Plotinus’s theory of dual selfhood has ethical norms built into it, all of which derive from the ontological superiority of the higher (or undescended) soul in us overthe body-soul compound. The moral life, as it is presented in the Enneads, is a life of self-perfection, devoted to the care of the higher self. Such a conception of morality is prone to strike modern readers as either ‘egoistic’ or unduly austere. If there is no doubt that Plotinus’s ethics is exceptionally austere, (...) it will be argued below that it is not ‘egoistic.’ To that effect, the following questions will be addressed: Are the virtues, civic as well as purificatory, mere means to Plotinus’s metaphysically conceived ethical goal? To what extent must the lower self abnegate itself so as to enable the higher self to ascend to Intellect and beyond? And if self-perfection lies at the centre of the Plotinian moral life, is there any conceptual room left in it for other-regarding norms of conduct? A close reading of selected passages from Plotinus’s tractate I.2 On Virtues and tractate VI.8 On Free Will and the Will of the One will, it is claimed, bring elements of answer to these questions. (shrink)
Is scientific reasoning the standard of rationality? Can historical explanation be reduced to the scientific mode of reasoning? R.G. Collingwood answered both questions negatively. He further attempted to show that the types of justification used to account for moral actions are closely similar to historical explanations. His ethics has thus a strong historicist and relativistio flavour. Hie aim of my paper is to state Collingwood's ethical views and to show that the "ethical judgment", which inevitably relies on rules, cannot be (...) equated with the "historical judgment". (shrink)
Plato's "Ion," despite its frail frame and traditionally modest status in the corpus, has given rise to large exegetical claims. Thus some historians of aesthetics, reading it alongside page 205 of the Symposium, have sought to identify in it the seeds of the post-Kantian notion of 'art' as non-technical making, and to trace to it the Romantic conception of the poet as a creative genius. Others have argued that, in the "Ion," Plato has Socrates assume the existence of a technē (...) of poetry. In this article, these claims are challenged on exegetical and philosophical grounds. To this effect, Plato's use of poiētēs and poiēsis in the Symposium is analysed, the defining criteria of technē in the "Ion" and other dialogues are identified and discussed, and the 'Romantic' interpretation of the dialogue is traced to Shelley's tendentious translation of it. These critical developments lead to what is presented as a more faithful reading of the dialogue. In the "Ion," it is claimed, Plato seeks to subvert the traditional status of poetry by having Socrates argue that poetry is both non-rational and non-cognitive in nature. In the third part of the article, suggestions are offered as to the contribution made by the "Ion" to the evolution of Plato's reflections on poetic composition, and particularly as to the reasons which later induced Plato to substitute the concept of mimesis for that of inspiration in his account of poetry. (shrink)
The status of beauty in Plotinus' metaphysics is unclear: is it a Form in Intellect, the Intelligible Principle itself, or the One? Basing themselves on a number of well-known passages in the "Enneads," and assuming that Plotinus' Forms are similar in function and status to Plato's, many scholars hold that Plotinus theorized beauty as a determinate entity in Intellect. Such assumptions, it is here argued, lead to difficulties over self-predication, the interpretation of Plotinus's rich and varied aesthetic terminology and, most (...) of all, the puzzling dearth of references, in the whole of the "Enneads," to a Form of Beauty. A detailed reading of VI.7.32 and 33 reveals that, in these two crucial passages at least, Plotinus adopts an aesthetic approach to the One and that, far from confining Beauty to Intellect, he equates the One, the Good and the Beautiful. This reading is here supported not only by an analysis of the text but also by a consideration of the semantic differences between μορφή and ε[unrepresentable symbol]δος, the inter-relatedness, in Plotinus' philosophy, of the concepts of love and value, and the exclusion of beauty from the πρ[unrepresentable symbol]τα γένη. In turn, the exegesis of VI.7.32 and 33 raises the issue of the significance for aesthetics understood in the narrow sense of the word, of Plotinus's ontology of beauty. It is here claimed that in so far as sensible beauty, both artistic and natural, can be nothing else than an effect of the shaping action of the Forms and a reflection of their radiance, singular or global, it should not be held that Plotinus had an aesthetics in the modern sense of this term. (shrink)
Plotinus's theory of dual selfhood is one of the best-known and most puzzling aspects of his philosophy. Each human being, he held, is both a compound of body and soul and a discarnate member of the hypostasis Intellect. He built evaluative norms into this duality, all of which derive from what he argued to be the ontological superiority of the discarnate element in us over the body-soul compound. This led him, in turn, to claim that the best and happiest human (...) life is a life of self-purification, mostly devoted to the care of the higher self.Until fairly recently, scholarly consensus had been that, in so centering his "ethics" around the higher self, Plotinus had downplayed what we moderns take to be the very core of the moral life, namely, concern for the needs and entitlements of other agents . It was also generally agreed that, in his description of the ethical life, Plotinus had done no more than develop a claim that is prevalent in ancient theories of ethics, most of which present the life of rational self-fulfillment as the best life for a human being to lead. Ancient ethics, it was then concluded, crucially differs from its modern, post-Kantian, counterpart.This interpretation is now under attack. While some historians of ethics have for some time argued that it is exegetically misleading to set up a sharp dichotomy between ancient and. (shrink)
Plato's Hesiod is a neglected topic, scholars having long regarded Plato's Homer as a more promising field of inquiry. My aim in this chapter is to demonstrate that this particular bias of scholarly attention, although understandable, is unjustified. Of no other dialogue is this truer than of the Ion.
The contributors to this volume offer, in the light of specialised knowledge of leading philosophers of the ancient world, answers to the question: how are we to read and understand the surviving texts of Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus and Augustine?