Volkova Nadezhda

God as Intellect in the philosophical Theology of Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus.

Volkova Nadezhda (2017) "God as Intellect in the philosophical Theology of Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus. ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia I : Bogoslovie. Filosofiia. Religiovedenie, 2017, vol. 73, pp. 95-105 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturI201773.95-105


The article gives an overview of the main stages in the development of philosophical theology in Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus, as well as its central concept - Active Intellect or God. It is shown, firstly, that Plato was the first who formulated the concept of a One omnibenevolent God. Plato opposed this doctrine to the gods of traditional mythology. In the "Timaeus" talking about the creation of the world, Plato represents God as an artisan, i. e. Demiurge, who arranges the World soul and matter with the help of the numbers. Therefore, God is introduced as an Intellect, because looking at an intelligible paradigm, he created the cosmos as its likeness. Secondly, it was shown that Aristotle made theology demonstrative theoretical knowledge. God as a subject of such knowledge is the pure actuality of thinking. Third, it is shown that Plotinus, continuing the line of Plato and Aristotle, gave philosophical theology a new, much more personal character. Theology for Plotinus is not only an demonstrative knowledge of the omnibenevolent God, but also a personal experience of reunion with him. A special attention in the article is paid for Plotinus' interpretation of the Platonic Demiurge. It is shown that Plotinus first connected the two aspects of the divine, namely the Demiurge-creator and the intelligible paradigm that are described in the "Timaeus," into the single hypostasis of Intellect. The main reason for this assertion was the necessity to postulate the unity of the intellect and the intelligible object as a necessary condition for the possibility of all cognitions. As a result, instead of the traditional idea of the two gods, Plotinus elaborates the doctrine of a single divine Intellect, combining both these aspects.


Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, philosophical theology, mythology, theoretical knowledge, Demiurge, intellect, intelligible, Enneads, Timaeus


  1. Ado P., Plotin, ili Prostota vzgljada, Moscow, 1991.
  2. Armstrong A. H., ed., Plotinus. The Enneads, Cambridge, 1984.
  3. Borodaj T. Ju., “Timej”, in: Antichnaja filosofija. Jenciklopedicheskij slovar’, Moscow, 2008, 733–738.
  4. Borodaj T. Ju., Rozhdenie filosofskogo ponjatija: Bog i materija v dialogah Platona, Moscow, 2008.
  5. Bos A. P., “Aristotle on myth and philosophy”, in: Philosophia Reformata, 48/1, 1983, 1–18.
  6. Cornford F. M., Plato’s cosmology, London, 1937.
  7. Dodds E. R., “The Parmenides of Plato and the Origin of the Neoplatonic “One””, in: The Classical Quarterly, 22, 1928, 129–142.
  8. Gasparov M. L., ed., Diogen Lajertskij. O zhizni, uchenijah i izrechenijah znamenityh filosofov, Moscow, 1986.
  9. Gerson L., ed., Plotinus. Ennead V. 5: That the Intelligibles are not External to the Intellect, and on the Good, Las Vegas; Zurich; Athens, 2013.
  10. Gerson L. P., Plotinus, London, 1994.
  11. Hlebnikov G. V., Antichnaja filosofskaja teologija, Moscow, 2014.
  12. Lebedev A. V., ed., Fragmenty rannih grecheskih filosofov. Ot jepicheskih teokosmogonij do vozniknovenij a atomistiki, Moscow, 1989.
  13. Mesjac S. V., ed., “Porfirij . Podstupy k umopostigaemomu”, in: ΣΧΟΛΗ, 2/2, 2008, 277–308.
  14. Morgan K. A., Myth and Philosophy from the Presocratics to Plato, Los Angeles, 2004.
  15. Platon. Sobranie sochinenij: V 4 t. Moscow, 1994.
  16. Rheins J. G., The Intelligible Creator-God and the Intelligent Soul of the Cosmos in Plato’s Theology and Metaphysics, Philadelphia (Penn.), 2008.
  17. Ross D., ed., Aristotle. Methaphysics. A revised text with introduction and commentary, Oxford, 1925.
  18. Ross D., ed., Aristotle. Prior and posterior analytics. Text with introduction and commentary, Oxford, 1957.
  19. Ross D., Aristotle, London, 2004.
  20. Smith J. E., “Plato’s Myths as “Likely Accounts”, Worthy of Belief”, in: Apeiron, 19, 1985, 24–42.
  21. Smith J. E., “Plato’s Use of Myth in the Education of the Philosophic Man”, in: Phoenix, 40, 1986, 20–34.
  22. Stewart J. A., The Myths of Plato, London, 1960.
  23. Van Riel G., Plato’s Gods, London, 2016.
  24. Volkova N. P., ed., “Plutarh Heronejskij. O vozniknovenii dushi v Timee”, in: ΠΛΑΤΩΝΙΚΑ ΖΗΤΗΜΑΤΑ, Moscow, 2013, 736–757.
  25. Waterfi eld R., Gregory A., eds., Plato. Timaeus and Critias, Oxford, 2008.
  26. Zeyl D. J., ed., Plato. Timaeus, Cambridge (Mass.), 2000.

Information about the author

Volkova Nadezhda

Academic Degree: Candidate of Sciences* in Philosophy;
Place of work: Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences; Goncharnaya Str. 12/1, Moscow 109240, Russian Federation;
Email: go2nadya@gmail.com.

*According to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011, the degree of Candidate of Sciences (Cand.Sc.) belongs to ISCED level 8 — "doctoral or equivalent", together with PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar.


The article is written within the framework of the project № 15-03-00211 "Metaphysics in the intercultural space: history and modernity" supported by RFBR Foundation