Plotinus: On Selfhood, Freedom and Politics (AARHUS STUDIES IN MEDITERRANEAN ANTIQUITY)
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As the most important philosophical work to emerge in the 700-year period between Aristotle and Augustine, The Enneads has been subject to intense scrutiny for more than 2000 years. But the mystical and abstract nature of these treatises by Plotinus continues to resist easy elucidation. In this volume, the latest in the Aarhus Studies on Mediterranean Antiquity, Asger Ousager grapples with the great neo-Platonist's conception of the individual. Is the individual free or determined? Is the Plotinian God subject to any compulsion Himself, and with what consequences for our inner and outer freedom? And finally, what are the political and ethical implications of Plotinism? Since Plotinus has traditionally been regarded as apolitical, it is the evidence that Ousager marshals for his political philosophy that forms the most intriguing part of this study. According to the author, what distinguishes Plotinus from Plato and Aristotle politically is his emphasis on natural authority, mutual cooperation and the immense potential of all people, even slaves.
in itself (VI.7.2.19-23). 162. A further profound subtlety is to be found here, as Plato’s Greek word for Sameness or Identity (to tauton) in the Sophist (254e) etymologically seems to be a double substantivisation or “identification” of Selfhood (to auton), i.e. really to ‘to auton’. Unification with the One · 103 Obviously, the absolute partless could not be grasped partially. It will then be impossible to make a distinction (VI.7.34.13-14, cf. V.5.8.21),163 or, as he tells us
I.2.4.12-15, Plotinus says something quite similar about the soul: Should we call it something like the Good? Yes, but not a nature capable of remaining in the real Good, for it has a natural tendency in both directions. So its good will be fellowship with that which is akin to it, and its evil fellowship with its opposites. There is another instance in the passage VI.9.9.21-27, already partly quoted above, but with an obvious ambiguity as to what “there (ekei)” refers to, whether it is
reason manifesting itself in Soul as being the cause of change (hê tês metabolês aitia) of sensible things. In reality, this usage alludes to his Platonic view that substantial change like generation has its reason in Forms within Intellect only transferred by Soul and not generated by Soul. This pattern exhibits the logical structure of causal explanation in Plotinus. As Plato in the Philebus (30c), Plotinus in VI.7.1.57-58 mentions Intellect as a reason, and even as “having its reason (tên
from Rist (1975) 112-13, who thinks that proairesis implies deliberation and therefore could not determine descent. He writes: “The ‘choice’ of evil is deliberate but not deliberated.” If proairesis is considered prior to deliberation, however, the same will exactly be true of proairesis. On Rist’s own terms, the “choice” of evil could then be predetermined by proairesis. So contrary to what Rist (1975) 116 says, most of the acts of the soul are a fortiori acts of the proairesis. In chapter
12.1-2). Moreover, since dying nobles let their children be raised in her house, it must have been quite a seat of wealth and honour (VP 9.5-9), and not just a tenement house for accidental lodgers. Gemina must have been relatively wealthy whether or not she was a former empress. Acting as a tutor or guardian for these children according to strict Roman law, Plotinus must himself have been a highly creditable person within the best circles of Rome (VP 9.9 & 14-16).324 Such a wealthy and honoured