ALEXANDRIAN PHILOSOPHY—Hellenistic philosophy cultivated in Alexandria from the third century BC to the seventh century AD. Several schools were active side by side in this period: Jewish Alexandrian philosophy, also called Jewish Hellenistic philosophy (Philo of Alexandria); Alexandrian gnosticism with a theosophical orientation, represented by hermeneutic literature (Hermes Trismegistos); Platonism (Plotinus); Christian theological and philosophical doctrine, which the founders (Clement of Alexander, Origen) called Christian gnosis; and an Alexandrian school of late antiquity that was a focal point for neo-Platonic scholars who were close to Middle Platonism.
Because so many schools of philosophy existed together, the term “Alexandrian philosophy” is not understood in a uniform way in the history of philosophy. Most often, Alexandrian philosophy is identified with Alexandrian Platonism and so is characterized as emanational pantheism, a gradualistic system, and a doctrine of the deification of man by ecstasy. There has been no lack of historians who saw the most striking mark of Alexandrian philosophy in its attempts to fuse the religious thought of the east with Greek philosophy. Following this line, they thought that the term “Alexandrian philosophy” is synonymous to the Jewish philosophy of Alexandria or Alexandrian gnosticism. For this reason, many works, especially older ones, see the most essential element of Alexandrian philosophy in the doctrine that there is something intermediate, conceived as a person, between the absolutely transcendent and spiritual God and the passing material world. They regard the doctrine of the Logos as it was present by Philo as the most classical manifestion of Alexandrian philosophy. The gnostic conception of the divine and human (θει&omicronς ανηρ [théios anér]) intermediary between the unknowable God and man who desires to know God would be a parallel and basic current in Alexandrian philosophy.
In more recent philosophical literature, scholars speak of an Alexandrian school whose chief representatives were Hypatia, Synesius of Cyrene, Hierocles, Hermias, Ammonius, John Philoponos, Olymiodor, Elias, and David. The neo-Platonic theory of being taught in this school differed from the metaphysical speculations of the Syrian school and the Athenian school in its simplicity as a system. It avoided multiplying the polytheistically conceived hypostases that mediate between the One and matter. On account of this feature, the philosophical views of the Alexandrian school departed further and further from the pagan religion and began to approach Christianity. Alexandria was a forum for both Judaism and Christianity, where Jews and Christians met and also engaged in dialogue with Greek philosophy.
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Marian Kurdziałek, Jan Warmiński