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.
doctrine retains some support from the Charmides (156e-157a): “Because”, he [the Thracian king and god Zalmoxis, who can make men immortal] said, “the soul is the source both of bodily health and bodily disease for the whole man, and these flow from (epirrein) the soul in the same way that the eyes are affected by the head. […]” Indeed, Plato writes about gaining psychological health right after this, and on a superficial level at least he acknowledges movements of the soul, as, for instance,
speaking, there will be no ‘horizontal’ causation within the sensible world such as the apparent interaction of two sensible things on each other (e.g., III.6.8.16-18, III.6.9.24-26 & 39-44, VI.1.20.5-7, IV.4.39.10-11).53 Thus the apparent interplay of opposites fighting each other is the expression of the relation of Forms (III.6.19.1-3, cf. Phaedo 103b-d, III.6.18.29-31, IV.4.29.3540). Everything in the sensible world has its cause in Intellect or beyond, even when Soul and particular souls
particular body disappear at once, for the One continuously recreates particulars. Not the particular soul, but only its previous selves have been obliterated and replaced by the Self of the One. Just as the text indicates a stage of indistinguishability of the human self and the One, it also indicates the stages of ascent before and descent right after ultimate unification as stages of vision involving an object outside the subject. This kind of vision is superseded by ultimate unification.
arguments built upon evidence in the Plotinian text itself and fully dependent upon it, they still have considerable force along with that evidence. A similar doctrine can be found even earlier in Augustine (354-430 CE), especially in his writing On the Trinity. According to the Christian Augustine, we can find the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost in different variations of ternaries within the soul (animus) or mind (mens) of every human being (e.g., VII.6.12, IX.2.2, IX.4.4, IX.4.7-IX.5.8,
from the perfect, and thus a defect, must be qualitatively overcome.” Mainly due to our different understandings of what it means to be “an individual”, Sorabji (2000) implicitly suggests a denial of the question in his title ‘Is the true self an individual in the Platonist tradition?’ whereas I recommend a clear confirmation, cf. note 151 below. 150. Cf. note 31 above. Unfortunately, Plotinus is not treated and, therefore, not reckoned as among Greek philosophers at all by, e.g., Gill (1996),