Plotinus's conception of unity and multiplicity as the root to the medieval distinction between lux and lumen
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 37 (3):379-397 (2006)
Plotinus resolved the paradox of the immanent transcendence, characterizing the relation between the One and the universe, through his theory of the two energeiai. According to this doctrine, all existents have an internal activity and an external activity: the internal activity comprises the true essence and substance of each being; the external activity is emitted outwards as its image. The source of the emission is thus present in the lower layer of being by virtue of its manifold images. The prominence given to light in elucidating this solution led to a distinction between two types of lights: an original light, corresponding to the internal energeia of every existent, and a secondary light, which is the outflow and image of the first light, existing outside of the luminous body.This paper demonstrates the striking similarity between these two Plotinian lights and the concepts of lux and lumen developed by two thirteenth-century philosophers: Robert Grosseteste and Albertus Magnus. Moreover, the paper contends that the purpose of these two medieval concepts of light was identical to what Plotinus had in mind when he first made the distinction: to account for the relation between the one and the many.Keywords: Plotinus; Albertus Magnus; Robert Grosseteste; Light; Lux; Lumen
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