Plotinus

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Reply Sat 1 Nov, 2008 04:23 pm
Plotinus (205-270) ascetic popular lecturer on Neoplatonism. Author of Enneads. Not Christian but heavily influenced early Christian theology.
 
salima
 
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 09:39 am
@Fairbanks,
i like plotinus a lot and i would like to hear anyone's opinion on him.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 10:22 am
@salima,
Plotinus is actually a very complex philosopher to read. Though his particular prose is more common than hyped up philosophical rhetoric, it is still very complex (similes, etc.). A point of clarification though, Plotinus did not write the Enneads, it was posthumously composed by a contemporary of his named Porphyry from very lengthy independent compositions of Plotinus. Also, many scholars do not affirm that Christianity played any big role in Plotinus's philosophy, and his affinity for Plutonic philosophy only goes so far (arguably) because uses him more selectively, picking and choosing elements of a more interconnected system (although this does not mean that he had no deference for Plato though).

Honestly, as far as Plotinus' metaphysics are concerned, it's very confused. It's a little like Hume in some respects (for modern reference). Hume's account of impressions of ideas is much like the hierarchy of thought and intellect Plotinus posited. If I had one gripe with Plotinus, it's that he seems like an amalgamation of greater thinkers (Aristotle, Plato, etc) at the end of their relevancy. From the composition of Enneads, he is a very sharp thinker. But I think he may have relied on Platonic forms and other fundamentals (at the time) that he could well have done without. His hypostases for example could well have benefited without the "crutch" of the theory of forms. But that's just my own opinion though. Needless to say, he is still a very interesting philosopher in his own right.
 
Cathain phil
 
Reply Sat 7 Nov, 2009 08:36 pm
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon;89414 wrote:
and his affinity for Plutonic philosophy only goes so far (arguably) because uses him more selectively, picking and choosing elements of a more interconnected system (although this does not mean that he had no deference for Plato though).


No, in fact he had enormous respect for Plato.
Although we consider Plotinus to be the father of Neo-Platonism, he never considered himself as such. Rather, he thought of himself as purely a Platonist, faithfully carrying on the work of Plato. In fact, Plato is so central to Plotinus' that he refers to him simply as "he" in the Enneads.
Remiscent of the way St Thomas Aquinas refers to Aristotle simply as "The Philosopher".

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If I had one gripe with Plotinus, it's that he seems like an amalgamation of greater thinkers (Aristotle, Plato, etc) at the end of their relevancy.

I'm not sure why it should be a gripe.
Plato took the philosophy of Socrates and expanded/developed it, Aristotle did the same with Plato (in fact opposing much of his philosophy as well).
There is a progression where these men see themselves as direct heirs to those who come before them. The problem we have with Plotinus us we know little of the philosophy of the Middle Platonists. And even more interesting would be to know the thoughts of Amonnius Saccas, the mentor of Plotinus. How much he owes to him, and how much is original to Plotinus is a matter of speculation.

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From the composition of Enneads, he is a very sharp thinker. But I think he may have relied on Platonic forms and other fundamentals (at the time) that he could well have done without. His hypostases for example could well have benefited without the "crutch" of the theory of forms.

Interesting, in what sense?
Can you expand on this? I assume you are a Nominalist rather than a Realist?

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But that's just my own opinion though. Needless to say, he is still a very interesting philosopher in his own right.

Indeed, probably the last great original thinker of antiquity.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Sun 8 Nov, 2009 12:06 am
@Cathain phil,
Cathain;102405 wrote:
No, in fact he had enormous respect for Plato.
Although we consider Plotinus to be the father of Neo-Platonism, he never considered himself as such. Rather, he thought of himself as purely a Platonist, faithfully carrying on the work of Plato. In fact, Plato is so central to Plotinus' that he refers to him simply as "he" in the Enneads.
Remiscent of the way St Thomas Aquinas refers to Aristotle simply as "The Philosopher".
Timaeus
Cathain;102405 wrote:
I'm not sure why it should be a gripe.
Plato took the philosophy of Socrates and expanded/developed it, Aristotle did the same with Plato (in fact opposing much of his philosophy as well).
There is a progression where these men see themselves as direct heirs to those who come before them. The problem we have with Plotinus us we know little of the philosophy of the Middle Platonists. And even more interesting would be to know the thoughts of Amonnius Saccas, the mentor of Plotinus. How much he owes to him, and how much is original to Plotinus is a matter of speculation.
Cathain;102405 wrote:
Interesting, in what sense?
Can you expand on this? I assume you are a Nominalist rather than a Realist?


Actually, I'm an empirically driven rationalist with nihilistic tendancies. LOL! In the interest of writing space and carpel tunnel syndrome, you would have to be more specific in terms of a want for elaboration on.

Cathain;102405 wrote:
Indeed, probably the last great original thinker of antiquity.

Sadly, you are probably right.
 
salima
 
Reply Sun 8 Nov, 2009 07:39 am
@Fairbanks,
 
Cathain phil
 
Reply Sun 8 Nov, 2009 08:07 am
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon;102425 wrote:
Which is why I stated that though Plotinus was selective, he still had a degree of deference for him. No one said he didn't.


Sorry, perhaps there was a misunderstanding here.
I didn't intend to suggest that you said Plotinus had no respect for Plato, I can see clearly that you did. I was merely emphasising your point - not only did he have "a degree of deference", but he looked to Plato as the person he based his philosophy on.

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As far as Plotinus regarded purely as a Platonist, I would only agree only so far as it takes into account Plontinus and his locus around the middle platonic tradition. The second-third centuries C.E. ushers a novel Platonic hermeneutic tradition, of course, in the form of Neo-Platonism. But there is more to it than that (i.e. rejection of theurgy, etc.) I would think if we really examined it more thoroughly. But do you really think Plontinus is faithfully carrying on the work of Plato?


I personally think Plotinus has obvious influence from elsewhere.
He is obviously familiar with the Peripatetics, Epicurians, Stoics and Gnsotics at least. What I meant is that Plotinus considers himself to be faithfully carrying on the Platonic tradition. That is, I doubt Plotinus would have accepted the term "Neo-Plationist" but would rather consider himself simply as a faithful Platonist. What is found in his writings that are not explicitly found in Plato's works, he considered merely a development on inherent points that were already latent in Plato's works.

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Timaeus? Maybe in his own mind and in his own way perhaps. More could be said on that I would think than a continuation of Platonism though.


Can you elaborate more on the rejection of "divine duality of principles" you mentioned here? I'm not sure I understand what you are referring to.

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Yes indeed, this goes back to what was said above in that Plotinus is consciously trying to be a Platonist, pure and simple, or at least trying to be seen as such - even if we may disagree with that ourselves.


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Ah, a Neophiliac (i've trademarked this term, btw Wink ).
I'm not opposed to new things as such, but I don't subscribe to novelty for the sake of novelty. Or as Chesterton put it:-

"My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday."

However, all new ideas should be tested because of course we do not presume to know everything and there is still truths to be found.
It's just novelty for it's own sake that I dislike.

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But you are quite right... Aristotle indeed did the same with Plato. One need only read the first few pages Aristotle's Metaphysics to figure on expanded theories and knowledge. In Metaphysics Alpha, he praises men like Hesiod for bascally thinking outside the box. Even in book Zeta 7-8 particularly emphasize Platonic misgivings on generation.


I'll certainly take your word for it, unfortunately I've only a small knowledge of Aristotle. I only own Rhetoric and Ethics and I haven't even began to digest most of their contents.

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Amonnius Saccas is an interesting subject though, isn't he?


Absolutely. We may be attributing much to Plotinus that is not original to him, but rather derives from Ammonius or those before him. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing. But it wold be interesting to see how much was passed to Plotinus and what he developed himself.

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He may have been influenced by Numenius. But that seems to be the root of the problem though. Numenicus was very secretive and I suppose that Amonnius Saccus inherited the will to not publish any writings. Neat thing is that Plotinus seems to be much like his teacher (can we call A. Saccus a mentor based on such little information?).


I think it's probably fair to call Ammonius the mentor of Plot.
It appears that he was't his first teacher, but Ammonius is the one that Plot. settled on after being dissatisfied with those he studied under previously.

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Even Herennicus and Origen were intensely secretive as well. Thank god for Porphyry to break the silent cycle.


Yes, good old Porphyry
Again, I wonder if he added anything of his own and passed it off as Plotinus, reminiscent of the way that Plato presumably uses the character of Socrates as the vehicle for many of his own ideas.


Quote:
Actually, I'm an empirically driven rationalist with nihilistic tendancies. LOL!


Good grief! Very Happy
Well, we certainly have different perspectives on things, but that's what makes for good dialectic, afterall

Quote:
In the interest of writing space and carpel tunnel syndrome, you would have to be more specific in terms of a want for elaboration on.


I know from others that carpel tunnel is a most painful ailment so I won't ask you to go on at length. I just wondered what you meant when you said that Plotinus could have developed the concept of Divine Hypostatis without reference to Plato's Theory of Forms (which I assume you reject?).

Quote:
Sadly, you are probably right.


Well, not that sad. The last in the ancient world perhaps, but original thinkers have continued through Medieval times to the present day.
There may even be some on these forums, with some luck
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Sun 8 Nov, 2009 01:57 pm
@Cathain phil,
Salima, TimaeusTimaeus 47e, Laws Xgood and bad souls. Honestly, my perspective in all of this is dusty, so Cathain may be the best authority on the matter. In my own understanding, philosophers like Plutarch and our good and secretive friend Numenius, the mentor(?) of Saccas, used this duality to define the principles of the soul along these lines and provide the points to reject as far as Plotinus is concerned.

Cathain,
 
salima
 
Reply Sun 8 Nov, 2009 10:51 pm
@Fairbanks,
so as a guess, some philosophers think there is a duality in spirit? like the creator also is a dual personality?

i dont see how duality can be denied, but it is usually thought of as the separation of matter and spirit, which i dont buy into. but there is a duality in the nature of matter but how far it gets or when it starts i am not clear on. are we at least talking about the same thing?
 
Ross phil
 
Reply Mon 8 Mar, 2010 03:35 pm
@salima,
Plotinus is one of my favourite philosophers so far.
I think his polarisation of Lightness and Darkness and thus using this to explain where we are as humans in relation to "God" and where the soul is in relation to "God" is simple, effective and also quite beautiful in comparison to other theorys.
He is definitely one i will read more on .
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 28 May, 2010 08:44 pm
@Fairbanks,
Fairbanks;30815 wrote:
Plotinus (205-270) ascetic popular lecturer on Neoplatonism. Author of Enneads. Not Christian but heavily influenced early Christian theology.


OK I have a question about Plotinus. I have finally bought an edition of the Enneads (Stephen McKenna and B S Page, 2009) having previously read a number of passages and articles about Plotinus.

In the First Ennead, First Tractate, The Animate and Man, there is this passage:

Quote:
And how could the Soul lend itself to any admixture? An essential is not mixed. Or the intrusion of anything alien? If it did, it would be seeking the destruction of its own nature. Pain must be equally far from it. And Grief - how or for what could it grieve? Whatever possesses Existence is supremely free, dwelling unchangeable, within its own peculiar nature. And can any increase bring joy, where nothing, not even anything good, can accrue? What such an Existent is, is unchangeable. (my bolds)
Now the question I have is: does anyone know the Greek words which were translated as 'existence' and 'existent' in this passage?

---------- Post added 05-29-2010 at 12:49 PM ----------

The reason is that, whatever word was translated, I think the import of the word is 'being' rather than 'existence', and I think this is significant.
 
Twirlip
 
Reply Fri 28 May, 2010 09:05 pm
@jeeprs,
That quote looks almost as if it had been lifted from Plato's Phaedo, 103b to 107a.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 28 May, 2010 09:38 pm
@Fairbanks,
it probably is, Plotinus always saw himself as simply an interpreter of Plato and never promoted himself as an originator of anything new. Mind you in classical cultures, faithfully representing tradition was held in far higher esteem than innovation.
 
prothero
 
Reply Sat 29 May, 2010 10:45 pm
@jeeprs,
I guess I am most interested in Plotinus as a religious philosopher.
In particular his notion of the "world" as an emanation ex deo ("out of god") of the One as opposed to the traditional Christian notion of creation ex nihilo ("out of nothing") by God.

Plotinus notions of the various levels of reality The One, The Nous, The Psyche (Soul), Nature and the Material connected by the principle of Logos, I would see as a form of panentheism.

For Plotinus as for Plato, the world of sense perception of material objects and sensory properties is the lowest not the highest form of ontology. For Plotinus the highest form of happiness and knowledge involved a intuitive experiential (but not discursive rational) mystical union with the one. Plotinus described mystical experiences similar to those of other historical religious mystics. In all I think those who have trouble with the supernatural interventionist God of classical theism but who still have a spiritual or theistic notion of the world, can find much that is attractive in Plotinus as a more fully developed religious conception of Platonic philosophy similar to modern panentheism.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sat 29 May, 2010 10:49 pm
@prothero,
prothero;170680 wrote:
I guess I am most interested in Plotinus as a religious philosopher.
In particular his notion of the "world" as an emanation ex deo ("out of god") of the One as opposed to the traditional Christian notion of creation ex nihilo ("out of nothing") by God.

Interesting! In a way, the nothing is also a one, because it's singular.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sat 29 May, 2010 10:52 pm
@Fairbanks,
Thanks. As mentioned, I have finally bought The Enneads. I think it will take very many months to read properly. It is very densely reasoned. I do have some empathy with the text due to prior readings about Plotinus but there is a lot to learn. Not for nothing is he regarded by many as the greatest philosopher of late antiquity.

Still interested to know the Greek word that was translated as 'existence' in post #11, if there are any Greek scholars out there...
 
prothero
 
Reply Sat 29 May, 2010 11:03 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;170683 wrote:
Interesting! In a way, the nothing is also a one, because it's singular.
It is true that the via negativa (neti, neti) is stated to be the best approach to the one, which is beyond all categories of being or non being, self awareness, sentinence or any other category. The world proceeds from the one by inevitable emmanation not through any act of willful creation. Non the less the first emmanation from the one is the nous (intelligence, logos, order, reason) similar to the Demiurge of Plato and the origin of the forms or ideals which the world tries imperfectly to actualize.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sat 29 May, 2010 11:09 pm
@Fairbanks,
I don't think this kind of apophatic theology was particularly characteristic of Plotinus though. He was much more a rationalist in his approach. I think the apophatic approach really can be traced back to the elusive figure known as 'pseudo-Dionysius', author of The Celestial Heirarchy, and also to the Orthodox monastic tradition (in addition, of course, to the Indian tradition to which you make reference.)
 
prothero
 
Reply Sat 29 May, 2010 11:23 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;170689 wrote:
I don't think this kind of apophatic theology was particularly characteristic of Plotinus though. He was much more a rationalist in his approach. I think the apophatic approach really can be traced back to the elusive figure known as 'pseudo-Dionysius', author of The Celestial Heirarchy, and also to the Orthodox monastic tradition (in addition, of course, to the Indian tradition to which you make reference.)
I am no Plotinus scholar. I do have the time to read the Eneads much less delve into the controversies regarding their translations. It does seem that the One is beyond thought, beyond categories, is ineffable and cannot be described. It can only be pointed to. It is even beyond rational discussion. It reminds me of the transcendent nature of god in almost all mystical experience in all religous traditions.
Plotinus as a mystic and as one who describes mystical experience does seem to be fairly well documented.

Quote:
Plotinus advocated negative theology in his strand of Neoplatonism (although he may have had precursors in Neopythagoreanism and Middle Platonism). In his writings he identifies the Good of the Republic (as the cause of the other Forms) with the One of the first hypothesis of the second part of the Parmenides (137c-142a), there concluded to be neither the object of knowledge, opinion or perception. In the Enneads
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sat 29 May, 2010 11:35 pm
@Fairbanks,
OK then you're right! Shows how far I got arguing on the basis of the first 3 pages of my newly-acquired text.
 
 

 
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