This paper traces the development of the idea that we must cultivate moral virtue in order to attain some degree of illumination regarding the nature of reality. I use the term “illumination” to cover a range of meanings intended by the philosophers I discuss, such as the “acquisition of wisdom” (Phaedo, 65a), the “sight” of divine beauty (Symposium, 210d–212b), or a mystical experience involving God or divine reality. Although this theme appears in many texts from the Platonic tradition, I focus on three major stages of its development. First, I show how Plato provides the basic framework of the idea that moral virtue is necessary for illumination, especially in his Phaedo and Symposium. Then, I explain how Plotinus synthesizes and substantially develops Plato’s discussions of this idea. Finally, I discuss the Cappadocian Fathers’ (Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory Nazianzen) Christianization of this Platonic theme. In other words, Plotinus develops the basic framework of this argument first set forth by Plato, and the Cappadocians then adapt and modify Plotinus’ views to fit their Christian commitments.

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Published in Religions, v. 12, issue 10, 838.

© 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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