In this paper I offer an analysis of Plotinus’ argument for the existence of a quasi-psychic entity, the so-called ‘trace of soul’, that functions as an immanent cause of life for an organism’s body. I argue that Plotinus posits this entity primarily in order to account for the body’s possession of certain quasi-psychic states that are instrumental in his account of soul-body interaction. Since these quasi-psychic states imply that an organism’s body has vitality of its own , and Platonic souls (...) are no part or aspect of any body, Plotinus draws the conclusion that the soul must be a cause of the body’s life by imparting a quasi-psychic qualification to it. In so doing, Plotinus introduces elements of hylomorphism into Platonist psychology, and addresses a problem for the animation of the body that Platonic soul-body dualism may plausibly be thought to face. (shrink)
In this paper, we argue that Plotinus denies deliberative forethought about the physical cosmos to the demiurge on the basis of certain basic and widely shared Platonic and Aristotelian assumptions about the character of divine thought. We then discuss how Plotinus can nonetheless maintain that the cosmos is «providentially» ordered.
In Ennead 3.6, Plotinus maintains that the soul is unaffectable. This thesis is widely taken to imply that his soul is exempt from change and free from emotional ‘affections’. Yet these claims are difficult to reconcile with evidence that Plotinian souls acquire dispositional states, such as virtues, and are subjects of emotional ‘affections’, such as anger. This paper offers an alternative account that aims to address these difficulties. In denying affections to soul, Plotinus is offering a distinction between the soul’s (...) self-actuated motions (or "activities") and the passive motions (or "affections") of bodies. But this distinction does not imply the soul’s changelessness, since Plotinus regards psychic motions that culminate in the soul’s acquisition of new dispositional states as changes. As for emotional ‘affections’, these (as activities) are merely homonymous with the affections denied to soul, and so do not violate the ban on the soul’s affectability. (shrink)
In this paper, I investigate the foundations of Plotinus’ innovative theory that prime matter is unaffectable. I begin by showing that Plotinus’ main arguments for this thesis (in Ennead 3.6) all rely upon the controversial assumption that the properties prime matter underlies are not properties of prime matter itself. It is then argued that prime matter’s privation of sensible qualities has its conceptual basis in an idiosyncratic understanding of form-matter composition generally, and its primary doctrinal basis in Aristotle’s critical reports (...) on the Platonists’ substratum in Physics 1.9. While Plotinus finds Platonic authority for unaffectible matter in the Receptacle passage of the Timaeus, it is Aristotle’s testimony that provides the crucial impetus for reading that text in this way. On this basis, Plotinus develops a Platonist conception of form’s inherence in matter with distinctively non-Aristotelian features. (shrink)
In developing his theory of aether in De Caelo 1, Aristotle argues, in DC 1.4, that one circular motion cannot be contrary to another. In this paper, I discuss how Aristotle can maintain this position and accept the existence of celestial spheres that rotate in contrary directions, as he does in his revision of the Eudoxan theory in Metaphysics 12.8.
Plotinus maintains that there is a single first principle, the One (or the Good), from which all other things derive. He is usually thought to hold this view on the grounds that any other thing’s existence depends on its participation in a paradigm of unity. This paper argues that Plotinus has a further, independent argument for adopting a single first principle, according to which principle pluralism is committed (unacceptably) to attributing good cosmic states of affairs to chance. This argument exhibits (...) similarities to ancient design arguments, but is used to draw the more radical conclusion that there is only one non-derivative existent. (shrink)
The young Spinoza and the mature Leibniz both characterize the soul as a self-moving spiritual automaton. Though it is unclear if Leibniz’s use of the term was suggested to him from his reading of Spinoza, Leibniz was aware of its presence in Spinoza’s Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect. Considering Leibniz’s staunch opposition to Spinozism, the question arises as to why he was willing to adopt this term. I propose an answer to this question by comparing the spiritual automaton (...) in both philosophers. For Spinoza, the soul acts as a spiritual automaton when it overcomes imaginative ideas and produces true ideas. For Leibniz, the soul acts as a spiritual automaton when it spontaneously produces its perceptions according to the universal harmony preestablished by God. Thus, for Leibniz contra Spinoza, the spiritual automaton is a means to render intelligible a providential order in which everything happens for the best. (shrink)
For the mature Leibniz, a living being is a created substance composed of an infinitely complex organic body and a simple, immaterial soul. Soul and body do not interact directly, but rather their states correspond according to a harmony preestablished by God. I show that Leibniz’s theory faces challenges with respect to the question of whether substances need to possess knowledge of how they bring about their effects, and I argue that, to address these challenges, Leibniz turns to a concept (...) of “divine preformation” that he attributes to both soul and body. Insofar as divine preformation provides Leibniz with an explanation for how soul and body can both act without possessing explicit knowledge of what they are doing, it serves as a key tool for justifying the theory of preestablished harmony. (shrink)
This paper seeks to highlight the importance of spatial cognition in Bergson’s Données immédiates by engaging with Robert Watt’s reconstruction of Bergson’s argument that every idea of number involves the idea of space. We focus on the second stage of Watt’s reconstruction, where Bergson argues that only space can provide the distinction required for our counting of otherwise identical items. Watt bases his reconstruction on a premise regarding the possibility that identical objects, in the absence of spatial distinction, might remain (...) identical across different “temporal locations”. Our paper raises the prospect that Bergson is committed to a stronger thesis, namely one implying that identical objects would necessarily remain indistinguishable without the intervention of space. The paper thus concludes by emphasizing the indispensability of space for knowledge according to Bergson. (shrink)
Leibniz standardly associates “mechanism” with extended material bodies and their aggregates. In this paper, I identify and analyze a further distinct sense of “mechanism” in Leibniz that extends, by analogy, beyond the domain of material bodies and applies to the operations of immaterial substances such as the monads that serve, for Leibniz, as the metaphysical foundations of physical reality. I argue that in this sense, Leibniz understands “mechanism” as an intelligible process that is capable of providing a sufficient reason for (...) a series of changes. I then apply these findings to enrich our understanding of Leibniz’s well-known mill argument in Monadology ¶17: although material machines and mechanisms cannot produce perceptions, the perceptual activity of immaterial monads is to be understood as “mechanical” according to this analogical sense. (shrink)
According to a straightforward reading of Enn. 6.2.21, all principles (logoi) in nature have their origin in corresponding features of a divine Intellect. But interpreters have often advocated more restricted readings of Intellect’s contents. Restricted readings are based in part on other textual evidence, and in part on the grounds that a more expansive reading would seem to require Intellect to think objects of trivial value (‘the value problem’) or whose purposes depend upon facts about sensible reality to which it (...) has no access (‘the teleology problem’). This paper argues that restricted readings are not well founded, and that Plotinus is committed to a more expansive conception of Intellect’s contents by his understanding of Plato’s paradeigmatism. (shrink)
In this paper, I discuss how Plotinus seeks to reconcile (1) the transcendence of providential thought with its creation of an optimal cosmos, (2) providence's comprehensive oversight with the existence of evils, and (3) fate with human autonomy and moral responsibility.
Plotinus, following certain Platonic cues, maintains that ‘we’ and ‘the true human being’ correspond to the rational part of the embodied human soul. This view is counterintuitive because it is natural to see ourselves and our humanity as including parts of the human organism additional to reason. In this paper, I propose that Plotinus’ view that we are our rational part is best understood as expressing a teleological claim. Since our proper end is an activity of the rational part of (...) soul, it is appropriate to identify our nature with that part of the organism alone. (shrink)
This paper analyzes Leibniz’s use of analogies in both natural philosophical and metaphysical contexts. Through an examination of Leibniz’s notes on scientific methodology, I show that Leibniz explicitly recognizes the utility of analogies as heuristic tools that aid us in conceiving unfamiliar theoretical domains. I further argue that Leibniz uses the notion of a self-moving machine or automaton to help capture the activities of the immaterial soul. My account helps resist the conventional image of Leibniz as an arch-rationalist unconcerned with (...) methods of empirical discovery and contributes to ongoing discussions on the nature of immaterial substance and mind in Leibniz. (shrink)
In this paper, we argue that Plotinus denies deliberative forethought about the physical cosmos to the demiurge on the basis of certain basic and widely shared Platonic and Aristotelian assumptions about the character of divine thought. We then discuss how Plotinus can nonetheless maintain that the cosmos is «providentially» ordered. -/- [Note: This paper is a French translation (prepared by Mathilde Brémond) of a paper that appears in A. Marmodoro and B. Prince (eds.), Causation and Creation in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, (...) 2015).]. (shrink)