Analysis Of Plotinus And The Baptistery Of San Giovanni

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Midterm Essay Topic A: Plotinus & the Baptistery of San Giovanni
Introduction: Plotinus
Plotinus was a Neoplatonist philosopher, whose theories were influenced by Plato and other Greek philosophers (Module 4, Session 9). Plotinus believed that beauty is a manifestation of the divine and that it “communicates the order and harmony of the cosmos, both visually and intellectually” (Module 4, Session 9). Similar to Plato's Simile of the Divided
Line, Plotinus believed that reality is broken up into four realms. Plotinus refers to Level 1 as
“the Good or the One”; this is the ultimate source (God) (Module 4, Session 9). Level 2 is the intellectual realm that consist of Forms. Just like Plato's Forms, Plotinus's Forms are immaterial and eternal concepts
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This becomes evident through a Neoplatonic analysis of the Baptistery of San Giovanni.
Analysis: Baptistery of San Giovanni
The influence of Plotinus's philosophies can be seen with studying both the interior and exterior of the Baptistery of San Giovanni, or the Baptistery of St. John the Baptist, in
Florence. In particular, the significance of the exterior bronze doors can be understood through Neoplatonic analysis. Ghiberti's East Doors, known as the Gates of Paradise, consist of ten panels that depict Old Testament scenes (Adams, p. 151). One scene shows the creation Adam and Eve up until their expulsion from Paradise (Adams, p. 151). In the
Christian narrative, man was created in the perfect image of God; however, after falling to temptation they were then considered unclean and were exiled from Paradise. This is similar to Plotinus's concept of the moral virtues (Module 4, Session 11). Plotinus argued that the ugly soul is “dissolute, unrighteous... perverse in all its the friend of unclean pleasures; living the life of abandonment to bodily sensation and delighting in its deformity”. The story of Adam and Eve reflects the Christian belief that giving into earthly temptations/pleasures
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One could argue that this scene symbolizes the engulfing of the spirit/mind (human realm) in the unfavorable material world as a result of succumbing to earthly desires. This idea is associated with the negative connotations of being spiritually/intellectually ugly presented by Plotinus. The soul/spirit/mind is, “torn by internal discord; beset by the fears of its cowardice and the envies of its pettiness; thinking, in the little thought it has, only of the perish able and the base; perverse in all its the friend of unclean pleasures; living the life of abandonment to bodily sensation and delighting in its deformity. What must we think but that all this shame is something that has gathered about the Soul, some foreign bane outraging it, soiling it, so that, encumbered with all manner
Tracina Wilkerson Grimes
GLA 601
Summer 2017
Page 4 of turpitude, it has no longer a clean activity or a clean sensation, but commands only a life smoldering dully under the crust of evil; that, sunk in manifold death, it no longer sees what a
Soul should see, may no longer rest in its own being, dragged ever as it is towards the outer, the lower, the dark?“ (Module 4, Session

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