox Spiritualis (under the name of Origen). See Werner Beierwaltes, ‘Eriugena und Cusanus,’ in Eriugena. Grundzüge seines Denkens (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1994), pp. 266-312

² See Jeffrey F. Hamburger, “Johannes Scotus Eriugena deutsch redivivus: Translations of the Vox spiritualis aquilae in Relation to Art and Mysticism at the Time of Meister Eckhart, in Speer, ed., Eckhart in Erfurt, op. cit., pp. 473- 537. See also Kurt Ruh, “Johannes Scotus Eriugena deutsch,” Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur 117 (1988), pp. 24-31.

³ See Édouard Jeauneau, “Néant divin et théophanie,” Langages et philosophie: Hommage à Jean Jolivet, ed. Alain de Libera et al (Paris, 1997), pp. 331-337. See also B. Mojsisch, “Nichts und Negation. Meister Eckhart und Nikolaus von Kues,” in Historia Philosophiae Medii Aevi. Studien zur Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters, Festschrift für Kurt Flasch, hrsg. B. Mojsisch, O. Pluta, Bd. II (Amsterdam/Philadelphia 1991), pp. 675-693.

The Platonic Theatre of W.B. Yeats

Chris Morash
Trinity College, Dublin

In one of the most influential documents in modern theatre, Bertolt Brecht’s Short Organum for the Theatre, Brecht defined his own practice as an ‘anti-Aristotelian’ theatre, in full confidence that he would be understood, (at least across a spectrum of possible meanings). However, the corresponding term, a ‘Platonic theatre’, (or, indeed, an ‘anti-Platonic theatre’) has never had the same currency, at least in theatre studies. This paper looks at some recent scholarship that has considered the prospect of a modern Platonic theatre, drawing on the thought of Alain Badiou. In particular, it focuses on the theatre theory of W.B. Yeats, considering the extent to which it might be considered a Platonic theatre.

Neoplatonic Influences in Berkeley’s Siris

Carl O’Brien
Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

Bishop Berkeley’s Christian Neoplatonism has not always been adequately appreciated, largely because his most obviously Neoplatonic work, the late Siris (1744), although it was a commercial success in its own time, has often been dismissed ‘as an aberration of Berkeley’s dotage’ (Wenz (1976), 537), focusing on the production of tar water and its employment as a panacea, and criticised for its rejection of the metaphysical views recounted in the earlier and much more famous A Treatise on the Principles Concerning Human Knowledge. In fact, this is not the case and the Siris should instead be read as the culmination of the Neoplatonic elements which are already implicit in the Principles.

The most striking example of Berkeley’s Christian Neoplatonism is his positing of abstract ideas in the mind of God which serve as God’s blueprint during the act of creation, a view which can ultimately be traced back to the Middle Platonic claim that the Forms are the thoughts of God, although this problematically appears to conflict with his attack upon abstract ideas in the Introduction to his Principles. In fact, closer analysis (with assistance from Principles 81) reveals that he only regards it as impossible for humans to have abstract ideas (given our limitations), rather than that abstract ideas are impossible. As such the Introduction is consistent with the view of the later Siris that abstract ideas exist in God’s mind. In fact, analysis of the arguments underpinning the possibility of two different people perceiving the same object is found in the third dialogue between Hylas and Philonous. This results in them having different ideas of the same object in their minds, and implies that there must be an abstract idea in the mind which ‘comprehends all things’ (468), i.e. the mind of God, which makes different peoples’ perception of the same object possible. Prior to the publication of the Siris, we also find Plotinus mentioned in a 1741 letter to John James, a friend who wished to convert to Catholicism, in the context of an idealised flight to the One, a topic which is revisited at Siris §302 and §358 (picking up Plotinus’ description of the soul’s ascent to the One at Enn. VI 9.11). The work appears to lack any meaningful structure, a difficulty removed by its Neoplatonic title: Siris is derived from the Neoplatonic notion of the chain or ‘seira’, extending from lowly tar water all the way up to God.

The Siris deserves far greater attention than it currently receives because it also represents the bishop’s attempt to create a bridge between science and religion, illustrated by Berkeley’s material description of light as a stream of particles, but also his metaphysical understanding of it as the soul’s vehicle and God’s messenger. Such images are rooted in the Plotinian metaphysics of light: for Berkeley, fire, light and heat are presented as principles which can clarify the functioning of the Trinity. Berkeley interprets this within the framework of a Neoplatonic history of philosophy and science, extending back via Ficino, Proclus and Plotinus beyond Plato to Egyptian, Persian, Jewish, and Chinese thought, which all assign a central role to fire and aether, paralleling in important ways the theories of his contemporaries, Homberg and Newton.

Jonathan Swift’s Platonism and the Utopian Tradition in Early Novel Writing

Rocío G. Sumillera
University of Granada

The publication of Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) initiated a strong utopian tradition in prose fiction written in English profoundly influenced by Platonic philosophy and Plato’s example of how to describe an imagined, and supposedly ideal, commonwealth. After providing an overview of the presence of Platonic philosophy in Jonathan Swift’s oeuvre, this paper will particularly focus on Gulliver’s Travels (1726) and its place in the consolidation of a Platonic-based utopian strand in early novel writing in English up until the mid-eighteenth century.

Plato in Irish in the Early Twentieth Century

Síle Ní Mhurchú and Isabelle Torrance
University College, Cork and Aarhus Universitet
s.nimhurchu@ucc.ie / itorrance@cc.au.dk

In 1929, the Classicist and Irish-language scholar George Derwent Thomson (Seoirse Mac Tomáis) published a book of Irish translations of Plato’s dialogues concerning the death of Socrates (Apology, Crito, Phaedo) under the title Breith báis ar Eagnuidhe: Trí cómhráidhte d’ár cheap Platón (Sentence of Death on a Sage: Three dialogues written by Plato). Three thousand copies were printed, according to the Dáil Committee of Public Accounts. That same year, the medical doctor and translator Domhnall Ó Mathghamhna published Irish translations of Plato’s Apology in serialized form in the Sunday Independent, followed by translations of Crito under the title ‘Crito, or The Duty of a Citizen’ between 1929 and 1930, and translations of Critias under the title ‘The Atlantic Island’ between 1930 and 1931. The latter was reproduced in a 1935 book Inis Atlaint (The Island of Atlantis)together with an addendum on portal dolmens linking Ireland to Greece and other places, which had previously appeared in Scéala Éireann in 1932.

Along with an earlier translation of Plato’s Apology by Liam Ó Rinn, published in Irish Freedom (1913-14), and a posthumously published translation of the Symposium by Thomson, these texts coincide with a wave of translations of classical works into Irish in the early years of the Irish Free State. However, they also constitute a remarkable, unique, and essentially unstudied cluster of modern Irish-language engagements with philosophy. In this paper, we investigate the contexts in which these translations were produced and examine the translations themselves to discover why these particular dialogues appealed at the time and how the translators dealt with expressing abstract philosophical concepts in Irish.

From the Sensible to the Divine: Platonic Ascent without the Parmenides in Early Medieval Ireland

Daniel James Watson
Aarhus Universitet

Direct discussion of Plato and his thought seldom occurs in early medieval Irish literature. However, from as early as the seventh-century, early Irish authors took up and developed Platonic themes that were implicitly mediated to them through a variety of indirect sources. In this regard, Patristic theological writings played an especially significant role. Among the Platonic themes which enjoyed an early medieval Irish legacy is that of the soul’s ascent to its divine principle through a contemplative process that begins with the study of sensible objects. So far as Plato’s own works are concerned, the classic examples here are Symposium 210a-212c and Phaedrus 245a-257b. This theme is present even in the Old Irish period (ca. 600-900), perhaps most strikingly in Muirchú’s seventh-century Hiberno-Latin life of St. Patrick, and in the Old Irish ‘Milan Glosses’, which are currently dated to the early ninth-century. One might well assume that Augustine’s Confessiones and Boethius’ De consolatione Philosophiae would be the most important mediators of such a theme prior to the Latin reception of the Dionysian corpus. However, they display no such importance for the texts under consideration. In this case, a Philonic mediation of Plato by way of the Latin Josephus seems to be most crucial. The result is a version of the theme in which the influence of the Parmenides (however implicit) seems to play no discernable role, or in other words, a version of the theme which, while Platonic, is evidently not Neoplatonic in character.