Plotinus

Source

Plotinus, (c. 205-–270) is widely considered the father of Neoplatonism. Much of our biographical information about Plotinus comes from Porphyry's preface to his edition of Plotinus' Enneads.

Plotinus in Raphael's School of Athens

(Πλωτῖνος), the originator of the new Platonic system (though not of its fundamental principles), lived so exclusively in speculation, that he appeared to be ashamed of his own bodily organisation (ἐῴκει μὲν αἰσχυνομένῳ ὅτι ἐν σώματι εἴη, Porphyr. Vita Plotini, c. 1; comp. Ennead. i. 4. §§ 14, 15), and would tell neitherhis parents, his forefathers, his native country, nor his birthday, in order to avoid the celebration of it. (Porphyr. cc. 1, 2.) When requested to sit for his portrait, he asked, whether it was not enough to bear the image in which nature had veiled us, and whether we ought to commit the folly of leaving to posterity an image of this image ? so that his enthusiastic friend, Amelius, only succeeded in getting a faithful portrait of him by introducing an artist to his open lectures, in order that he might observe him accurately and then paint him from memory. (Porphyr. l. c.) According to Suidas and others, he was born at Lycopolis (Sivouth) in Egypt. That he was of Roman descent, or at least born of a freed man of Rome, is conjectured with great probability from his name. Porphyry could give very little information respecting his earlier life, at least from any personal communication. He learned, however, that he had been fed from the nurse's breast up to his eighth year, although he was already sent to school; that in his twentyeighth year the impulse to study philosophy was awakened in him, but that not obtaining satisfaction from the teacher he attended (who was named Alexandriens), he fell into a state of great anxiety, and was then brought by a friend to Ammonius Saccas; that from that day forward he remained continuously with Ammonius for eleven years, until in his thirty-ninth year the desire he experienced to learn the philosophy of the Persians and Indians, induced him to join the expedition of the emperor Gordian (A. D. 242). After the death of Gordian he retreated with great difficulty to Antioch, and from thence went, in his fortieth year, to Rome. There he held communication with some few individuals, but kept the doctrines of Ammonius secret, as he had concerted to do with two others of the same school, namely, Herennius and Origen. Even after Herennius and Origen had successively, in opposition to the agreement, begun to make known these doctrines in their books, Plotinus continued only to make use of them in oral communications (ἐκ τῆς Ἀμμωνίου συνουσίας ποιούμενος τὰς διατριβάς), in order to excite his friends to investigation, which communications, however, according to the testimony of Amelius, were characterised by great want of order and superfluity of words (ἦν δὲ ἡ διατριβὴ .... ἀταξίας πλἠρης καὶ πολλῆς φλυαρίας, Porphyr. c. 3), until, in the first year of the reign of Gallienus (254), he was induced by his friends to express himself in writing upon the subjects treated of in his oral communications (γράφειν τὰς ἐμπιπτούσας ὑποθέσεις, Porph. c. 4). In this manner when, ten years later, Porphyry came to Rome and joined himself to Plotinus, twenty one books of very various contents had been already composed by him, which were only dispersed, however, with discretion and put into the hands of the initiated. (Ib. c. 4.) During the six years that Porphyry lived with Plotinus at Rome, the latter, at the instigation of Amelius and Porphyry, wrote twentythree books on the subjects which had been earnestly discussed in their meetings, to which nine books were afterwards added. (Porphyry had returned to Sicily in the year 268.) Of the fiftyfour books of Plotinus, Porphyry remarks, that the first twenty-one were of a lighter character, that only the twenty-three following were the production of the matured powers of the author, and that the other nine, especially the four last, were evidently written with diminished vigour. Although Porphyry's judgment, however, might only have approved of the edition which he had himself arranged, yet he has carefully given the titles to all three of the portions, as, with little variation, they again appear in the Enneads. (cc. 5, 6.)

The correction of his writings Plotinus himself committed to the care of Porphyry, for on account of the weakness of his sight he never read them through a second time, to say nothing of making corrections; intent simply upon the matter, he was alike careless of orthography, of the division of the syllables, and the clearness of his handwriting. He was accustomed, however, to think out his conceptions so completely, that what he had sketched out in his mind seemed copied as though from a book. He could always, with the utmost confidence, take up the thread of the investigation where he had broken off, without being obliged to read the preceding paragraph anew, even though foreign investigations might have filled up the intervening time. He lived at the same time with himself and with others, and the inward activity of his spirit only ceased during the hours of sleep, which, moreover, this very activity, as well as the scantiness of food to which he had accustomed himself, greatly abridged (cc. 7, 8); even bread itself he but seldom enjoyed (c. 8), and when suffering from pains of the stomach denied himself the bath as well as treacle (a kind that was made of viper's flesh and poppies), the latter because he generally abstained from flesh altogether. (c. 2, ib. Kreuzer.) His written style was close (συντονός), pregnant (πολύνους), and richer in thoughts than in words, yet enthusiastic, and always pointing entirely to the main object (ἐκπαθῶς φράζων, c. 14). Probably he was more eloquent in his oral communications, and was said to be very clever in finding the appropriate word, even if he failed in accuracy on the whole. Beside this, the beauty of his person was increased when discoursing; his countenance was lighted up with genius, and covered with small drops of perspiration. Although he received questions in a gentle and friendly manner, yet he knew well how to answer them forcibly or to exhaust them. For three whole days, on one occasion, he discussed with Porphyry the relation of the soul to the body. (c. 13.) He ever expressed himself with the great warmth of acknowledgment respecting any successful attempts of his younger friends; as, for example, respecting a poem by Porphyry. Immoral principles he met by exciting opposition against them. (c. 15.)

At a time when, notwithstanding the reigning demoralisation, a deep religious need was awakened, noble minds, which had not yet obtained satisfaction from the open teaching of Christianity, must have attached themselves with great confidence and affection to a personality so fraught with deep reflection as was that of Plotinus. It was not only men of science like the philosophers Aimelius, Porphyry, the physicians Paulinus, Eustochius, and Zethus the Arab, who regarded him with deep respect, but even senators and other statesmen did so as well. One of them, named Rogatianus, respected him to such a degree, that he stripped himself of his dignity (he had attained the praetorian rank) and renounced all kind of luxury; this he did, however, to his own bodily comfort, for having been previously lame both in his hands and feet, he perfectly recovered by this simple habit of living the use of all his limbs. (c. 7.) Even women attached themselves to him, and his house was filled with youths and maidens, whom their dying parents had entrusted to his direction. He did not either appear at all deficient in the practical skill that was requisite to manage their affairs. His sharp penetrating judgment and good sense in such matters are highly extolled (c. 11), and the care with which he looked through all the accounts respecting their fortune is much praised (c.9).

He enjoyed the favour of the emperor Gallienus and the empress Salonina to such a degree, that he obtained almost the rebuilding of two destroyed towns in Campania, with the view of their being governed according to the laws of Plato (c. 12). Even envy itself was constrained to acknowledge his worth. It is said that the attempt of a certain Alexandrian, named Olympius (who for a short time had been a pupil of Ammonius), to injure Plotinus by magical arts (ἀστροβολῆσαι αὐτὸν μαγεύσας) recoiled upon himself, and revenged itself on him by causing the contraction of all his limbs. It is further related, that an Egyptian priest, in the temple of Isis, essayed in the presence of Plotinus to make his attending δαίμων appear, but that instead of this a god presented himself as the protecting spirit of the philosopher, whose high dignity the Egyptian could now no longer call in question. These relations, occurring as they do in the comparatively sober-minded Porphyry (c. 10; comp. Procl. in Alcibiad. i. 23. p. 198, Cons.), are well worthy of observation, as characteristic of the tendencies of that age, however little disposed we may be to attach any reality to them. Although Plotinus only attached any faith to the prophecies of the astrologers after a searching examination (c. 15, extr.), yet he believed, as that Egyptian did (comp. Ennead. iii. 4), in protecting spirits of higher and lower ranks, and not less, probably, in the power of calling them up through intense meditation, or of working upon those at a distance by magic. It was not indeed to his individual power, but to the divine power, gained by vision, that he ascribed this miraculous agency, but he would none the more acknowledge that the gods had any individual interest in himself, and on one occasion he put off Amelius' request to share with him in a sacrifice, with the words, "Those gods of yours must come to me, not I to them." (c. 10.)

After Plotinus's death, Amelius inquired of the Delphic Apollo whither his soul was gone, and received in fifty-one lame hexameters an ardent panegyric on the philosopher, in which he was celebrated as mild and good, with a soul aspiring to the divinity, loved of God, and a fortunate searcher after truth; now, it was said, he abides like Minos, Rhadamnanthus, Aeacus, Pluto, and Pythagoras, where friendship, undisturbed joy (εὐφροσύνη), and love to Deity are enthroned, in fellowship with the ever-blessed spirits (δαίμονες, c. 22). Porphyry, his biographer, adds, that he had raised his soul to the contemplation of the supreme and personal God not without success, and that the Deity appeared to him to be something elevated above all body and form, beyond thought and imagination ; yea, that during his own intercourse with him, he (Plotinus) had, by a transcendent energy of soul, four times risen to a perfect union with God, and confesses that he himself, during a life of sixty-eight years, had only once attained that elevation. (c. 23; comp. Plotin. Ennead. v. 5. § 3. The acknowledgments of Longinus, however, speak far more for the influence which Plotinus exercised on the mind of his age, than do the manifested Deity or the admiring love of Porphyry. That excellent critic had at first (having been himself a constant hearer of Ammonius and Origen) regarded Plotinus with contempt (c. 20), and even after his death could not profess any kind of agreement with most of his doctrines; indeed he had written against Plotinus's doctrine of ideas, and not given in to the answers of Porphyry and Amelius; yet still he was most anxious to get perfect copies of his books, and extolled at once the pregnancy of their style and the philosophical treatment of the investigations. In the same manner he expresses himself in his work on final causes, and also in a letter written before the death of Plotinus; in these writings he unconditionally prefers our Lycopolitan, not only to the other philosophers of his time, whether Platonics, Stoics, or Peripatetics, but also to Numenius, Cronius, Moderatus, and Thrasyllus, more especially in reference to the fullness of the objects treated of (προβλήματα), the originality of the manner in which they were discussed (τρόπῳ θεωρίας ἰδίῳ χρησάμενος ; Amelius is in this respect placed by his side), and the closeness of the reasoning. (cc. 21, 22.)

When suffering from pain in the bowels, Plotinus used no other means than daily rubbing, and left this off when the men who assisted him died of the pest (A. D. 262). Suidas (who, however, is not to be relied on) says, that Plotinus himself was attacked by the plague; Porphyry on the contrary (c. 15) states, that the omission of these rubbings produced only disease of the throat (κύναγχος), which gradually became disjointed, so that at last he became speechless, weak of vision, and contracted both in hands and feet. Piotinus, therefore, withdrew to the country seat of his deceased friend Zethus in Campania, and, according to Eustochius, passed by Puteoli. There was only one of his friends present in the neighbourhood when he died (Porphyry had been obliged to go on account of health to Lilybaeum in Sicily, and Amelius was on a journey to Apameia in Syria), and of himn he took leave in the following words : "Thee have I waited for, but now I seek to lead back the Divine principle within me to the God who is all in all." At his last breath, Porphyry relates that a dragon glided from under the bed, and escaped through an opening in the wall. (c. 2.)

In reference to former systems of Grecian philosophy, we are fully able to point out, for the most part with decision, how far they had prepared the way for Plotinus by earlier developments, and how much the peculiarity, both of their matter and their form, gained by his additional and creative reflections. It is not so easy, however, to decide by what peculiar ideas Plotinus compressed the New Platonic doctrines into that systematic form in which they he before us in the Enneads. This result, indeed, we may see was prepared for by the philosophical efforts of almost two centuries. On the one side, Philon and others had attempted to bring the Emanation-theory, peculiar to the East, into harmony with the flower of the Hellenistic philosophy, namely with Platonism; on the other side, various Greeks had attempted partly to perfect and complete this theory, as the mature fruit of the Greek philosophic spirit, by a selection from thle Platonic, Aristotelian, and Stoic doctrines, partly (as a satisfaction for the religious wants of the age) to base upon it thle elements of the symbolism and the faith both of the Oriental and Grecian religions. With reference to the latter, that which first of all had sprung out of the religious wants of the age, was afterwards continued in the hope of raising a barrier against the spread of the Christian doctrines, by ennobling the various polytheistic religious, and by pointing to their common and rational basis. But as, on the one hand, the Oriental Emanation-theory, with its hidden and selfexcluding deity, could not strike its roots in the soil of the Grecian philosophy, so neither, on the other hand, could the eclectic and syncretic attempts of Plutarch, Maximus Tyrius, and others, satisfy the requisitions of a regular philosophy of religion. Without altogether renouncing these syncretic and eclectic attempts, or rejecting the new intuitional method of the Oriental Emanationtheories, Numenius and his contemporary Cronius appeared to be striving to make these several systems accessible to the Grecian dialectics. In place of emanations from the divine self-revealing essence, which become more and more finite in proportion as they stand further from the godhead, Numenius approaching nearer to Plato, substitutes the development of eternal ideas, by the intuition (θεωρία) of the separate and independent soul, as directed to that absolute and unchangable Divine essence from which it first proceeded. The unconditional existence, or the good, is not supposed to enter into this development; but its fluctuating image, the soul, by virtue of its innate intuition, can explain the hidden fullness of the original being, and by virtue of its peculiar striving (ἔφεσις), can set it, as it were, out of itself, and so separate in itself the soul and the spirit. How far Ammonius Saccas entered into such a logical modification of the Emanation-theory we cannot decide, neither do we know how far he surpassed his teachers in the form of his logical definitions. We only learn that he pointed out the unanimity of Plato and Aristotle in their essential doctrines, and chose them for his leaders. (Hierocles, de Provident. ap. Phot. Cod. 214, 251.) According to the fore-mentioned authority of Porphyry, Plotinus had joined himself entirely to Ammonius in the first years of his residence in Rome, and even afterwards, when he had the commentaries of Severns, Cronius, Numenius, Gaius, Atticus, as also those of the Peripatetics, Aspasins, Alexander, Adrastus, real in their meetings, without at the same time following them, the spirit of his former teacher was predomninant in all their investigations. (Porphyr. c.14.) Against the charge of having copied Numenius, Amelius had defended him in a letter to Porphyry (Porph. 17, where the letter referred to is given) ; and indeed from the worthless fragments that have been handed down to us from the books of Numenius, we could well judge of the matter, even if Plotinus had simply surpassed that Platonic in a few important points, and not in his whole method of philosophising.

With the doctrines of Aristotle, of the Pythagoreans and Stoics, of Heracleitus, of the Eleatics, of Anaxagoras and Empedocles, our philosopher was clearly acquainted; he appropriates much from them, and opposes much often with great acuteness; as, for example, in the books on the different species of existence, the Categories. (Ennead. vii. 1-3 ; comp. Trendelenburg's Historische Beiträge zur Philosophie, 1st vol., Geschichte der Kategorienlehre.) Plato, however, is his constant guide and master. In him he finds the very basis and point of his philosophy more or less distinctly hinted at; he quotes him often with a bare "ipse dixit," is fond of joining his own speculations upon his remarks, and of exhibiting his own agreement with that great Athenian. This connection with Plato is probably common to him with Numenius, as also the critical method of examining the other Grecian systems, which was borrowed from Aristotle. But to him Plato was not, as with Numenius, the Attic Moses; on the contrary, he appears almost designedly to avoid any reference to the Oriental philosophy and religion ; he attempts to find all this under the veil of the Greek mythology, and points out here the germ of his own philosophical and religious convictions. Of the Egyptian and other Oriental doctrines of religion he hardly makes any mention at all; and yet to one who was a born Egyptian, and had penetrated so far into Asia, such knowledge could not have been wanting. Plotinus, therefore, cannot be accused of that commixture and falsification of the Oriental mythology and mysticism, which is found in Iamblichus, Proclus,and others of the New Platonic school. Probably it was at his suggestion that Amelius and Porphyry had written against the misuse which already began to be made of the doctrines of Zoroaster. Porphyry (Plotin. c. 16) mentions these writings in connection with the book which Plotinus aimed against the Gnostics, and there can be no doubt but that in this discussion he had to deal also with the Christian Gnostics. It is only their arbitrary Emanation-phantasies, however, their doctrines of matter and evil, and their astrological fatalism that he opposes; the Christian doctrines respecting salvation, which were rather veiled than revealed by them, he leaves entirely untouched; also in the different explanations he gives of his threefold principle, he makes no reference to the Christian Trinity. Porphyry was the first to enter decidedly into the lists against the Christian revelation, and we must attribute it to the manner in which he viewed the task committed to his care, that in the books of Plotinus, which were edited by him, he introduced no unfavourable reference whatever to a religion which he detested.

In order to estimate these writings correctly, we ought not to forget that they originated for the most part in some question or other of temporary interest. Only a few of them can be considered as the commencements of a complete development of their respective subjects; as, for example, the three books on philosophical problems (iv. 3-5), on the different species of existence (vi. 1-3), and on unity and uniformity (vi. 4-5); yet it would be difficult to unite even them in one continuous series of investigations, and still more so the others, especially those that were completed in the first period, which, however, bear more than those of the other periods the character of separate treatises, being adapted only in some few respects to stand in connection with them. We need not, therefore, blame Porphyry, that despairing of all such attempts, he has divided and arranged the books according to the similarity of their subject-matter ; perhaps it would have been still better it he had entirely separated the treatises of the first period from those of both the others, and arranged consecutively each of the other divisions separately for itself, on the very same principles by which he had already been guided. These chronological references would, at least, have necessitated a more complete discussion of Plotinus's system, however little it might have been practicable to trace the gradual development of that system in the mind of the author. The fundamental and main doctrines of it appear to have been fixed when he first began to write (which was at a tolerably mature period of life), only in the earlier periods they seem to have been concealed behind the particular object he had in view, more than was the case in those elaborations of a later date, which were directed towards the elucidation of the essential features of his own peculiar system. In these latter writings, the endeavour which, as far as we can judge. characterised Plotinus more than any other philosopher of his age, was especially prominent, the endeavour, namely, to pave the way to the solution of any question by a careful discussion of the difficulties of the case. However unsatisfactory this process may generally have proved, yet the insight which it afforded into the peculiarity of the problems wais only second to that of Aristotle himself, whom in this respect he appears to have chosen as his master.

The difficulty of comprehending and appreciating the system of Plotinus is greatly increased, not only by the want of any systematic and scientific exhibition of it, and the consequent tedious repetitions, but also by the impossibility of finding in such a mass of isolated treatises the connection of the parts and the foundation of the whole system. No treatises like the Theaetetus and Sophistes of Plato, which undertake to develope and fix the idea of knowledge, and of its objects, are to be found in the Ennead of Plotinus; and from this circumstance we can see how the desire for a strictly scientific foundation in the philosophy of the age had been lost. The middle point of the system, however, may be regarded as involved in the doctrines of a threefold principle, and of pure intuition. We find, if not a fully satisfactory, yet at any rate a vigorous attempt to establish these points in the argument, that true knowledge is not attained so long as the knowing and the known, subject and object, are separate from each other. We trust, says Plotinus, to our sense-perceptions, and yet we are ignorant what it is in them which belongs to the objects themselves, and what to the affections of the subject. Moreover, sense can grasp only an image (εἴδωλον) of the object, not the object itself, which ever remains beyond it. In the same way the spirit cannot know the spiritual (τὰ νοητὰ) so long as it is separate from it; and if any one would affirm that the spirit and the spiritual may somewhere or other be united, yet still our thoughts would only be types (αἱ νοήσεις τύποι ἔσονται), types it may be of a real external existence; an existence, however, which the mind can never be sure that it has grasped, and which (whether existence be a spiritual thing or not) must present itself to us as premises, judgments, or propositions (v. 5. § 1, comp. v. 3. §§ 1-3). To despair of truth altogether, he considered, notwithstanding this, to be equivalent to a denial of mind itself. Accordingly, we must of necessity presuppose knowledge, truth, and existence; we must admit that the real spirit carries every thing (spiritual) in itself, not merely their types or images; and that for this very reason there is no need of any demonstration or guarantee of truth; but, rather, that truth carries its own evidence to the soul. (Ἡ ὄντως ἀλήθεια οὐ συμφωνοῦσα ἄλλῳ ἀλλ' ἑαυτῇ, ib. § 2.) The true soul cannot therefore deceive; and its knowledge is nothing representational, uncertain, or borrowed from other sources (§ 1). This argumentation, directed as well against the Stoics as the atomistic Sensationalists (comp. vi. 1. § 218, ii. 6. § 1, iii. 6. § 6, iv. 4. § 23, 5. § 3, 3. § 18, i. 4. § 10, vi. 7. § 9), now breaks off, and leads immediately to considerations, in which the mind is regarded as a cosmical principle, not a knowing principle. The conclusion of this train of reasoning is found in the third book of the Enneads, which starts from the question, whether the self-conscious (νοοῦν) subject, in order to separate the thinking from the thought, presupposes an inherent multiplicity; or whether the simple me can comprehend itself. The former Plotinus cannot admit as valid, since on such a supposition, self and knowledge, the comprehending principle and the comprehended, would he separated from each other; he cannot renounce the idea of a pure self-comprehension, without at the same time renouncing the knowledge of every thing that can be thought of likewise (v. 3. § 1, comp. §§ 4, 5).

After an acute development of the difficulties which oppose themselves to the idea of an absolutely simple self-consciousness, Plotinus attempts to solve them by the supposition that the essence of the soul is a spontaneous activity, and that self-consciousness is to be regarded as including at once thinking itself--the thinking principle; and the object thought (v. 3. §§ 5, 8, 5. § 1). From this it follows still further, that the pure spirit (that which does not strive to work out of itself) lives necessarily in a state of self-consciousness and self-knowledge; that the human spirit, however, developes its pure activity only so far as it masters the soul, with which it is connected by the bond of a mediating thought (διάνοια), and rests simply upon itself (v. 3. § 7). Lastly, it is concluded that the human spirit can only know the divine and the spiritual, so far as it knows itself (l. c.). In self-knowledge, thought and existence fall absolutely together; for the former is implied in the process of knowing, the latter in sel or the me (vi. 1. § 1). So likewise in all true knowledge, the object must be comprehended immediately (v. 9. § 13), and have reference to the ideas which are innate in the soul itself. Meditation, or meditating thought, can only be regarded as the way to truth (iv. 4. § 12), without being ever able to reach it (v. 5. §§ 1, 3, 6, 8. § 4, comp. i. 3. §§ 4, 5, 8. § 2). Nay, unconditioned Being, or the Godhead, cannot be grasped by thinking, or science, only by intuition (παρουσία, vi. 9. § 4, 7. § 35). In this pure intuition, the good, or the absolute being, gazes upon itself through the medium of our own spirits (vi. 7. §§ 16,34, vi. 6. § 7,8. § 19,9. § 4, iv. 4. § 2, v. 3. § 3). To close the eye against all things transient and variable (οἷον μύσαντα ὄψιν, i. 6. § 8), to raise ourselves to this simple essence (ἅπλωσις), to take refuge in the absolute (vi. 9. § 11, v. 8. § 11), this must be regarded as the highest aim of all our spiritual efforts. We are necessitated, however, to regard the unconditioned or the good, as the primary ground of the spirit, and of its fundamental idea of being, or of the world of ideas, by virtue of the multiplicity of the acts of the soul's activity, and of their objects, all being included in the conception of being (vi. 3. § 10, 6. § 1, vi. 7. § 37,9. § 2); for all multiplicity is conditioned and dependent. In this way the unconditioned shows itself as the absolutely simple,--the unconditoned one (v. 4. § 1, vi. 9. § 6), which for that very reason has no need of thinking nor of willing (vi. 9. § 6); and being raised entirely above all the determiniations of existence (v. 3. § 12, vi. 2. § 3, &c. 8. § 18, 9. § 3) can be described neither as being or not being; neither as moved or resting; neither as free or necessary; neither as a principle or as no principle; nay, which can only be characterised as the unconditioned one, and as the good (v. 2. § 1, 4. § 1, vi. 8. § 8, 9. § 9). Accordingly, the absolute is something inexpressible (vi. 8. § 8), and can only be reached by the above-mentioned yielding up of the soul to it (comp. vi. 9. § 3, 4. § 9, &c.). Consequently, it is a necessary presupposition to all being, that we think of every kind of existence asi dependent upon the absolute, and in a certain sense produced from it (vi. 9. § 3, comp. v. 1. § 6). It (the absolute) must ever stream forth as inexhaustible (v. 2. § 1); it must bring every thing else out of itself without becoming the weaker (vi. 8. [p. 428] § 19). Essences must flow from it, without its experiencing any change; it must dwell in all existences so far as they partake of the one essential existence (iv. 3. § 17, vi. 9. § 1); as absolutely perfect it must be the end (not the operating cause) of all being (vi. 9. §§ 8, 9). The immediate productive power of the unconditioned one absolutely exists; and next to it stands the spirit, which has a certain connection with duality and plurality, and is the source of all the determinations of being and knowing (v. 1. § 6, v. 6. § 1, v. 2. § 1,vi. 9. § 2). This partakes both of uniformity and diversity--of unity and plurality (v. 1. § 4, vi. 1). The spirit is the basis both of being and thinking, for every act of thought, directed to the unconditioned, produces a real existence, an idea; each one of which is different from the rest by virtue of its form, but identical in respect of the matter (ii. 4. § 4, ii. 5. § 6, iii. 8. §§ 8, 10, v. I. § 7, vi. 7. § 16). Out of the spirit is developed the idea that is contained in it (λόγος, iii. 2. § 2, v. 1. §§ 3-6), that is, the soul. As being an immediate production of the spirit, the soul has a share in all existence or in ideas, being itself an idea (iii. 6. § 18). By it is produced the transition from eternity to time, from rest to motion (iv. 4. § 15, ii. 9. § 1; conip. v. 1. § 4); to it belongs, in contradistinction from the spirit, the power of looking out of itself; and as the result of this a practical activity (ii. 1. § 2, iii. 5. § 3, iii. 6. § 4, v. 1. §§ 6,10, v.2. § 1, vi.2. § 22). In its power of imaging the world, it (the soul) stands midway between the intelligible and the sensuous (iv . 8. §§ 2, 3, iv. 9. § 7); the latter is an image of itself, as itself is an image of the spirit. The boundary of being, or the lowest principle of all, is hitter ; the necessary contrast of the first, or the good (i. 8. § 1, &c.); and in so far it must also be negative and evil (i.8, i. 7. § 15, iii. 4. § 9); nevertheless in consequence of its susceptibility of form, it must have something positive about it (ii. 4. §§ 10-13). Nature also is a soul (iii. 8. § 3), and perception at once 'the ground and ain of all becoming. But in proportion as the perception becomes more clear and distinct, the corresponding essence belongs to a higher step in the scale of being (iii. 8. §§ 3, 7).

The further development of Plotinus's three principles, and of the dim idea of matter (see especially ii. 4, &c.), and the attempts he made to determine the idea of time in opposition to that of eternity (iii. 7), to explain the essential constitution of man, and his immortal blessedness (i. 4, &c.), to maintain the belief in a divine providence, and the freedom of the will, in opposition to the theory of an evil principle, and the inexorable necessity of predetermination or causal sequence (iii. 1-3, comp. ii. 9), together with the first weak beginnings of a natural philosophy (ii. 5-8), and the foundations of an ethical science answering to the above principles, and grounded on the separation of the lower or political from the higher or intelligible virtue,--these points, as also his researches on the Beautiful, can orly just be mentioned in passing (i. 2, 3, comp. 4, 5, and ii. 6).

Beside Porphyry's recension of the books of Plotmus there was also another furnished by Eustochius, out of which a more extensive division of the hooks on the soul (iv. 4. § 30) has been quoted in a (Greek Scholion, and the operation of which on the present text has been traced and pointed out by Fr. Kreuzer (see his remarks to i. 9. § 1, ii. 3. § 5, p. 248. 12, Kreuz. iv.2. §§ 1,2, iv.7. § 8, p.857, Kr.). Moreover, there is in connection with the last-mentioned passage a completion by Eusebius (Pr. Ev. xv. 22).

The Enneads of Plotinus appeared first in the Latin Translation of Marsilius Ficinus (Florence, 1492), a translation which was furnished with an elaborate introduction to each part, and a full table of contents, and to which the very faulty Greek text of Petrus Perna was appended (Basel, 1580).

The Six Enneads

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References

  • A History of Philosophy: Vol. 1, Part 2, Frederick Copleston,S.J. ISBN 0-385-00210-6

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