Plotinus: Wikis

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Plotinus

Plotinus
Full name Plotinus
Born 205, Lycopolis
Died 270, Campania
Era Ancient philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Neo-Platonism
Main interests Platonism, Metaphysics, Mysticism
Notable ideas The One, Emanationism, Henosis, Nous

Plotinus (Greek: Πλωτῖνος) (ca. CE 204–270) was a major philosopher of the ancient world who is widely considered the founder of Neoplatonism (along with his teacher Ammonius Saccas). Neoplatonism was an influential philosophy in Late Antiquity. Much of our biographical information about Plotinus comes from Porphyry's preface to his edition of Plotinus' Enneads. His metaphysical writings have inspired centuries of Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Gnostic metaphysicians and mystics.

Contents

Biography

Porphyry reported that Plotinus was 66 years old when he died in 270, the second year of the reign of the emperor Claudius II, thus giving us the year of his teacher's birth as around 205. Eunapius reported that Plotinus was born in the Deltaic Lycopolis (Latin: Lyco) in Egypt, which has led to speculations that he may have been a native Egyptian of Roman,[1] Greek,[2] or Hellenized Egyptian[3] descent.

Plotinus had an inherent distrust of materiality (an attitude common to Platonism), holding to the view that phenomena were a poor image or mimicry (mimesis) of something "higher and intelligible" [VI.I] which was the "truer part of genuine Being". This distrust extended to the body, including his own; it is reported by Porphyry that at one point he refused to have his portrait painted, presumably for much the same reasons of dislike. Likewise Plotinus never discussed his ancestry, childhood, or his place or date of birth. From all accounts his personal and social life exhibited the highest moral and spiritual standards.

Plotinus took up the study of philosophy at the age of twenty-seven, around the year 232, and travelled to Alexandria to study. There Plotinus was dissatisfied with every teacher he encountered until an acquaintance suggested he listen to the ideas of Ammonius Saccas. Upon hearing Ammonius lecture, he declared to his friend, "this was the man I was looking for," and began to study intently under his new instructor. Besides Ammonius, Plotinus was also influenced by the works of Alexander of Aphrodisias, Numenius, and various Stoics.

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Expedition to Persia and return to Rome

After spending the next eleven years in Alexandria, he then decided to investigate the philosophical teachings of the Persian philosophers and the Indian philosophers around the age of 38.[4] In the pursuit of this endeavor he left Alexandria and joined the army of Gordian III as it marched on Persia. However, the campaign was a failure, and on Gordian's eventual death Plotinus found himself abandoned in a hostile land, and only with difficulty found his way back to safety in Antioch.

At the age of forty, during the reign of Philip the Arab, he came to Rome, where he stayed for most of the remainder of his life. There he attracted a number of students. His innermost circle included Porphyry, Amelius Gentilianus of Tuscany, the Senator Castricius Firmus, and Eustochius of Alexandria, a doctor who devoted himself to learning from Plotinus and attended to him until his death. Other students included: Zethos, an Arab by ancestry who died before Plotinus, leaving him a legacy and some land; Zoticus, a critic and poet; Paulinus, a doctor of Scythopolis; and Serapion from Alexandria. He had students amongst the Roman Senate beside Castricius, such as Marcellus Orontius, Sabinillus, and Rogantianus. Women were also numbered amongst his students, including Gemina, in whose house he lived during his residence in Rome, and her daughter, also Gemina; and Amphiclea, the wife of Ariston the son of Iamblichus.[5] Finally, Plotinus was a correspondent of the philosopher Cassius Longinus.

Later life

While in Rome Plotinus also gained the respect of the Emperor Gallienus and his wife Salonina. At one point Plotinus attempted to interest Gallienus in rebuilding an abandoned settlement in Campania, known as the 'City of Philosophers', where the inhabitants would live under the constitution set out in Plato's Laws. An Imperial subsidy was never granted, for reasons unknown to Porphyry, who reports the incident.

Porphyry subsequently went to live in Sicily, where word reached him that his former teacher had died. The philosopher spent his final days in seclusion on an estate in Campania which his friend Zethos had bequeathed him. According to the account of Eustochius, who attended him at the end, Plotinus' final words were: "Strive to give back the Divine in yourselves to the Divine in the All." Eustochius records that a snake crept under the bed where Plotinus lay, and slipped away through a hole in the wall; at the same moment the philosopher died.

Plotinus wrote the essays that became the Enneads over a period of several years from ca. 253 until a few months before his death seventeen years later. Porphyry makes note that the Enneads, before being compiled and arranged by himself, were merely the enormous collection of notes and essays which Plotinus used in his lectures and debates, rather than a formal book. Plotinus was unable to revise his own work due to his poor eyesight, yet his writings required extensive editing, according to Porphyry: his master's handwriting was atrocious, he did not properly separate his words, and he cared little for niceties of spelling. Plotinus intensely disliked the editorial process, and turned the task to Porphyry, who not only polished them but put them into the arrangement we now have.

Plotinus' theory

One

Plotinus taught that there is a supreme, totally transcendent "One", containing no division, multiplicity or distinction; likewise it is beyond all categories of being and non-being. The concept of "being" is derived by us from the objects of human experience called the dyad, and is an attribute of such objects, but the infinite, transcendent One is beyond all such objects, and therefore is beyond the concepts that we derive from them. The One "cannot be any existing thing", and cannot be merely the sum of all such things (compare the Stoic doctrine of disbelief in non-material existence), but "is prior to all existents". Thus, no attributes can be assigned to the One. We can only identify it with the Good and the principle of Beauty. [I.6.9]

For example, thought cannot be attributed to the One because thought implies distinction between a thinker and an object of thought (again dyad). Even the self-contemplating intelligence (the noesis of the nous) must contain duality. "Once you have uttered 'The Good,' add no further thought: by any addition, and in proportion to that addition, you introduce a deficiency." [III.8.11] Plotinus denies sentience, self-awareness or any other action (ergon) to the One [V.6.6]. Rather, if we insist on describing it further, we must call the One a sheer Dynamis or potentiality without which nothing could exist. [III.8.10] As Plotinus explains in both places and elsewhere [e.g. V.6.3], it is impossible for the One to be Being or a self-aware Creator God. At [V.6.4], Plotinus compared the One to "light", the Divine Nous (first will towards Good) to the "Sun", and lastly the Soul to the "Moon" whose light is merely a "derivative conglomeration of light from the 'Sun'". The first light could exist without any celestial body.

The One, being beyond all attributes including being and non-being, is the source of the world—but not through any act of creation, willful or otherwise, since activity cannot be ascribed to the unchangeable, immutable One. Plotinus argues instead that the multiple cannot exist without the simple. The "less perfect" must, of necessity, "emanate", or issue forth, from the "perfect" or "more perfect". Thus, all of "creation" emanates from the One in succeeding stages of lesser and lesser perfection. These stages are not temporally isolated, but occur throughout time as a constant process. Plotinus here resolves the issues between Plato's ontology and Aristotle's Actus et potentia. The issue being that Aristotle, through resolving Parmenides' Third Man argument against Plato's forms and ontology created a second philosophical school of thought. Plotinus here then reconciles the "Good over the Demiurge" from Plato's Timaeus with Aristotle's static "unmoved mover" of Actus et potentia. Plotinus does this by making the potential or force (dunamis) the Monad or One and making the demiurge or dyad, the action or energy component in philosophical cognitive ontology. Later Neoplatonic philosophers, especially Iamblichus, added hundreds of intermediate beings as emanations between the One and humanity; but Plotinus' system was much simpler in comparison.

Emanation by the One

Plotinus offers an alternative to the orthodox Christian notion of creation ex nihilo (out of nothing), which attributes to God the deliberation of mind and action of a will, although Plotinus never mentions Christianity in any of his works. Emanation ex deo (out of God), confirms the absolute transcendence of the One, making the unfolding of the cosmos purely a consequence of its existence; the One is in no way affected or diminished by these emanations. Plotinus uses the analogy of the Sun which emanates light indiscriminately without thereby diminishing itself, or reflection in a mirror which in no way diminishes or otherwise alters the object being reflected.

The first emanation is Nous (Divine Mind, logos or order, Thought, Reason), identified metaphorically with the Demiurge in Plato's Timaeus. It is the first Will toward Good. From Nous proceeds the World Soul, which Plotinus subdivides into upper and lower, identifying the lower aspect of Soul with nature. From the world soul proceeds individual human souls, and finally, matter, at the lowest level of being and thus the least perfected level of the cosmos. Despite this relatively pedestrian assessment of the material world, Plotinus asserted the ultimately divine nature of material creation since it ultimately derives from the One, through the mediums of nous and the world soul. It is by the Good or through beauty that we recognize the One, in material things and then in the Forms.[6]

The essentially devotional nature of Plotinus' philosophy may be further illustrated by his concept of attaining ecstatic union with the One (henosis see Iamblichus). Porphyry relates that Plotinus attained such a union four times during the years he knew him. This may be related to enlightenment, liberation, and other concepts of mystical union common to many Eastern and Western traditions.

The True Human and Happiness

Authentic human happiness for Plotinus consists of the true human identifying with that which is the best in the universe. Because happiness is beyond anything physical, Plotinus stresses the point that worldly fortune does not control true human happiness, and thus “… there exists no single human being that does not either potentially or effectively possess this thing we hold to constitute happiness.” (Enneads I.4.4) The issue of happiness is one of Plotinus’ greatest imprints on Western thought, as he is one of the first to introduce the idea that eudaimonia (happiness) is attainable only within consciousness.

The true human is an incorporeal contemplative capacity of the soul, and superior to all things corporeal. It then follows that real human happiness is independent of the physical world. Real happiness is, instead, dependent on the metaphysical and authentic human being found in this highest capacity of Reason. “For man, and especially the Proficient, is not the Couplement of Soul and body: the proof is that man can be disengaged from the body and disdain its nominal goods.” (Enneads I.4.14) The human who has achieved happiness will not be bothered by sickness, discomfort, etc., as his focus is on the greatest things. Authentic human happiness is the utilization of the most authentically human capacity of contemplation. Even in daily, physical action, the flourishing human’s “…Act is determined by the higher phase of the Soul.” (Enneads III.4.6) Even in the most dramatic arguments Plotinus considers (if the Proficient is subject to extreme physical torture, for example), he concludes this only strengthens his claim of true happiness being metaphysical, as the truly happy human being would understand that that which is being tortured is merely a body, not the conscious self, and happiness could persist.

Plotinus offers a comprehensive description of his conception of a person who has achieved eudaimonia. “The perfect life” involves a man who commands reason and contemplation.(Enneads I.4.4) A happy person will not sway between happy and sad, as many of Plotinus’ contemporaries believed. Stoics, for example, question the ability of someone to be happy (presupposing happiness is contemplation) if they are mentally incapacitated or even asleep- Plotinus disregards this claim, as the soul and true human do not sleep or even exist in time, nor will a living human who has achieved eudaimonia suddenly stop using its greatest, most authentic capacity just because of the body’s discomfort in the physical realm. “…The Proficient’s will is set always and only inward.” (Enneads I.4.11)

Overall, happiness for Plotinus is "...a flight from this world's ways and things." (Theat 176AB) and a focus on the highest, i.e. Forms and The One.

Against causal astrology

Plotinus seems to be one of the first to argue against the still popular notion of causal Astrology. In the late tractate 2.3, "Are the stars causes?", Plotinus makes the argument that specific stars influencing one's fortune (a common hellenistic theme) attributes irrationality to a perfect universe, and invites moral turpitude. He does, however, claim the stars and planets are ensouled, as witnessed by their movement.

Plotinus and the Gnostics

At least two modern conferences within Hellenic philosophy fields of study have been held in order to address what Plotinus stated in his tract Against the Gnostics and who he was addressing it to, in order to separate and clarify the events and persons involved in the origin of the term "Gnostic". From the dialogue, it appears that the word had an origin in the Platonic and Hellenistic tradition long before the group calling themselves "Gnostics" -- or the group covered under the modern term "Gnosticism" -- ever appeared. It would seem that this shift from Platonic to Gnostic usage has led many people to confusion. The strategy of sectarians taking Greek terms from philosophical contexts and re-applying them to religious contexts was popular in Christianity, the Cult of Isis and other ancient religious contexts including Hermetic ones (see Alexander of Abonutichus for an example).

In the case of gnosticism it is important to understand that Plotinus and the Neoplatonists viewed it as a form of heresy or sectarianism to the Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy of the Mediterranean and Middle East.[7] He accused them of using senseless jargon and being overly dramatic and insolent in their distortion of Plato's ontology.[8] Plotinus attacks his opponents as untraditional, irrational and immoral[9][10] and arrogant.[11] He also attacks them as elitist and blasphemous to Plato for the Gnostics despising the material world and its maker.[12]

Plotinus, for example, attacked the Gnostics for vilifying Plato's ontology of the universe contained in Timaeus, and the universes' creation by the demiurge.[13] In this view the Demiurge is an artist or craftsman, in that he creates through mixing or amalgamating what already is. Plotinus accused Gnosticism of vilifing the Demiurge or craftsman that crafted the material world, even thinking of the material world as evil or a prison.

The Neoplatonic movement (though Plotinus would have simply referred to himself as a philosopher of Plato) seems to be motivated by the desire of Plotinus to revive the pagan philosophical tradition.[14] Plotinus was not claiming to innovate with the Enneads, but to clarify aspects of the works of Plato that he considered misrepresented or misunderstood.[15] Plotinus referred to tradition as a way to interpret Plato's intentions. Because the teachings of Plato were for members of the academy rather than the general public, it was easy for outsiders to misunderstand Plato's meaning. However, Plotinus attempted to clarify how the philosophers of the academy had not arrived at the same conclusions (such as misotheism or Dystheism of the creator God as an answer to the problem of evil) as the targets of his criticism.

Influence

Ancient world

Many Christians were also influenced by Neoplatonism, most notably Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. St. Augustine, though often referred to as a "Platonist," acquired his Platonist philosophy through the mediation of Plotinus' teachings.

Eastern Orthodox Church

Plotinus's theology has had great influence of the theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Eastern Orthodox position on energy is often contrasted with the position of the Roman Catholic Church, and in part this is attributed to varying interpretations of Aristotle, either through Thomas Aquinas or Plotinus.

Islam

Neo-Platonism and the ideas of Plotinus influenced medieval Islam as well, since the Sunni Abbasids fused Greek concepts into sponsored state texts, and found great influence amongst the Ismaili Shia.[16] Persian philosophers as well, such as Muhammad al-Nasafi and Abu Yaqub Sijistani. By the 11th century, Neo-Platonism was adopted by the Fatimid state of Egypt, and taught by their da'i.[16] Neo-Platonism was brought to the Fatimid court by Iraqi Hamid al-Din al-Kirmani, although his teachings differed from Nasafi and Sijistani, who were more aligned with original teachings of Plotinus.[17] The teachings of Kirmani in turn influenced philosophers such as Nasir Khusraw of Persia.[17]

Renaissance

In the Renaissance the philosopher Marsilio Ficino set up an Academy under the patronage of Cosimo de Medici in Florence, mirroring that of Plato. His work was of great importance in reconciling the philosophy of Plato directly with Christianity. One of his most distinguished pupils was Pico della Mirandola, author of An Oration On the Dignity of Man. Our term 'Neo Platonist' has its origins in the Renaissance.

England

In England, Plotinus was the cardinal influence on the 17th-century school of the Cambridge Platonists, and on numerous writers from Samuel Taylor Coleridge to W.B. Yeats and Kathleen Raine.

India

Many of the Indian philosophers of great renown such as Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Ananda Coomaraswamy and others used the writing of Plotinus in their own texts as a superlative elaboration upon Indian monism, specifically Upanishadic and Advaita Vedantic thought. Some have compared Plotinus' teachings to the Hindu school of Advaita Vedanta (advaita "not two", or "non-dual"),[18] and has been elaborated upon in J. F. Staal, Advaita and Neoplatonism: A critical study in comparative philosophy, Madras: University of Madras, 1961. More recently, see Frederick Copleston,[19] Religion and the One: Philosophies East and West (University of Aberdeen Gifford Lectures 1979-1980) and the special section "Fra Oriente e Occidente" in Annuario filosofico No. 6 (1990), including the articles "Plotino e l'India" by Aldo Magris and "L'India e Plotino" by Mario Piantelli. The connection is also mentioned in Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (ed.), History of Philosophy Eastern and Western (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1952), vol. 2, p. 114; in a lecture by Professor Gwen Griffith-Dickson;[20] and in John Y. Fenton, "Mystical Experience as a Bridge for Cross-Cultural Philosophy of Religion: A Critique," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 1981, p. 55. The joint influence of Advaitin and Neoplatonic ideas on Ralph Waldo Emerson is considered in Dale Riepe, "Emerson and Indian Philosophy," Journal of the History of Ideas, 1967.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "Plotinus." The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press., 2003. Answers.com 16 October 2007. Plotinus
  2. ^ "Plotinus." The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Oxford University Press, 1993, 2003. Answers.com 16 October 2007. Plotinus
  3. ^ Bilolo, M.: La notion de « l’Un » dans les Ennéades de Plotin et dans les Hymnes thébains. Contribution à l’étude des sources égyptiennes du néo-platonisme. In : D. Kessler, R. Schulz (Hrsg.), "Gedenkschrift für Winfried Barta Htp dj n Hzj", (Münchner Ägyptologische Untersuchungen, Bd. 4), Frankfurt; Berlin; Bern; New York; Paris; Wien: Peter Lang, 1995, pp. 67-91.
  4. ^ Porphyry, On the Life of Plotinus and the Order of His Books, Ch. 3 (in Armstrong's Loeb translation, "he became eager to make acquaintance with the Persian philosophical discipline and that prevailing among the Indians").
  5. ^ Porphyry, Vita Plotini, 9. See also Emma C. Clarke, John M. Dillon, and Jackson P. Hershbell, (1999) Iamblichus on The Mysteries, page xix. SBL. who say that "to gain some credible chronology, one assumes that Ariston married Amphicleia some time after Plotinus's death"
  6. ^ I.6.6 and I.6.9
  7. ^ From Introduction to Against the Gnostics Plotinus' Enneads as translated by A. H. Armstrong, pgs 220-222. The treatise as it stands in the Enneads is a most powerful protest on behalf of Hellenic philosophy against the un-Hellenic heresy (as it was from the Platonist as well as the orthodox Christian point of view) of Gnosticism. There were Gnostics among Plotinus's own friends, whom he had not succeeded in converting (Enneads ch.10 of this treatise) and he and his pupils devoted considerable time and energy to anti-Gnostic controversy (Life of Plotinus ch.16). He obviously considered Gnosticism an extremely dangerous influence, likely to pervert the minds even of members of his own circle. It is impossible to attempt to give an account of Gnosticism here. By far the best discussion of what the particular group of Gnostics Plotinus knew believed is M. Puech's admirable contribution to Entretiens Hardt V (Les Sourcesde Plotin). But it is important for the understanding of this treatise to be clear about the reasons why Plotinus disliked them so intensely and thought their influence so harmful.
  8. ^ From Introduction to Against the Gnostics Plotinus' Enneads as translated by A. H. Armstrong, pgs 220-222. Short statement of the doctrine of the three hypostasis, the One, Intellect and Soul; there cannot be more or fewer than these three. 1.Criticism of the attempts to multiply the hypostasis, and especially of the idea of two intellects, one which thinks and that other which thinks that it thinks. (Enneads Against the Gnostics ch. 1). The true doctrine of Soul (ch. 2).
    - 2.The law of necessary procession and the eternity of the universe (ch.3).
    - Attack on the Gnostic doctrine of the making of the universe by a fallen soul, and on their despising of the universe and the heavenly bodies (chs. 4-5).
    - The sense-less jargon of the Gnostics, their plagiarism from and perversion of Plato, and their insolent arrogance (ch. 6).
    - 3.The true doctrine about Universal Soul and the goodness of the universe which it forms and rules (chs. 7-8).
    - 4.Refutation of objections from the inequalities and injustices of human life (ch. 9).
    - 5.Ridiculous arrogance of the Gnostics who refuse to acknowledge the hierarchy of created gods and spirits and say that they alone are sons of God and superior to the heavens (ch. 9).
    - 6.The absurdities of the Gnostic doctrine of the fall of "Wisdom" (Sophia) and of the generation and activities of the Demiurge, maker of the visible universe (chs. 10-12).
    - 7.False and melodramatic Gnostic teaching about the cosmic spheres and their influence (ch. 13).
    - 8.The blasphemous falsity of the Gnostic claim to control the higher powers by magic and the absurdity of their claim to cure diseases by casting out demons (ch. 14).
    - 9.The false other-worldliness of the Gnostics leads to immorality (ch. 15).
    - 10.The true Platonic other-worldliness, which love and venerates the material universe in all its goodness and beauty as the most perfect possible image of the intelligible, contracted at length with the false, Gnostic, other-worldliness which hates and despises the material universe and its beauties (chs. 16-18).
    AH Lawrence introduction to - Pages 220-222
  9. ^ From Introduction to Against the Gnostics Plotinus' Enneads as translated by A. H. Armstrong, pgs 220-222 The teaching of the Gnostics seems to him untraditional, irrational and immoral. They despise and revile the ancient Platonic teaching and claim to have a new and superior wisdom of their own: but in fact anything that is true in their teaching comes from Plato, and all they have done themselves is to add senseless complications and pervert the true traditional doctrine into a melodramatic, superstitious fantasy designed to feed their own delusions of grandeur. They reject the only true way of salvation through wisdom and virtue, the slow patient study of truth and pursuit of perfection by men who respect the wisdom of the ancients and the know their place in the universe.Pages 220-222
  10. ^ Introduction to Against the Gnostics Plotinus' Enneads as translated by A. H. Armstrong, pgs 220-222 9.The false other-worldiness of the Gnostics leads to immorality (Enneads ch. 15).
  11. ^ Introduction to Against the Gnostics Plotinus' Enneads as translated by A. H. Armstrong, pgs 220-222 Ridiculous arrogance of the Gnostics who refuse to acknowledge the hierarchy of created gods and spirits and say that they alone are sons of God and superior to the heavens (Enneads ch. 9)
  12. ^ They claim to be a privileged caste of beings, in whom alone God is interested, and who are saved not by their own efforts but by some dramatic and arbitrary divine proceeding; and this, Plotinus says, leads to immorality. Worst of all, they despise and hate the material universe and deny its goodness and the goodness of its maker. This for a Platonist is utter blasphemy, and all the worse because it obviously derives to some extent from the sharply other-worldly side of Plato's own teaching (e.g. in the Phaedo). At this point in his attack Plotinus comes very close in some ways to the orthodox Christian opponents of Gnosticism, who also insist that this world is the good work of God in his goodness. But, here as on the question of salvation, the doctrine which Plotinus is defending is as sharply opposed on other ways to orthodox Christianity as to Gnosticism: for he maintains not only the goodness of the material universe but also its eternity and its divinity. The idea that the universe could have a beginning and end is inseparably connected in his mind with the idea that the divine action in making it is arbitrary and irrational. And to deny the divinity (though a subordinate and dependent divinity)of the World-Soul, and of those noblest of embodied living beings the heavenly bodies, seems to him both blasphemous and unreasonable.Pages 220-222
  13. ^ Short statement of the doctrine of the three hypostasis, the One, Intellect and Soul; there cannot be more or fewer than these three. - - 1.Criticism of the attempts to multiply the hypostasis, and especially of the idea of two intellects, one which thinks and that other which thinks that it thinks. (ch. 1). The true doctrine of Soul (ch. 2).
    - 2.The law of necessary procession and the eternity of the universe (ch.3).
    - Attack on the Gnostic doctrine of the making of the universe by a fallen soul, and on their despising of the universe and the heavenly bodies (chs. 4-5).
    Pages 220-222
  14. ^ "as Plotinus had endeavored to revive the religious spirit of paganism." A Biographical History of Philosophy, by George Henry Lewes Published 1892, G. Routledge & Sons, ltd pg294 Google Books Search
  15. ^ "It must also be recognized that “forgery” is a modern notion. Like Plotinus and the Cappadocians before him, Dionysius does not claim to be an innovator, but rather a communicator of a tradition. Pseudo-Dionysius in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  16. ^ a b Halm, 176.
  17. ^ a b Halm, 177.
  18. ^ This connection is made in the works of Ananda CoomaraswamySwami-krishnananda.org
  19. ^ Frederick Charles Copleston. "Religion and the One 1979–1981". Giffordlectures.org. http://www.giffordlectures.org/Browse.asp?PubID=TPRATO&Cover=TRUE. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 
  20. ^ "Creator (or not?)". Gresham.ac.uk. http://www.gresham.ac.uk/event.asp?PageId=39&EventId=157. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 

References

  • Robert M. Berchman, From Philo to Origen: Middle Platonism in Transition (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1984).
  • Frederick Copleston, S.J., A History of Philosophy: Vol. 1, Part 2. ISBN 0-385-00210-6
  • Halm, Heinz (2004). Shi'ism: Second Edition. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Bentley Layton, The Gnostic Scriptures. SCM, 1987. ISBN 0-334-02022-0
  • P. Merlan, "Greek Philosophy from Plato to Plotinus," in The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy, edited by A. H. Armstrong. Cambridge, 1967. ISBN 0-521-04054-X.
  • Plotinus. Enneads, 7 vols., translated by A.H. Armstrong, Loeb Classical Library.
  • Plotinus. The Enneads, translated by Stephen MacKenna. London: Medici Society, 1917-1930.
    • Revised by B.S. Page. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1952. With a foreword by E.R. Dodds, London: Faber, 1957.
    • Abridged by John Dillon. London: Penguin, 1991. ISBN 0-14-044520-X
  • Porphyry, On the Life of Plotinus and the Arrangement of his Works in Neoplatonic Saints: The Lives of Plotinus and Proclus by their Students, Mark Edwards (ed.). Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000.
  • J.M. Rist, Plotinus, the Road to Reality
  • Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah Jerusalem: Keter, 1974.
  • N. Joseph Torchia, Plotinus, Tolma, and the Descent of Being. New York: Peter Lang, 1993. ISBN 0-8204-1768-8 US-ISBN 0-8204-1768-8
  • Thomas Taylor, The fragments that remain of the lost writings of Proclus, surnamed the Platonic successor. London, 1825. (Selene Books reprint edition, 1987, ISBN 0-933601-11-5.)
  • Thomas Taylor, Collected Writings of Plotinus. Frome, Somerset, UK: Prometheus Trust, 1994. ISBN 1-898910-02-2.
  • Antonia Tripolitis, The Doctrine of the Soul in the thought of Plotinus and Origen. Libra Publishers, 1978. Library of Congress Catalog No. 76-1616321.
  • Richard T. Wallis, Neoplatonism and Gnosticism University of Oklahoma, 1984. ISBN 0-7914-1337-3 ISBN 0-7914-1338-1.
  • A track by musical artist Squarepusher, featured on the album Hello Everything.
  • Brian Hines, Return to the One ISBN 978-0977735211 is an exposition of the teachings of Plotinus.

Further reading

  • Introductory texts in translation, with annotations
    • Kevin Corrigan, Reading Plotinus: A Practical Introduction to Neoplatonism. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2005.
    • John M. Dillon and Lloyd P. Gerson, Neoplatonic Philosophy: Introductory Readings. Hackett, 2004.
  • Major commentaries in English
    • Michael Atkinson, Plotinus: Ennead V.1, On the Three Principal Hypostases. Oxford, 1983.
    • Kevin Corrigan, Plotinus' Theory of Matter-Evil: Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander of Aphrodisias (II.4, II.5, III.6, I.8). Leiden, 1996.
    • John N. Deck, Nature, Contemplation and the One: A Study in the Philosophy of Plotinus. University of Toronto Press, 1967. Paul Brunton Philosophical Foundation, 1991.
    • Barrie Fleet, Plotinus: Ennead III.6, On the Impassivity of the Bodiless. Oxford, 1995.
    • W. Helleman-Elgersma, Soul-Sisters (IV.3). Amsterdam, 1980.
    • Kieran McGroarty, Plotinus on Eudaimonia: A Commentary on Ennead I.4. Oxford, 2006.
    • P.A. Meijer, Plotinus on the Good or the One (VI.9). Amsterdam, 1992.
    • H. Oosthout, Modes of Knowledge and the Transcendental: An Introduction to Plotinus Ennead V.3. Amsterdam, 1991.
    • A.M. Wolters, Plotinus on Eros (III.5). Amsterdam, 1972.
  • Greek text

External links

Text of the Enneads:

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  • The Internet Classics Archive of MIT The Six Enneads translated into English by Stephen MacKenna and B.S. Page.
  • Philosophy Archive: An Essay on the Beautiful Translated into English by Thomas Taylor in 1917

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

From the Soul using the body as an instrument, it does not follow that the Soul must share the body's experiences: a man does not himself feel all the experiences of the tools with which he is working.

Plotinus [Πλωτῖνος] (c. 204270) was a major philosopher of the ancient world who is widely considered the founder of Neoplatonism (along with his teacher Ammonius Saccas). His metaphysical writings have inspired centuries of Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Gnostic metaphysicians and mystics.

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Beauty is established in multitude when the many is reduced into one, and in this case it communicates itself both to the parts and to the whole. But when a particular one, composed from similar parts, is received it gives itself to the whole, without departing from the sameness and integrity of its nature.
All souls, as I may say, are affected in this manner about invisible objects, but those the most who have the strongest propensity to their love; as it likewise happens about corporeal beauty; for all equally perceive beautiful corporeal forms, yet all are not equally excited, but lovers in the greatest degree.

An Essay on the Beautiful

"An Essay on the Beautiful" as translated into English by Thomas Taylor (1917)
We must enter deep into ourselves, and, leaving behind the objects of corporeal sight, no longer look back after any of the accustomed spectacles of sense.
The sensitive eye can never be able to survey, the orb of the sun, unless strongly endued with solar fire, and participating largely of the vivid ray.
If you accurately distinguish the intelligible objects you will call the beautiful the receptacle of ideas; but the good itself, which is superior, the fountain and principle of the beautiful; or, you may place the first beautiful and the good in the same principle, independent of the beauty which there subsists.
  • It may seem wonderful that language, which is the only method of conveying our conceptions, should, at the same time, be an hindrance to our advancement in philosophy; but the wonder ceases when we consider, that it is seldom studied as the vehicle of truth, but is too frequently esteemed for its own sake, independent of its connection with things.
  • That words, indeed, are not otherwise valuable than as subservient to things, must surely be acknowledged by every liberal mind, and will alone be disputed by him who has spent the prime of his life, and consumed the vigour of his understanding, in verbal criticisms and grammatical trifles. And, if this is the case, every lover of truth will only study a language for the purpose of procuring the wisdom it contains; and will doubtless wish to make his native language the vehicle of it to others. For, since all truth is eternal, its nature can never be altered by transposition, though by this means its dress may be varied, and become less elegant and refined. Perhaps even this inconvenience may be remedied by sedulous cultivation; at least, the particular inability of some, ought not to discourage the well-meant endeavours of others. Whoever reads the lives of the ancient Heroes of Philosophy, must be convinced that they studied things more than words, and that Truth alone was the ultimate object of their search; and he who wishes to emulate their glory and participate their wisdom, will study their doctrines more than their language, and value the depth of their understandings far beyond the elegance of their composition. The native charms of Truth will ever be sufficient to allure the truly philosophic mind; and he who has once discovered her retreats will surely endeavour to fix a mark by which they may be detected by others.
  • Whenever, therefore, form accedes, it conciliates in amicable unity the parts which are about to compose a whole; for being itself one it is not wonderful that the subject of its power should tend to unity, as far as the nature of a compound will admit. Hence beauty is established in multitude when the many is reduced into one, and in this case it communicates itself both to the parts and to the whole. But when a particular one, composed from similar parts, is received it gives itself to the whole, without departing from the sameness and integrity of its nature. Thus at one and the same time it communicates itself to the whole building and its several parts; and at another time confines itself to a single stone, and then the first participation arises from the operations of art, but the second from the formation of nature. And hence body becomes beautiful through the communion supernally proceeding from divinity.
  • It is now time, leaving every object of sense far behind, to contemplate, by a certain ascent, a beauty of a much higher order; a beauty not visible to the corporeal eye, but alone manifest to the brighter eye of the soul, independent of all corporeal aid. However, since, without some previous perception of beauty it is impossible to express by words the beauties of sense, but we must remain in the state of the blind, so neither can we ever speak of the beauty of offices and sciences, and whatever is allied to these, if deprived of their intimate possession. Thus we shall never be able to tell of virtue's brightness, unless by looking inward we perceive the fair countenance of justice and temperance, and are convinced that neither the evening nor morning star are half so beautiful and bright. But it is requisite to perceive objects of this kind by that eye by which the soul beholds such real beauties. Besides it is necessary that whoever perceives this species of beauty, should be seized with much greater delight, and more vehement admiration, than any corporeal beauty can excite; as now embracing beauty real and substantial. Such affections, I say, ought to be excited about true beauty, as admiration and sweet astonishment; desire also and love and a pleasant trepidation. For all souls, as I may say, are affected in this manner about invisible objects, but those the most who have the strongest propensity to their love; as it likewise happens about corporeal beauty; for all equally perceive beautiful corporeal forms, yet all are not equally excited, but lovers in the greatest degree.
  • Perhaps, the good and the beautiful are the same, and must be investigated by one and the same process; and in like manner the base and the evil. And in the first rank we must place the beautiful, and consider it as the same with the good; from which immediately emanates intellect as beautiful. Next to this, we must consider the soul receiving its beauty from intellect, and every inferior beauty deriving its origin from the forming power of the soul, whether conversant in fair actions and offices, or sciences and arts. Lastly, bodies themselves participate of beauty from the soul, which, as something divine, and a portion of the beautiful itself, renders whatever it supervenes and subdues, beautiful as far as its natural capacity will admit.
    Let us, therefore, re-ascend to the good itself, which every soul desires; and in which it can alone find perfect repose. For if anyone shall become acquainted with this source of beauty he will then know what I say, and after what manner he is beautiful. Indeed, whatever is desirable is a kind of good, since to this desire tends. But they alone pursue true good, who rise to intelligible beauty, and so far only tend to good itself; as far as they lay aside the deformed vestments of matter, with which they become connected in their descent. Just as those who penetrate into the holy retreats of sacred mysteries, are first purified and then divest themselves of their garments, until someone by such a process, having dismissed everything foreign from the God, by himself alone, beholds the solitary principle of the universe, sincere, simple and pure, from which all things depend, and to whose transcendent perfections the eyes of all intelligent natures are directed, as the proper cause of being, life and intelligence. With what ardent love, with what strong desire will he who enjoys this transporting vision be inflamed while vehemently affecting to become one with this supreme beauty! For this it is ordained, that he who does not yet perceive him, yet desires him as good, but he who enjoys the vision is enraptured with his beauty, and is equally filled with admiration and delight. Hence, such a one is agitated with a salutary astonishment; is affected with the highest and truest love; derides vehement affections and inferior loves, and despises the beauty which he once approved. Such, too, is the condition of those who, on perceiving the forms of gods or daemons, no longer esteem the fairest of corporeal forms. What, then, must be the condition of that being, who beholds the beautiful itself?
  • What measures, then, shall we adopt? What machine employ, or what reason consult by means of which we may contemplate this ineffable beauty; a beauty abiding in the most divine sanctuary without ever proceeding from its sacred retreats lest it should be beheld by the profane and vulgar eye? We must enter deep into ourselves, and, leaving behind the objects of corporeal sight, no longer look back after any of the accustomed spectacles of sense. For, it is necessary that whoever beholds this beauty, should withdraw his view from the fairest corporeal forms; and, convinced that these are nothing more than images, vestiges and shadows of beauty, should eagerly soar to the fair original from which they are derived. For he who rushes to these lower beauties, as if grasping realities, when they are only like beautiful images appearing in water, will, doubtless, like him in the fable, by stretching after the shadow, sink into the lake and disappear. For, by thus embracing and adhering to corporeal forms, he is precipitated, not so much in his body as in his soul, into profound and horrid darkness; and thus blind, like those in the infernal regions, converses only with phantoms, deprived of the perception of what is real and true.
  • The sensitive eye can never be able to survey, the orb of the sun, unless strongly endued with solar fire, and participating largely of the vivid ray. Everyone therefore must become divine, and of godlike beauty, before he can gaze upon a god and the beautiful itself. Thus proceeding in the right way of beauty he will first ascend into the region of intellect, contemplating every fair species, the beauty of which he will perceive to be no other than ideas themselves; for all things are beautiful by the supervening irradiations of these, because they are the offspring and essence of intellect. But that which is superior to these is no other than the fountain of good, everywhere widely diffusing around the streams of beauty, and hence in discourse called the beautiful itself because beauty is its immediate offspring. But if you accurately distinguish the intelligible objects you will call the beautiful the receptacle of ideas; but the good itself, which is superior, the fountain and principle of the beautiful; or, you may place the first beautiful and the good in the same principle, independent of the beauty which there subsists.

The First Ennead (c. 250)

As translated by Stephen Mackenna and B. S. Page
  • Pleasure and distress, fear and courage, desire and aversion, where have these affections and experiences their seat?
    Clearly, either in the Soul alone, or in the Soul as employing the body, or in some third entity deriving from both. And for this third entity, again, there are two possible modes: it might be either a blend or a distinct form due to the blending.
    • First Tractate : The Animate and the Man, §1
  • We may treat of the Soul as in the body — whether it be set above it or actually within it — since the association of the two constitutes the one thing called the living organism, the Animate.
    Now from this relation, from the Soul using the body as an instrument, it does not follow that the Soul must share the body's experiences: a man does not himself feel all the experiences of the tools with which he is working.
    • First Tractate : The Animate and the Man, §3

Quotes about Plotinus

The power of the One, as Plotinus speaks of it, is to be understood as the only adequate description of the "manifestation" of a supreme principle that, by its very nature, transcends all predication and discursive understanding. ~ Edward Moore
  • There were at least two avenues for originality open to Plotinus, even if it was not his intention to say fundamentally new things. The first was in trying to say what Plato meant on the basis of what he wrote or said or what others reported him to have said. This was the task of exploring the philosophical position that we happen to call "Platonism". The second was in defending Plato against those who, Plotinus thought, had misunderstood him and therefore unfairly criticized him. Plotinus found himself, especially as a teacher, taking up these two avenues. His originality must be sought for by following his path.
  • 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.). These principles are both ultimate ontological realities and explanatory principles. Plotinus believed that they were recognized by Plato as such, as well as by the entire subsequent Platonic tradition.
    The One is the absolutely simple first principle of all. It is both "self-caused" and the cause of being for everything else in the universe. There are, according to Plotinus, various ways of showing the necessity of positing such a principle.
    • Lloyd P. Gerson in "Plotinus" at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • The "concept" of the One is not, properly speaking, a concept at all, since it is never explicitly defined by Plotinus, yet it is nevertheless the foundation and grandest expression of his philosophy. Plotinus does make it clear that no words can do justice to the power of the One; even the name, "the One," is inadequate, for naming already implies discursive knowledge, and since discursive knowledge divides or separates its objects in order to make them intelligible, the One cannot be known through the process of discursive reasoning (Ennead VI.9.4). 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). The "power" of the One is not a power in the sense of physical or even mental action; the power of the One, as Plotinus speaks of it, is to be understood as the only adequate description of the "manifestation" of a supreme principle that, by its very nature, transcends all predication and discursive understanding.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PLOTINUS (A.D. 204-270), the most important representative of Neoplatonism, was born of Roman parents at Lycopolis in Egypt. At Alexandria he attended the lectures of Ammonius Saccas, the founder of the system, until 242, when he joined the Persian .expedition of Gordian III., with the object of studying Persian and Indian philosophy on the spot. After the assassination of Gordian in 244, Plotinus was obliged to take refuge in Antioch, whence he made his way to Rome and set up as a teacher there. He soon attracted a large number of pupils, the most distinguished of whom were Amelius, Eustochius and Porphyry. The emperor Gallienus and his wife Salonina were also his enthusiastic admirers, and favoured his idea of founding a Platonic Commonwealth (Platonopolis) in Campania (cf. Bishop Berkeley's scheme for the Bermuda islands), but the opposition of Gallienus's counsellors and the death of Plotinus prevented the plan from being carried out. Plotinus's wide popularity was due partly to the lucidity of his teaching, but perhaps even more to his strong personality. Assent developed into veneration; he was considered to be divinely inspired, and generally credited with miraculous powers. In spite of ill-health, he continued to teach and write until his death, which took place on the estate of one of his friends near Minturnae in Campania.

Under Ammonius Plotinus became imbued with the eclectic spirit of the Alexandrian school. Having accepted the Platonic metaphysical doctrine, he applied to it the Neo-Pythagorean principles and the Oriental doctrine of Emanation. The results of this introspective mysticism were collected by him in a series of fifty-four (originally forty-eight) treatises, arranged in six "Enneads," which constitute the most authoritative exposition of Neoplatonism. This arrangement is probably due to Porphyry, to whose editorial care they were consigned. There was also another ancient edition by Eustochius, but all the existing MSS. are based on Porphyry's edition.

The Enneades of Plotinus were first made known in the Latin translation of Marsilio Ficino (Florence, 1492) which was reprinted at Basel in 1580, with the Greek text of Petrus Perna. Later editions by Creuzer and Moser ("Didot Series," 1855), A. Kirchhoff (1856), H. F. Miller (1878-1880), R. Volkmann (1883-1884). There is an English translation of selected portions by Thomas Taylor, re-edited in Bohn's Philosophical Library (1895, with introduction and bibliography by G. R. S. Mead).

On Plotinus generally see article in Suidas; Eunapius vitae sophistarum; and above all the Vita Plotini by his pupil Porphyry. Among modern works, see the treatises on the school of Alexandria by J. F. Simon, i. (1845), and E. Vacherot (1846); A. Richter, Ueber Leben and Geistesentwicklung des Plotin (Halle, 1864-1867); T. Whittaker, The Neoplatonists (1901); A. Drews, Plotin and der Untergang der antiken Weltanschauung (1907); E. Caird, Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers (1904), ii. 210-257; Rufus M. Jones, Studies in Mystical Religion (1909). A detailed account of Plotinus's philosophical system and an estimate of its importance will be found in the article Neoplatonism, the works above referred to, and the histories of philosophy. For his list of categories, see Categories; also Logos; Mysticism; Magic.


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