Only the reduced, but better known light of consciousness turned on itself. Finite, self-sufficient thinkers—each having innate ideas of the Forms or able to schematize any possible experience—survived th e inflated cosmology bequeathed by Plotinus, Augustine, and Proclus. Philosophy has a different trajectory if we acknowledge that humans are mechanical systems constrained by laws we discover but do not make, laws that regulate our causes, constituents, and circumstances.
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Readers may be unfamiliar with some of the thinkers discussed. The Table of Contents provides a detailed outline of the argument. This page intentionally left blank. Now take a line divided into two unequal parts, one to represent the visible order, the other the intelligible; and divide each part again in the same proportion, symbolizing degrees of comparative clearness or obscurity.
Then one of the two sections in the visible world will stand for images. By images I mean first shadows, and then reflections in water or in close-grained, polished surfaces, and everything of that kind, if you understand. Let the second section stand for the actual things of which the first are likeness, the living creatures about us and all the works of nature or of human hands. Will you also take the proportion in which the visible world has been divided as corresponding to degrees of reality and truth, so that the likeness shall stand to the original in the same ratio as the sphere of appearances and belief to the sphere of knowledge?
Now consider how we are to divide the part which stands for the intelligible world.
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There are two sections. In the first the mind uses as images those actual things which themselves had images in the visible world; and it is compelled to pursue its inquiry by starting from assumptions and 5 6 LOST SOULS travelling, not up to a principle, but down to a conclusion. In the second the mind moves in the other direction, from an assumption up towards a principle which is not hypothetical; and it makes no use of the images employed in the other section, but only of Forms, and conducts its inquiry solely by their means.
It was the Sun, then, that I meant when I spoke of that offspring which the Good has created in the visible world, to stand there in the same relation to vision and visible things as that which the Good itself bears in the intelligible world to intelligence and to intelligible objects.
Apply this comparison, then, to the soul. When its gaze is fixed upon an object irradiated by truth and reality, the soul gains understanding and knowledge and is manifestly in possession of intelligence. But when it looks towards that twilight world of things that come into existence and pass away, its sight is dim and it has only opinions and beliefs which shift to and fro, and now it seems like a thing that has no intelligence. Imagine a life-preserver hanging from a yardarm and reflected in a pond: Figure 1.
The life-preserver and its reflection are the two levels below the divided line. They exhaust materiality, and provide all the content for perception.
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Aristotle described such things as primary substances and their perceptual effects. They are the only realities he acknowledged.
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Abstraction also facilitates the fourth and last step. We simplify the concentric circles, reducing them to one: Figure 1. A Form. These figures, representing its four sections, confirm that the line is more than allusive. Figure 1. Forms: Knowledge:. Rational intuition. True opinion. Opinion or.
The Divided Line. Every next lower order is a further privation of the Good: there is little character or value in the back of the cave. Thought as awareness—nous—is insufficiently represented. It appears only once in figure 1. For everything that is, is as perceived. This alignment would express the isomorphism of perception and its object: rational intuition, like the Forms, is eternal; imagination and sensation are as corruptible and changeable as things imagined or seen. These remarks about him emphasize considerations that were decisive for Descartes.
Forced of necessity to attend first to the material, some of them elect to abide by that order and, their life throughout, make its concerns their first and their last And those of them that pretend to reasoning have adopted this as their philosophy; they are like the heavier birds which have incorporated much from the earth and are so weighted down that they cannot fly high for all the wings Nature has given them. Others do indeed lift themselves a little above the earth; the better in their soul urges them from the pleasant to the nobler. But there is a third order —those godlike men who, in their mightier power in the keenness of their sight, have clear vision of the splendour above and rise to it from among the cloud and fog of earth and hold firmly to that other world, looking beyond all here, delighted in the place of reality, their native land, like a man returning after long wanderings to the pleasant ways of his own country.
These are metaphors, respectively, for images or impressions, material things, and the Forms. Plotinus conflates the first two orders by merging sensations with the material things perceived. He emphasizes the ascent to the intelligibles, but fails to distinguish mathematicals from the Forms. We expect him to repair this omission in a later Ennead, saying, after the Republic, that mathematicals are located above the divided line, and, after the Timaeus, that geometricals—triangles especially—are the structural basis for every qualitative infusion of space.
Plotinus does write of mathematicals; but not in the way anticipated, given his Platonism: Number must be either the substance of Being or its Activity; the LifeForm as such and the Intellectual-Principle must be Number. Clearly Being is to be thought of as Number collective, while the Beings are Number unfolded: the Intellectual-Principle is Number moving within itself, while the Living-Form is Number container of the universe.
Even Being is the outcome of the Unity and since the prior is unity the secondary must be Number. As a unity, it suffers no division, remaining self-constant. Thus Number, the primal and true, is Principle and source of actuality to the Beings. The issue is joined when he affirms that the multitude of intelligibles Forms emanates from an undifferentiated One, and that the material world emanates from the intelligibles, each sometimes having many instances.
There is no such extension. Sense-perception, by insistence upon which we doubt, tells of Here and There; but reason certifies that the 10 LOST SOULS Here and There do not attach to that principle; the extended has participated in that cosmos of life which itself has no extension. If, then, the divided and quantitatively extended is to participate in another kind, is to have any sort of participation, it can participate only in something undivided, unextended, wholly outside of quantity.
Therefore, that which is to be introduced by the participation must enter as itself an omnipresent indivisible. In that realm exists what is far more truly a cosmos of unity. And what is there to hinder this unification? We may be told that this unification is not possible in Real Beings; it certainly would not be possible, if the Reals had extension.
What nature are we to attribute to this new kind of being? We reply that it is the receptacle, and in a manner the nurse, of all generation. Plotinus is more rigorously Platonic: space, he thinks, is a degenerate mode for exhibiting such things as participate in the Forms.
His ontology is also rigorously Platonic, as when he affirms the duality of eternal mind and instrumental body: We may treat of the Soul as in the body—whether it be set above it or actually within it—since the association of the two constitutes the one thing called the living organism, the Animate.
But, we ask, how possibly can these affections pass from body to Soul? Body may communicate qualities or conditions to another body: but—body to Soul? Something happens to A; does that make it happen to B? For we need to ascertain the relation of All-soul, the animator of material being at large, to individual souls, the movers of particular bodies. Plotinus answers that each individual soul has all of the Forms within it, not merely a selection: T he We is constituted by a union of the supreme, the undivided Soul— we read—and that Soul which is divided among living bodies.
For, note, we inevitably think of the Soul, although one and undivided in the All, as being present to bodies in division, in so far as any bodies are Animates, the Soul has given itself to each of the separate material masses; or rather it appears to be present in the bodies by the fact that it shines into them; it makes them living beings not by merging into body but by giving forth, without any change in itself, images or likenesses of itself like one face caught by many mirrors.
Each is, in principle, an autonomous knower: none need rely on any other for knowledge of one, several, or many Forms: T o localize thought is to recognize the separate existence of the individual soul. The intellection is the more profound for this internal possession of the object. This principle is the primally intellective since there can be no intellection without duality in unity.
Accordingly, self-consciousness—the self-perception that attends every perception of the Forms—is a personalizing emphasis that distinguishes him from Plato. What is the status or role of the I hereby discovered? Plotinus explains that such thinking—self-thinking— is productive. Plotinus is also sensitive to those intensifications of self occurring during meditations that abstract us from bodily states: In order, then, to know what the Divine Mind is we must observe Soul and especially its most God-like phase.
One certain way to this knowledge is to separate first, the man from the body—yourself, that is, from your body; next to put aside that Soul which moulded the body, and very earnestly, the system of sense with desires and impulses and every such futility, all setting definitely towards the mortal: what is left is the phase of the Soul which we have declared to be an image of the Divine Intellect, retaining some light from that source, like the light of the sun which goes beyond its spherical mass, issues from it and plays about it.
But does not the We include that phase of our being which stands above the mid-point? It does, but on condition that we lay hold of it: our entire nature is not ours at all times but only as we direct the mid-point upwards to downwards, or lead some particular phase of our nature from potentiality or native character into act. Unless the fore-planning power alone is to be charged with the vice in such souls, we have no ground of accusation, no claim to redress: the blame lies on the Soul exercising its choice.
Even a soul, we have seen, must have its individual movement. Soul elevates us: we control bodily impulses, while seeking knowledge, not merely opinion. Why seek knowledge? Because having it locates soul within the exalted domain from which it derives. In Plotinus, as in Plato and Descartes, there is tension wherever intellect is joined to materiality. Soul rises: Imagine, then, the state of a being which cannot fall away from the vision of this [the Eternal] but is for ever caught to it, held by the spell of its grandeur, kept to it by virtue of a nature itself unfailing—or even the state of one that must labour towards Eternity by directed effort, but then to rest in it, immovable at any point, assimilated to it, co-eternal with it, contemplating Eternity and the Eternal by what is Eternal within the self.
Some even plunge from heaven to the very lowest of corporeal forms; others pass, stage by stage, too feeble to lift towards the higher the burden they carry, weighed downwards by their heaviness and forgetfulness.