ALBINUS OF SMYRNA (Αλβινος, Albinos)—a philosopher of the second century AD, a representative of middle Platonism.
Albinus was a disciple of the Platonist Gaius, who probably taught in Athens in the first half of the second century. In 151 and 152 Albinus lectured in Smyrna where Galen attended his lectures.
Albinus was the author of An Introduction to Plato’s Dialogues (Αλβινου εισαγογη εις τους Πλατος διαλογους [Albinou eisagogé eis tous Platonos dialogous]) and Assumptions of Plato’s doctrines or Didaskalikós (Διδασκαλικος των Πλ&alphaτωνος δογματων [Didaskalikos ton Platonos dogmaton]). The Didaskalikós was transmitted as a work of Alcinous who was identified with Albinus but is now regarded as a separate author.
Albinus was one of the main representatives of middle Platonism (medioplatonism), and was a link between the doctrine of Plato and his immediate successors and neo-Platonism. Albinus treated Plato’s philosophy as a coherent whole and desired to systematize it, explain it, and reconcile it with other philosophical doctrines. The study of Plato’s doctrine had a practical purpose, i.e. moral and spiritual development. One expression of this approach was that he held to a strict sequence in lessons (from the knowledge of self to the vision of divine things), and he divided dialogues into didactic and investigative. He further divided investigative dialogues into theoretical and practical. There were also dialogues for the purpose of practice and perfecting the art of discussion. Albinus drew upon the pre-existing tradition of interpretation. His direct sources included the lectures of Gaius and the works of Arius Didymos and Eudoros of Alexandria, and to a lesser extent the views of Xenocrates, Antioch of Ascalon, the peripatetics and Stoics. Albinus received from the Stoics the concept of the criterium as a judgment made under the influence of a cataleptic impression. He distinguished the faculty, object, and process of judgment. The object of the intellectual faculty (επστημονικος λογος [epistemonikós lógos]) is found in the “first intelligibles” (πρωτα νοητα [prota noetá]), namely immanent forms. The object of the sensory power (δοξασικος λωγος [doxasikós lógos]) consists in the “first sensibilia” (πρωτα αισθτα [prota aisthetá]), namely sense qualities, and in “second sensibilia” (δευτερα αισθητα [déutera aisthetá]), namely accidents. Albinus ascribed the peripatetic logic of Theophrastus and Eudemos to Plato. He searched for examples of categorical and hypothetical syllogisms in Plato’s dialogues. Dialectic would serve in our knowledge of things: the substance of a thing would be known by subdivision, definition, and analysis, and a thing’s accidents would be known by induction and syllogistics.
Albinus accepted the doctrine of three principles—the god, matter, and ideas. This doctrine was characteristic of middle Platonism. He regarded the structure of reality as hierarchical. At the summit was the transcendent and immaterial god who was intellect. The god is the object of knowledge for a lower mind which in turn moves the soul of the world. The soul of the world is the source of the material world’s motion. The demons perform an ancillary function for the soul. Albinus was one of the first thinkers to hold the doctrine of ideas as thoughts of the god. According to him, the idea in relation to the god is the god’s thought; in relation to man the idea is first object of intellectual knowledge; in relation to the world the idea is an eternal model; in relation to itself the idea is a substance. Albinus accepted the threefold Platonic division of the human soul into the rational, irascible, and appetitive part, and also accepted Plato’s teaching of the soul’s incarnation and immortality.
The purpose of human life is to become similar to the god: this can be achieved through the practice of philosophy. Albinus regarded happiness as the highest good. By happiness he understands the intellectual contemplation of the first intellect. In his theory of the virtues, he accepts Aristotle’s definition of virtue, Plato’s division of the virtues, and the Stoics’ doctrine of the interconnection of the virtues.
J. Freudenthal, Der Platoniker Albinus und der falshe Alkinoos, in: Hellenistische Studien, 3, B 1879, 322—326; T. Sinko, De Apulei et Albini doctrinae Platonicae adumbratione, Kr 1905, 241–327; A. Spanier, Der λογος διδασκαλικος des Platoniker Albinus, Fri 1920; R. E. Witt, Albinus and the History of Middle Platonism, C 1937; A 19712; H. A. Wolfson, Albinus and Plotinus on Divine Attributes, HThR 45 (1952), 115–130, J. H. Loenen, Albinus’ Metaphysics. An Attempt at Rehabilitation, Mnemosyne 9 (1956), 296–319; 10 (1957), 35–56; M. Giusta, Αλβινου Ετομη o Αλκινοου Διδασκαλικος, Atti dell’ Academia delle Scienze di Torino, Classe di Scienze morali, storische e filologiche 95 (1960–1961), 167–194; G. Milhaven, Der Aufstieg der Seele bei Albinus, Mn 1962; H. Dörrie, Platonica minora, Mn 1976; G. Invernizzi, Il “Didaskalikos” di Albinus e il medioplatonismo, II, R 1976; J. Dillon, The Middle Platonists, Lo-Ny 1977; K. Pawłowski, Filozofia średniego platonizmu w formule Albinusa ze Smyrny [Philosophy of middle Platonism in the formula of Albinus of Smyrna]), [place of publication not indicated] 1998.