Notes on Plotinus

In light of the recent discussions on analogia entis and such, I decided to post these notes.  I am neither agreeing nor disagreeing with Plotinus. This is just what I jotted down when I read through the Enneads last summer.

First Ennead

Dialektik

“The power of pronouncing upon things how they are and differ with others” (I.III.4).  It is combining and Dividing until one reaches perfect Intellection.

Happiness and the Soul

All living things proceed from one principle but possess life in different degrees. The Intellect contains the soul (soul is a lower part; I.IV.10).  The soul reflects and refracts–as a mirror of sorts–the higher images from the Intellect.  

Eternity is Timeless Being (I.V. 7).  

Our knowing the Transcendental allows us a standpoint for the wider survey.

Beauty isn’t symmetry but symmetry participates in Beauty.  

The Soul exists within a Hierarchy of Being

Second Ennead

By matter I don’t think Plotinus means simple corporeality.  It seems to be the chaotic substratum of flux and difference.  It is the manifestation of flux and disorder.  What accounts for unity within the flux of the cosmos?  How can matter serve the immortality of the cosmos (II.1.3)  Answer: the flux is not outgoing.  Does Plotinus mean that the flux doesn’t emanate like the higher orders of being do?

“The ground of all change must itself be changeless”

A soul, then, of the minor degree, reproduces that Divine sphere, although lacking in power. The coherence of extremes is produced by virtue of each possessing all the intermediates (II.1.6).

E1 ——-I₁——–I₂—————E2

The lower soul is moved by the higher (II.II.3)

On Necessity

Necessity is the mother of the fates. There is an agon in the soul as it relates to matter.  

Structure of the Cosmology

One

Intellectual Principle (but even here there are gradations of being, as Plotinus allows for an image of idefiniteness

World Soul

Kosmos

Each causes the lesser, which in turn is inferior.  The cosmos is an image continuously being imaged.  

Matter

Definition and description:  it is undetermined, void of shape (II.IV.2).  Matter suggests movement and differentiation.  By motion, it is a cleavage.  Matter only has real being in the intelligible realm.  Yet, how can the realm of form have matter?  Plotinus suggests that the matter there is a type of complete unity.

Epistemology problem

Likeness knows by likeness.  The indeterminate knows the indeterminate.  How can soul know matter?  The indeterminate must have some footing in the realm of form.  “In knowing matter it must have an experience, the impact of the shapeless” (II.IV.10).  

Matter = Indeterminacy = The Void = Nonbeing (?).

To clarify, matter isn’t corporeality, but the base of the identity to all that is composite. An absence is neither a quality nor a qualified entity, but the negation of a quality (II.IV.13)

Fifth Tractate: Potentiality

All potentiality has a telos.  It is a “substratum” to states.  It requires an intervention from outside itself to bring itself to actuality.  Therefore, anything that has potentiality is actually something else!

Ennead 3

 Fate

  • A cause penetrates all things
  • This cause cannot be material in origin, since matter = disorder
  • All things are brought to eventuation through causes. There are two kinds:
    • Originating from the soul
    • Originating from the environment

Matter and Evil

  • Conflict and destruction are inevitable (III.II.4).
  • Evil is a falling short in the good (III.II.5).

Structure of the Cosmos (B)

Heavens

Gods

Human beings

Man has come into existence because he occupies an intermediate state. The reason-principles are acts of the Universal Soul. The reason-principle has two phases: one that creates and the other that links the creations.

Ennead 4

The soul is not a quantitative object.  It is a manifestation of Logos (III.5). Much of this Ennead is a long defense of reincarnation, which I won’t cover here. The soul is the medium between Logos and creation (III.11).  

Ennead 5

Problems that are raised for Plotinus.  (Here I am following Rowan Williams’ Arius: Heresy and Tradition).  

  • Can the One have self-understanding, since he would be both subject and object–an active mind working on a passive object (Williams 199ff).  The problem here is that the Form of the one is not simply a structure, but a structuring principle.
  • Thinking and understanding involve distance and duplication.  Understanding is complex because it seeks itself in Otherness (201).
  • Therefore, apparently, when the nous knows itself, it produces multiplicity of the world of ideas, which separates itself from the one.  
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About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
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