Neoplatonism is a thought form rooted in the philosophy of Plato (c. 428-347 B.C.E.), but extending beyond or transforming it in many respects. Neoplatonism developed as a school of thought in the Roman Empire from the third to the fifth century of the common era (C.E.). However, the term itself was coined only recently in the mid-ninteenth century, when German scholars used it to distinguish the ideas of later Greek and Roman Platonists from those of Plato himself. Plotinus (c. 204-270 C.E.) is considered the first main proponent of Neoplatonism, and his intent was to use Plato's thought as an intellectual basis for a rational and humane life.

Neoplatonist ideas are more explicitly religious than those of Plato, and they developed largely to counter dualistic interpretations of Plato's thought. For example, Neoplatonism sought to overcome the Platonic cleavage between thought and reality, or Ideal and Form. Platonism is characterized by its method of abstracting the finite world of Forms (humans, animals, objects) from the infinite world of the Ideal, or One. Neoplatonism, on the other hand, seeks to locate the One, or God in Christian Neoplatonism, in the finite world and human experience. This is evidenced in Plotinus's now-famous maxim that the Absolute "has its center everywhere but its circumference nowhere."

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