Monday, January 10, 2011

Pico and Theology of Number

Pico saw Neoplatonism as compatible with his monotheism because of the religious attitude toward the One. It is consideration of the unity of the One in comparison to the multiplicity of numbers that is the scene of much important Neoplatonic theological speculation. Pico has a Christian key to the Neoplatonic theology of Number--the Trinity. Augustine believed in Neoplatonic theology of number enough to say that God patterns the universe according to properties of abstract numbers.

Dionysius constructed his Celestial Hierarchy along Proclan lines in part because the Proclan scheme of trinities worked so well for Christian philosophers that had their own reasons for liking trinities. Pico explores the complexities of the Proclan scheme to see how the logic of trinities in the celestial orders worked in a non-Christian system. The similarity of Proclus to Dionysius confirms for Pico that greek theology can be a point of reference in support of Christian theology.

That the Neoplatonists came to such similar philosophical-theological or angelological models is not a threat to Pico's confidence in his own theological system. He doesn't turn to the Neoplatonists for material that is lacking in his own tradition, but rather to see alternative philosophical efforts to work on the same theological problems.

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