Between Matter and Body Mass () in the Sentences of Porphyry

In the Corpus Hippocraticum and in tragedy, γκος is difficult to translate, for it corresponds to a very primitive notion, intuitively implying a confusion between two aspects that were gradually distinguished: 1) a thing's bulk or extension, and 2) an appreciation, as a function of its bulk and its extension, of the load represented by this thing, or its weight. This explains why the term usually designates something that has a certain mass. As an indefinite quantity of formless matter, this is probably a notion which was used by medio-Platonists, strongly influenced by Stoicism, to understand matter the Timaeus . In Plotinus' polemic against the Stoics, γκος, which refers to a magnitude with resistance bereft of qualities, is thus situated at a level intermediate between matter (λη), bereft of all determination, and the body (σμα), which is endowed with magnitude and qualities. In the Sentences , Porphyry uses the term γκος 30 times in its technical sense, almost as often as Plotinus in the whole of the Enneads . This is probably because he felt uncomfortable with Plotinus' notion of matter bereft of all determination, including magnitude
Keywords bulk   weight   mass   Neoplatonism   Porphyry
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DOI 10.1163/187254710X492893
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