Plotinus in the Jungle

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Outline for chapters 4+5


My New Year’s Resolution for 2017 is to be done the full draft of the dissertation.  Please pray for me and my family regarding this goal.  Here is the outline for the remaining two chapters:

Chapter 4: Plotinus on First Cause and its Causality

4.1. Background

4.1– Plato’s Riddles

  1. Relation of first principles: One/Good, Forms/Demiurge, Soul, Matter
  2. What does generated mean?
  3. Causality appropriate to God? – Criticisms of Aristotle and the Epicureans

4.1.2 – Dualistic interpretations

  1. Pythagorean dualism – Aristotle, Speusippus
  2. Demiurgic dualism or more – Xenocrates, Plutarch, Alkinous [Disagreement about temporal origination masks a deeper unity in which God is an intellect ordering the cosmos, using by putting the world soul in order.]
  3. Monarchial dualism – Hermodorus, Philo, Early Christians
  4. Numenius + Atticus

4.1.3 – Monistic Interpretations

  1. Neopythagoreanism
  2. Gnosticism

4.1.4 – Was Plotinus influenced by Jewish, Christian, or Gnostic thought?

4.2. Arguments for the One

4.2.1 – Preliminaries: Existence of incorporeal soul, and of Nous=Forms.  Nous is the origin of soul.

4.2.2 – Argument from Unity (VI.9)

4.2.3 – Argument that intellectual activity requires a source and an end. This end enjoys the unity that thinking seeks to achieve in overcoming the subject-object duality.

4.2.4 – Argument that being, as intrinsically complex, requires a source.  This source must neither be a being nor the totality of beings.

4.2.5 – Argument that all things seek the Good, but the good is not convertible with Nous, therefore the final good must be beyond Nous.

4.2.6 – Intelligible matter, the unlimited capacity to perfectly receive form, must be caused by what has unlimited power and is beyond Intellect.

4.3 The One’s causality is creation

4.3.1 – The One is prior to all things as their cause

4.3.2 – All things continuously depend upon the One for their existence.  Plotinus on the meaning of generated

4.4 The One as Creator

4.4.1 – Plotinus’s anticipation of the Thomas’s triplex via [contra Perl].  Plotinus’ wariness regarding anthropomorphic language.

4.4.2 – One as the efficient, exemplar, and final cause of all things.  This causality is mediated via Nous and Soul.  Contra Gerson, the One is eminently all things.

4.4.3 – One is infinite.  It is characterized as pure activity (V.6.6; VI.8.20)

4.4.4 – One is a universal cause, though perhaps not immediate

4.4.5 – One is unrelated to its effects and does not enter into composition with them.

4.5 Conclusion – Points to be resolved in the next chapter


Chapter 5: How All Originates from the One

5.1 Centrality of the Question of how a Multiplicity Come from a Unity

5.2 Generation of Nous

5.2.1 – Logically, Nous must be caused by the One

5.2.2 – Aristotle’s Noetics as Background.  Gnostic Antecedents

5.2.3 – Three stage origination of Nous: potency, first act, second act –  Clear accounts in the Enneads (VI.7, V.3) – Interpreting the unclear account (V.1.7) – Nous as ever dependent on the One for its existence, content, and actuality

5.2.4 – Nous is besotted with the One.  The relative unimportance of tolma

5.3 Three-step Generation of Soul

5.4 Generation of Matter

5.4.1 – Difficulties regarding Nature and the generation of soul

5.4.2 – The troubled generation of matter – Matter is generated by Soul, which must then catch it – Matter as evil – Relative unimportance of the Fall of the individual soul

5.4.3 – Matter is generated by the One through the instrumentality of Soul

5.5  Is the One Free?

5.5.1 – Review of Avicenna on God as the necessary cause of existence

5.5.2 – Thomas on God’s free choice.  The conceptual difficulty

5.5.3 – Plotinus’s position: the One is absolutely free, but choice is an imperfection – Background with Alexander of Aphrodisias – Fittingness arguments for the One’s production – Absolute Freedom of the One.  Will=substance – Choice is the ability to fail in doing the best

5.5.4 – Is Plotinus consistent?  Is Aquinas consistent?

5.6 Plotinus’s account of instrumental creation


Conclusion: Replies to the 12 Objections


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