Plotinus on the Soul: A Study in the Metaphysics of Knowledge

Plotinus on the Soul: A Study in the Metaphysics of Knowledge

Plotinus on the Soul: A Study in the Metaphysics of Knowledge

Plotinus on the Soul: A Study in the Metaphysics of Knowledge

Synopsis

This work offers a study on the problematic of a scientific knowledge of the sensible reality in the Enneads. In so doing, it presents a radical new perspective on the philosophy of Plotinus and engages in an intense, detailed, and critical rereading of Plotinus and his commentators.

Excerpt

In the following pages, I propose to give a number of grounds for what I believe to be the acceptance of a scientific knowledge of the sensible reality by Plotinus. It is a view that is uncommon and, by that very fact, may be the subject of some dispute amongst Plotinian scholars. My first consideration regards my choice of text, beginning with the treatise “The Three Initial Hypostases” (5,1,[10]), an early and important treatise on the doctrine of conversion and the ascent of Soul, followed by the treatise “On Love” (3.5 [50]), a late treatise that recounts the nature of Soul to be divine and pure and to be daimonic and mixed, based on Plato’s teaching on love and the ascent read in the Symposium. Regarding the treatise “The Three Initial Hypostases,” I take for my point of departure an analysis of text on the acts and the passions of Soul consequent to Soul’s seeing its object (5.1[10].3.15–20). This choice pertains, for in the Plotinian philosophy, references to looking and seeing belong to the subjective order of thought rather than the objective order of being, and thus serve as a good introduction to a study in the metaphysics of knowledge. Reluctantly, and unlike many of the Plotinian translations, I suggest that the passions of Soul indicated herein belong to Soul as modifications of reason. More particularly, I am led to suggest that reason can be understood as a kind of passion to the extent that reason does not engage in the exercise of thought upon its prior, the Intellect, but instead looks elsewhere to its sequent, the logical item and thing.

To clarify this thought I assume a dialectical method of analysis, that is to say, a method of reasoning that starts from a given, commonly held position in order to elucidate the relative strengths and weaknesses thereof. This procedure is based on the psychological experience of persuasion through the use of rational argumentation. One element necessary to human reasoning is the agreement we share concerning the acceptance, full or partial, of a given position. It is the problem of justification whereby the inquirer seeks to ascertain the grounds—rational, textual, historical, and so forth— upon which to base acceptance. in this wise, dialectical reasoning . . .

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