Evil in Plotinus’ Hypostases of Being

Philosophy Pathways (150) (2010)
Abstract
This paper challenges the traditional view that Plotinus identifies matter and evil. A rational reconstruction of Plotinus’s tenets should neither accept the paradox that evil comes from Good, nor shirk the arduous task of interpreting Plotinus’ texts on evil as a fitting part of his philosophy on the whole. Therefore, I suggest a reading of evil in Plotinus as the outcome of an incongruent interaction of matter and soul, maintaining simultaneously that neither soul nor matter are to be considered as bad or evil. When Plotinus calls matter evil, he does so metonymically denoting matter’s totally passive potentiality as perceived by the toiling soul trying to act upon it as a form-bringer. As so often, Plotinus speaks of matter per se which, as mere potentiality (and nothing else) is not nor can be evil. In short, matter is no more evil than the melancholy evening sky is melancholy—not in itself (for it isn’t), but as to its impression on us who contemplate it.
Keywords Plotinus  evil  hypostases  matter  Neoplatonism
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Denis OBrien (2011). Plotinus on the Making of Matter Part I: The Identity of Darkness. International Journal of the Platonic Tradition 5 (1):6-57.
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