Path to Wisdom According to Plotinus
Instructor: Dr. Jan Garrett
This page was last updated November 10, 2003.
Based on T. Irwin, Classical Thought (Oxford University Press), pp. 187-193.
For the ascent to Wisdom, start with (1).
To follow the fall from primordial unity, follow the series of emanations.
(4) THE ONE (to hen) = The Good, the object of intuitive (noninferential) intellect
There is no plurality in The One. The One is simple, beyond being, the source of beings, the highest object of Love. The goal or final cause (telos), according to Neoplatonism, is mystical union with the One. There is no plurality in the One, so even the distinction between the One and intuitive intellect must eventually be left behind. From the One emanates Intellect.
(3) THE INTELLECT (ho nous) = "Place" of nonsensible, immaterial, unchanging, Platonic forms. From the Intellect emanates Soul.
When a person "recollects" the Forms, it is the intellect discovering its own nature. Forms are not external to intellect, as Plato suggests, but within it.
But intellect normally involves logical relations between Forms. The use of logical relations, however, is inference, a temporal process. But time is unreal (see below). Hence intellect considered as such is infected with unreality. (From the Intellect ascend to The One.)
(2) THE SOUL (hê psuchê). From soul emanates Matter.
Contains some plurality, but the idea that we are separate souls is a mistake resting on our false belief in separate material bodies. There is some plurality, but all apparently individual souls are really but a partial expression of Soul as a whole.
Soul appears to experience things, and experience involves temporal sequence, but since time is measured by changes in material things (which are unreal--see below), time cannot be fully real, and thus neither can soul. (From Soul ascend to The Intellect.)
(1) MATTER = Complete privation = Not-being = unreality.
What we take to be material properties are soul-dependent; these properties are essentially objects of awareness of soul. (Ascend to Soul.) Because matter, for Plotinus, is unreal, he recognizes only three hypostases, or primary realities.