Phronesis 43 (4):306-325 (1998)

Teun Tieleman
Utrecht University
In " Enn." IV, 3. 23 Plotinus presents a vindication of the well - known tripartition - cum - trilocation of the soul advanced by Plato in the " Timaeus." His version of the Platonic doctrine is marked by a strong spatial separation between the three parts of the soul -- reason in the brain, will in the heart and desire in the liver. This article addresses two related questions : Can this position be squared with the Plotinian key doctrine that the soul is incorporeal and indivisible? What are the nature and provenance of this particular version of the tripartition, which, in this form, is not warranted by the Platonic text? Plotinus enlists the support of the anatomical researches presented by Galen in his " On the doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato." At the same time he adapts the latter ' s demonstration in such a way as to safeguard the unity and incorporeality of the soul. The parts of the soul are not " in " the three main bodily organs in an ordinary sense -- only their activity takes place there. Plotinus arrives at this position through a clarification of the concept of archê as employed by Galen. His understanding of the soul ' s localisation is heavily indebted to Alexander ' s " On the soul ". Meanwhile he dissociates himself from the hylomorphism typical of both Alexander and Galen. Other features of his argument are explicable as motivated by the wish to emasculate the arguments used by Alexander in favour of the cardiocentric theory. The upshot is a sophisticated and improved defence of the Platonic tripartition which not only is scientifically up - to - date but coheres with some of Plotinus ' most deeply held metaphysical convictions.
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