This book presents a comprehensive study into Plato's theological doctrines, offering an important re-valuation of the status of Plato's gods and the relation between metaphysics and theology according to Plato. Starting from an examination of Plato's views of religion and the relation between religion and morality, Gerd Van Riel investigates Plato's innovative ways of speaking about the gods. This theology displays a number of diverging tendencies - viewing the gods as perfect moral actors, as cosmological principles or as celestial bodies whilst remaining true to traditional anthropomorphic representations. Plato's views are shown to be unified by the emphasis on the goodness of the gods in both their cosmological and their moral functions. Van Riel shows that recent interpretations of Plato's theology are thoroughly metaphysical, starting from aristotelian patterns. A new reading of the basic texts leads to the conclusion that in Plato the gods aren't metaphysical principles but souls who transmit the metaphysical order to sensible reality. The metaphysical principles play the role of a fated order to which the gods have to comply. This book will be invaluable to readers interested in philosophical theology and intellectual history.
Gerd Van Riel (1967), full professor at the Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven (Belgium), studied classics and philosophy at the Universities of Leuven and Antwerp. He lectures on ancient philosophy, and also holds a course on 'Fundaments of Philosophy' at the Leuven Faculty of Law. His main research areas are Plato and the Platonic tradition, esp. later Neoplatonism (Proclus, Damascius), and Saint Augustine. Gerd Van Riel's works include a monograph on Pleasure and the Good Life: Plato, Aristotle and the Neoplatonists [This book received a Humanities Award of the Royal Belgian Academy], and the Greek-French annotated edition of Damascius, Commentary on the Philebus. He is the author of several articles on ancient philosophy, and on Neoplatonism in particular. He is editor of Augustiniana. A Journal for the Research on Augustine and Augustinianism.
"This is an important book for those interested in Pagan Studies because it rehabilitates ancient Greek ideas about the gods as valid and able to exist alongside the allegedly more sophisticated readings that were proposed by philosophers from the sixth century BCE onwards. Plato’s Gods, though a short study, requires tenacity and concentration on the part of those not trained in ancient philosophy, but is a worthwhile object of study."
- Carole M. Cusack, University of Sydney