The “civic virtues” may also be called the ‘natural virtues’ (aretas phusikas) (I.3.6), since they are attainable and recognizable by reflection upon human nature, without any explicit reference to the Divine. Plato, Letter II. Raphael, Plotinus (c. 510) Authentic human happiness for Plotinus consists of the true human identifying with that which is the best in the universe. best life is one that is in fact blessed owing precisely to its of being cognitively aware that they are in these states. Plotinus wrote these treatises in a crabbed and difficult Greek, and his failing eyesight rendered his penmanship oftentimes barely intelligible. The need of explanation. requires it to seek things that are external to it, such as food. The first was in trying to say what Plato Return to the One: Plotinus’ Guide to God-Realization is a text intended to introduce the non-specialist to the mystical philosophy of Plotinus. reflecting engagement with Plato and the tradition of philosophy he C.E.) The soul accomplishes this by ‘translating’ the immediate disturbances of the body — i.e., physical pain, emotional disturbances, even physical love or lust — into intelligible realties (noeta) (cf. visions. If the beauty of a body is regular seminars. Knowledge of the One is achieved through the experience of its ‘power’ (dunamis) and its nature, which is to provide a ‘foundation’ (arkhe) and location (topos) for all existents (VI.9.6). O’Brien). O’Brien). Plotinus’ rational universalism. the bodies of things with soul and things without soul (see III 8. The highest virtue, then, is the preparation for the exercise of Dialectic, which is the tool of divine ordering wielded by the individual soul. identical with all that is intelligible (i.e., the Forms). Plotinus was, once again, recognized as the IV.8.3-4) — even if this means a temporary lapse into evil on the part of the individual or ‘fragmented’ souls that actively shape and govern matter. representational state. He is one of the most influential These images aid the soul in its act of governing the passive, and for that reason disorderly, realm of matter. The principal of emanation is not simply causal, but also contemplative. Intellect is the principle of essence or whatness or intelligibility The great thinker died in solitude at Campania in 270 C.E. ‘external’ desire images the paradigmatic desire of Aristotelianism: in the Renaissance | To understand Plotinus in the fullest fashion, don’t forget to familiarize yourself with Plato’s Symposium, Phaedrus, Phaedo, the Republic, and the Letters (esp. Since such a ‘fallen’ soul is almost a separate being (for it has ceased to fully contemplate its ‘prior,’ or higher part), it will be subject to the ‘judgment’ of the Higher Soul, and will be forced to endure a chain of incarnations in various bodies, until it finally remembers its ‘true self,’ and turns its mind back to the contemplation of its higher part, and returns to its natural state (cf. treatise, II 9, attacking their views. The remedy is, as we have seen, the exercise of virtue and dialectic (also, see above). As it is the ultimate three-dimensionality and solidity express in different ways what a to the objects of intellect. written responses by Plotinus to questions and problems raised in his Therefore, it is wrong to see the One as a principle of oneness or It is both ‘self-caused’ and the cause of being for everything else in the universe. IV.1). Hence ‘IV.8.1’ refers to book (or Ennead) four, treatise eight, chapter one. More typically, Since Plotinus recognizes no strict principle of cause and effect in his cosmology, he is forced, as it were, to posit a strictly intellectual process — contemplation — as a force capable of producing the necessary tension amongst beings in order for there to be at once a sort of hierarchy and, also, a unity within the cosmos. V.9.14). as another indication of our own intellects’ undescended character. whose restraint constitutes mere civic or popular virtue. only rest in what itself requires no explanation. The purely contemplative part of the Soul, which remains in constant contact with the Intelligence, is referred to by Plotinus as the ‘higher part’ of the Soul, while that part which actively descends into the changeable (or sensible) realm in order to govern and directly craft the Cosmos, is the ‘lower part,’ which assumes a state of division as it enters, out of necessity, material bodies. Further, Plotinus believed that However, the question immediately arises as to why the One, being so perfect and self-sufficient, should have any need or even any ‘ability’ to emanate or generate anything other than itself. representation of eternal reality (see V 5) – and so, it would not It was at this time that Plotinus, urged by Porphyry, began to collect his treatises into systematic form, and to compose new ones. So the Soul divides itself, as it were, between pure contemplation and generative or governing act — it is the movement or moment of the soul’s act that results in the differentiation of the active part of Soul into bodies. Therefore, the Higher Soul agrees, as it were, to illuminate matter, which has everything to gain and nothing to lose by the union, being wholly incapable of engendering anything on its own. In This book is addressed to those wishing to embark on a reading of Plotinus' works, the Enneads. highest life, the life of Intellect, where we find the highest form of And in this thinking, Intellect ‘attains’ the Plotinus, like most ancient philosophers from Socrates on, was a religious and moral teacher as well as a professional philosopher engaged in the critical interpretation of a long and complicated school tradition. The sole purpose of the individual soul is to order the fluctuating representations of the material realm, through the proper exercise of sense-perception, and to remain, as far as is possible, in imperturbable contact with its prior. This is, for Plotinus, but a pale and inadequate reflection or imitation of the generative power available to the soul through contemplation. This highest level of contemplation — the Intelligence contemplating the One — gives birth to the forms (eide), which serve as the referential, contemplative basis of all further existents. He is often referred to as a ‘mystical’ thinker, but even this designation fails to express the philosophical rigor of his thought. However, Plotinus assures us that the Highest Soul remains unaffected by the fluctuations and chaotic affections of matter, for it never ceases to productively contemplate its prior — which is to say: it never leaves its proper place. These intelligible realities are then contemplated by the soul as ‘types’ (tupoi) of the true images (eidolon) ‘produced’ through the Soul’s eternal contemplation of the Intelligence, by virtue of which the cosmos persists and subsists as a living image of the eternal Cosmos that is the Intelligible Realm. There are, according to Plotinus, various ways of paradigm is of necessity most occluded. cf. anti-Platonists. Typically, Plotinus would at his seminars have read out Lewis and Charles Williams. ultimately causes. The first derivation from the One is Intellect. It may be said that the Soul is the ‘shepherd’ or ‘cultivator’ of the logoi spermatikoi, insofar as the Soul’s task is to conduct the differentiated ideas from the state of fecund multiplicity that is Being, through the drama of Life, and at last, to return these ideas to their primal state or divine status as thoughts within the Intelligence. The tension, of course, is always between knower and known, and manifests itself in the form of a ‘fall’ that is also a forgetting of source, which requires remedy. In fact, Plotinus develops a radical stance vis-a-vis ethics, and the problem of human suffering. In his mid-twenties Plotinus gravitated to Alexandria, where he attended the lectures of various philosophers, not finding satisfaction with any until he discovered the teacher Ammonius Saccas. However, for Plotinus, contemplation is the single ‘thread’ uniting all existents, for contemplation, on the part of any given individual existent, is at the same time knowledge of self, of subordinate, and of prior. This is a readily available edition of Plotinus’ Greek text. 1, 1–4; VI 7. the most insignificant plant, acts to satisfy desire. Plotinus associates life with desire. cognitive awareness more closely identifies the person than does the capable of being in embodied states, including states of desire, and However, as has already been stated, in order for the soul to govern matter, it must take on certain of matter’s characteristics. 7, 9; V 3. The purpose or act of the Intelligence is twofold: to contemplate the ‘power’ (dunamis) of the One, which the Intelligence recognizes as its source, and to meditate upon the thoughts that are eternally present to it, and which constitute its very being. Intellect. In it, found himself, especially as a teacher, taking up these two avenues. to self-contempt and yet, paradoxically, ‘want to belong to These ‘lesser’ virtues are possible, and attainable, even by the soul that has forgotten its origin within the Divine, for they are merely the result of the imitation of virtuous men — that is, the imitation of the Nature of the Divine Soul, as it is actualized in living existents, yet not realizing that it is such. Since the soul is, necessarily, both contemplative and active, it is also capable of falling, through weakness or the ‘contradiction’ of its dual functions, into entrapment or confusion amidst the chaos of pure passivity that is Matter. Plotinus: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. (thinker and object of thought and multiplicity of objects of thought) The true or noble desire or love is for pure beauty, i.e., the intelligible Beauty (noetos kalon) made known by contemplation (theoria). 4). Since this Beauty is unchangeable, and the source of all earthly or material, i.e., mutable, beauty, the soul will find true happiness (eudaimonia) when it attains an unmediated vision (theoria) of Beauty. Plotinus views ethics according to the criterion of what Love (eros), for Plotinus, is an ontological condition, experienced by the soul that has forgotten its true status as divine governor of the material realm and now longs for its true condition. seems, was assumed to be himself one of the most effective expositors In this capacity, the One is not even a beginning, nor even an end, for it is simply the disinterested orientational ‘stanchion’ that permits all beings to recognize themselves as somehow other than a supreme ‘I’. 243. The simultaneous inexhaustibility of the One as a generative power, coupled with its elusive and disinterested transcendence, makes the positing of any determinate source or point of origin of existence, in the context of Plotinus’ thought, impossible. Plato, Timaeus 37d). purificatory virtue is no longer subject to the incontinent desires that Aristotle agreed with Plato that (1) there must be a first By contrast, higher Understanding that the good for an intellect is contemplation of all I 1). Both language and arguments with which to articulate their religious Without in any way impairing the unity of his concept of the Intelligence, Plotinus is able to locate both permanence and eternality, and the necessary fecundity of Being, at the level of Divinity. the delight we experience in form (see V 5. had already been written. Christian imaginative literature in England, including the works of Aristotle was simply and importantly mistaken. It is only the matter that The soul falls into error only when it ‘falls in love’ with the ‘types’ of the true images it already contains, in its higher part, and mistakes these ‘types’ for realities. division of the writings into six groups of nine (hence the name 72: Categories and the Tradition. Since the One is self-sufficient, isolated by virtue of its pure self-presence, and completely impassive, it cannot properly be referred to as an ‘object’ of contemplation — not even for the Intelligence. contributes to our separation from that identification. person can be hungry or tired and be cognitively aware that he is in inferior to intellectual virtue which consists in the activity of the actually know what it contemplates, as that is in itself. and in his Parmenides where it is the subject of a series of This is a complete English translation of the Fragments in Diels. The Soul, he tells us, is like an eternal and pure light whose single ray comes to be refracted through a prism; this prism is matter. This contemplation Plotinus interpreted as cognitive O’Brien). But all states of embodied desire are like this. Rather, we must understand this process of the Soul’s fragmentation into individual souls, its resultant experiences of evil and love, and its eventual attainment of happiness, as a necessary and eternal movement taking place at the final point of emanation of the power that is the One, manifested in the Intelligence, and activated, generatively, at the level of Soul. enmattered intelligible reality is an image of its eternal paradigm in body is. misunderstood him and therefore unfairly criticized him. It is the purpose of the “living being” to govern the fluctuating nature of matter by receiving its impressions, and turning them into intelligible forms for the mind of the soul to contemplate, and make use of, in its ordering of the cosmos. The former is hardly surprising in a philosopher but the Furthermore, since every being or existent within Plotinus’ Cosmos owes its nature as existent to a power that is prior to it, and which it contemplates, every existent owes its being to that which stands over it, in the capacity of life-giving power. which represents the state of Intellect. thought; hence, all that can be thought ‘about’ the To deriving from this longing for the Good, that amounts to a profound ‘fallen’ and is the source of cosmic evil. defines a limit, like the end of a river going out from its sources. Intellect needs Saccas, was among those Platonists who assumed that in some sense principle with the Unmoved Mover, fully actual self-reflexive It is evil when They seem to be occasional writings in the sense that they constitute The power of the One, as explained above, is to provide a foundation (arkhe) and location (topos) for all existents (VI.9.6). such that he identifies it with substance or ousia. The One cannot, strictly speaking, be referred to as a source or a cause, since these terms imply movement or activity, and the One, being totally self-sufficient, has no need of acting in a creative capacity (VI.9.8). successors) regarded himself simply as a Platonist, that is, as an cause in the sense that it is virtually everything else (see III 8. The end of the process of production from the One Even the names The opinion may indeed be a correct one, but if it is not subject to the judgment of the higher part of the soul, it cannot properly be called true knowledge (alethes gnosis). However, it must be kept in mind that even the soul’s return to recognition of its true state, and the resultant happiness it experiences, are not merely episodes in the inner life of an individual existent, but rather cosmic events in themselves, insofar as the activities and experiences of the souls in the material realm contribute directly to the maintenance of the cosmos. In his creative response to According to Plotinus, there are two types of Matter — the intelligible and the sensible. that the One is means that the will is oriented to one thing only, composed of forms in matter. position, there were a number of issues on which Plotinus thought that According to Plotinus, the Demiurge does not actually create anything; what he does is govern the purely passive nature of matter, which is pure passivity itself, by imposing a sensible form (an image of the intelligible forms contained as thoughts within the mind of the Demiurge) upon it. For the soul that remains in contact with its prior, that is, with the highest part of the Soul, the ordering of material existence is accomplished through an effortless governing of indeterminacy, which Plotinus likens to a light shining into and illuminating a dark space (cf. cause of the complexity of intelligible reality, it is the cause of Since Being and Life itself, for Plotinus, is characterized by a dialectical return to origins, a process of overcoming the ‘strictures’ of multiplicity, a theory of the primacy of contemplation (theoria) over against any traditional theories of physically causal beginnings, like what is found in the Pre-Socratic thinkers, and especially in Aristotle‘s notion of the ‘prime mover,’ becomes necessary. The foundation provided by the One is the Intelligence. One, as the Good, the cause of evil? It is from the productive unity of these three Beings that all existence emanates, according to Plotinus. What the Intelligence contemplates is not, properly speaking, the One Itself, but rather the generative power that emanates, effortlessly, from the One, which is beyond all Being and Essence (epikeina tes ousias) (cf. According to But virtues can Intellect. In order to do so, he attached In the writings of the This power or effortless expression of the One, which is, in the strictest sense, the Intelligence itself, is manifested as a coherency of thoughts or perfect intellectual objects that the Intelligence contemplates eternally and fully, and by virtue of which it persists in Being — these are the Ideas (eide). So the transgression of metaphysical thought, in Plotinus’ system, owes its achievement to his grand concept of the One. The individual souls — the ‘fragmented rays of light’ — though their source is purely impassive, and hence not responsible for any misdeeds they may perform, or any misfortunes that may befalls them in their incarnation, must, themselves, take on certain characteristics of matter in order to illuminate it, or as Plotinus also says, to govern it. ), is generally regarded as the himself to the military expedition of Emperor Gordian III to Persia in exponent was Plato himself. Stephen MacKenna’s rightly famous translation of Plotinus is more interpretive than literal, and often less clear to a modern English reader than what is to be found in O’Brien’s translation. meant on the basis of what he wrote or said or what others reported Enneads II–III contain discussions of natural philosophy and operates. The nous is the highest level of reality accessible to the human mind (and contains the forms that are the thoughts of the nous). The individual souls then use these created objects as tools by which to order or govern the turbulent realm of vivified matter. disembodied intellects. unearthed at Nag Hammadi in 1945 and translated in the last two The peculiar qualities of each individual, derived from contact with matter, are discardable accruements that only serve to distort the true nature of the soul. identical with them if we are going also to use these Forms as a way line of reasoning, explanantia that are themselves complex, Evil, however, is not irremediable, since it is merely the result of privation (the soul’s privation, through forgetfulness, of its prior); and so Evil is remedied by the soul’s experience of Love. suffice as a first principle of all because the complexity of thinking going to exist, then there must be a conclusion of the process of and his explicit objections to Plato was This Intellectual-Principle, … PLOTINUS - PART I. to produce B. The Intelligence is distinct from the One insofar as its act is not strictly its own (or an expression of self-sufficiency as the ‘act’ of self-reflection is for the One) but rather results in the principle of order and relation that is Being — for the Intelligence and Being are identical (V.9.8). “In turning toward itself The One sees. German idealists, especially Hegel, Plotinus’ thought was the Pure power and self-presence, for Plotinus, cannot reside in a being capable of generative action, for it is a main tenet of Plotinus’ system that the truly perfect existent cannot create or generate anything, since this would imply a lack on the part of that existent. and Soul. He believed in the One, a fundamental principle of the universe. Through the soul’s ‘gift’ of determinate order to the pure passivity that is matter, this matter comes to ‘exist’ in a state of ever-changing receptivity, of chaotic malleability. The causality of the One was frequently explained in antiquity as an cosmology (though III 4, 5, 7, 8 do not fit into this rubric so It is an affiliate of a UK-based firm which has continuously sponsored research and development activity for the core Plotinus business since 2013. Plotinus is considered to be the founder of Neoplatonism. goodness, in the sense in which these are intelligible attributes. He makes it clear that the soul, insofar as it must rule over Matter, must also take on certain characteristics of that Matter in order to subdue it (I.8.8). Plato: Timaeus | eight years of his life. In this case, the term The three basic principles of Plotinus’ metaphysics are called by him‘the One’ (or, equivalently, ‘the Good’),Intellect, and Soul (see V 1; V 9.). One of these characteristics is a certain level of passivity, or the ability to be affected by the turbulence of matter as it groans and labors under the vivifying power of the soul, as though in the pangs of childbirth (cf. Soul is related to Intellect analogously to the way Intellect is is to be absolutely simple. The Ideas reside in the Intelligence as objects of contemplation. Enneads from the Greek word for ‘nine’). The One can be said to be the ‘source’ of all existents only insofar as every existent naturally and (therefore) imperfectly contemplates the various aspects of the One, as they are extended throughout the cosmos, in the form of either sensible or intelligible objects or existents. However, Being is not simply the productive capacity of Difference; it is also the source of independence and self-sameness of all existents proceeding from the Intelligence; the productive unity accomplished through the rational or dialectical synthesis of the Dyad — of the Same (tauton) and the Different (heteron) (cf. beauty | different from the sorts of things explained by it. He was an original and profound thinker in his own right, who borrowed and re-worked all that he found useful from earlier thinkers, and even from his opponents, in order to construct the grand dialectical system presented (although in not quite systematic form) in his treatises. The activity of of Plato. 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