• Fooloso4
    5.8k
    We discussed the various examples of what I'm referring to in an earlier thread on esoteric philosophies. I seem to recall I gave the examples of Advaita Vedanta and Zen Buddhism, to which you replied something like 'you have to be prepared to believe in such things'.Wayfarer

    I do not recall the discussion but think it evident that if

    He will leave that behind, and choose another, the life of the gods — Ennead 1.2. 30, translated by Armstrong

    then he must have to be prepared to believe such things. Would he choose such a life if he did not believe it? But this does not get at what I am asking.

    ... but likeness to the gods is likeness to the model, a being of a different kind to ourselves. — Ennead 1.2. 30, translated by Armstrong

    What is the model that this is a likeness of? If for us this life is one of renunciate spirituality, is it that for the gods as well? Do the gods too have desires that they must overcome? Can we become a being of a different kind?
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    ... but likeness to the gods is likeness to the model, a being of a different kind to ourselves.
    — Ennead 1.2. 30, translated by Armstrong

    What is the model that this is a likeness of? If for us this life is one of renunciate spirituality, is it that for the gods as well? Do the gods too have desires that they must overcome? Can we become a being of a different kind?
    Fooloso4

    They're foundational questions in this context. 'The gods' are, of course, those of the Greek pantheon, but from comparative religion, we learn that have much in common with the other Indo-European cultures, so there are parallels with the Indian pantheon. But in this case, they represent 'the divine' - a word is from the Indo-european root 'deva'. Notice that Parmenides' prose-poem is said to have been 'given' to him by the Goddess. The knowledge of which he speaks is rooted in revealed truth, not dialectical reasoning, although he then deploys reasoning in support of it. (I think in modern terminology, it would be described as 'trans-rational'.) But I notice references to the divine ('the devas') in many of the excepts being discussed in the thread in ancient philosophy. It is part of the assumed background of their world, and I personally think it's mistaken to regard it as a simple figment or archaic superstition, even if that is the consensus of today's disenchanted world.

    Renunciate spirituality seeks to sever ties with or go beyond the sensory domain, 'the world' - the world of mundane attachments, pains and pleasures, so as to seek what Alan Watts' described as 'the supreme identity' in his book of that name. It means realising an identity with the One (or Brahman or the Godhead). Plotinus was said by Porphyry to have twice entered a state of supreme ecstasy corresponding to that awareness. It is said that his last words were 'to restore the divine (or: the god) in us (or: in you) back to the divine in the All'.

    As to whether this is a realisable aim - the IEP entry on Pierre Hadot says
    For all of Hadot’s evident enthusiasm for Plotinus’ philosophy...Plotinus: the Simplicity of Vision concludes with an assessment of the modern world’s inescapable distance from Plotinus’ thought and experience. Hadot distances himself from Plotinus’ negative assessment of bodily existence, and he also displays a caution in his support for mysticism, citing the skeptical claims of Marxism and psychoanalysis about professed mysticism, considering it a lived mystification or obfuscation of truth (PSV 112-113). Hadot would later recall that, after writing the book in a month and returning to ordinary life, he had his own uncanny experience: “. . . seeing the ordinary folks all around me in the bakery, I . . . had the impression of having lived a month in another world, completely foreign to our world, and worse than this—totally unreal and even unlivable.”

    But I think this can be acknowledged, without thereby vitiating the mystical element in Plotinus' (and indeed Plato's) spirituality, which is a vital interpretive key in my view. Interpreted through that perspective, the meaning of the passage we're discussing sprang out at me, without any need to reference the political element of The Republic.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    Incidentally, and apropos of Leo Strauss, I find a section in his SEP entry on Philosophy and Revelation:

    On Strauss’s reading, the Enlightenment’s so-called critique of religion ultimately also brought with it, unbeknownst to its proponents, modern rationalism’s self-destruction. Strauss does not reject modern science, but he does object to the philosophical conclusion that “scientific knowledge is the highest form of knowledge” because this “implies a depreciation of pre-scientific knowledge.” As he put it, “Science is the successful part of modern philosophy or science, and philosophy is the unsuccessful part—the rump” (JPCM, p. 99). Strauss reads the history of modern philosophy as beginning with the elevation of all knowledge to science, or theory, and as concluding with the devaluation of all knowledge to history, or practice.

    Something with which I'm in agreement. I wonder if he had any professional contact with Mircea Eliade, who was a peer at the University of Chicago during his tenure, and from whom a lot of what I've learned about comparative religion was drawn.
  • Paine
    2.2k

    As this does not involve the Gerson thesis, I feel it is okay for me to push back upon this reading. The same article says:

    Heidegger, in the twentieth-century, depreciates scientific knowledge in the name of historicity. While many philosophers (including Heidegger) have understood Heidegger’s philosophy as breaking with modern rationalism, Strauss views Heidegger’s philosophy as a logical outcome of that same rationalism. — This guy saying stuff

    No reader of Natural Right and History would think that is what just got said.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    No reader of Natural Right and History would think that is what just got said.Paine

    Well, I'm not among them. I'm too old to go into either Heidegger or Strauss in any depth, I only mentioned it to @Fooloso4 because it is through his posts that I've become familiar with Strauss at all, and I think the section I linked to about Strauss' view of the relationship of philosophy and revelation is germane.

    FWIW, I think 'revelation' is equated with 'revealed religion', thence 'religious dogma' and automatically discounted on those grounds. Whereas I think there's a religious dimension to Greek philosophy, which is neglected on that basis.
  • Paine
    2.2k

    Not all discussion of religion involves the same things. And if you want to argue for some element of that, I support your effort.

    But I object to this sort of tagging the donkey where simply reading what the person says makes the claim meaningless.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    I'm sorry, but I don't understand what you're saying. For the last several posts, I've been addressing the issue of the interpretation of the paragraph from the Enneads that you presented, which I think I have done. The additional point I made to fooloso4 about Leo Strauss was in respect of the broader issue of the relationship between philosophy and revelation and the bearing that might have on interpreting Plotinus. It can be taken as a footnote.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    Recall a few posts back, you said:

    What I am trying to underline in the discussion is the particular way Plotinus offers a solution to your thesisPaine

    I have been arguing that the passage you referred to from the Enneads at that point is specifically about the distinction between 'civic virtue' and those seeking to attain 'likeness to the gods'. That passage addresses that distinction quite clearly. Hence my digression into the role of 'the divine' and revelation in the metaphysics of Greek philosophy in answer to Fooloso4's question.

    Whereas, the thesis you were responding to, was Gerson's paraphrase of an argument in De Anima, to wit:
    In thinking, the intelligible object or form is present in the intellect, and thinking itself is the identification of the intellect with this intelligible.
    And that is a reference to the knowledge of forms, as represented Aristotle's hylomorphic (matter-form) philosophy: that the intellect (nous) is what grasps or perceives the forms of things, which is that by which we know what particulars truly are. I take this principle as basic to the epistemology of hylomorphism.

    Furthermore, the principle of the 'union between the knower and the form of the known' becomes a dominant theme in ancient and medieval philosophy. There are many references to this in online digests of Aquinas' philosophy (e.g. here and here.)

    Now, so far, what I've said above, I would regard as general knowledge, and not requiring specialist knowledge of the Greek texts.

    So far so good?
  • Paine
    2.2k

    Plotinus is not talking about the relationship between knower and known but the experience of being a soul descended into a body which is not its natural home:

    1. Often I have woken up out of the body to my self and have entered into myself, going out from all other things; I have seen a beauty wonderfully great and felt assurance that then most of all I belonged to the better part; I have actually lived the best life and come to identity with the divine; and set firm in it I have come to that supreme actuality, setting myself above all else in the realm of Intellect. Then after that rest in the divine, when I have come down from Intellect to discursive reasoning, I am puzzled how I ever came down, and how my soul has come to be in the body when it is what it has shown itself to be by itself, even when it is in the body.
    ............

    For this reason Plato says that our soul as well, if it comes to be with that perfect soul, is perfected itself and “walks on high and directs the whole universe”2; when it departs to be no longer within bodies and not to belong to any of them, then it also like the Soul of the All will share with ease in the direction of the All, since it is not evil in every way for soul to give body the ability to flourish and to exist, because not every kind of provident care for the inferior deprives the being exercising it of its ability to remain in the highest. For there are two kinds of care of everything, the general, by the inactive command of one setting it in order with royal authority, and the particular, which involves actually doing something oneself and by contact with what is being done infects the doer with the nature of what is being done. Now, since the divine soul is always said to direct the whole heaven in the first way, transcendent in its higher part but sending its last and lowest power into the interior of the world, God could not still be blamed for making the soul of the All exist in something worse, and the soul would not be deprived of its natural due, which it has from eternity and will have for ever, which cannot be against its nature in that it belongs to it continually and without beginning.
    — Plotinus, Ennead 4.8.1, translated by Armstrong

    This is beyond saying that there is more than civic (political) virtue. It stands at cross purposes to the Philosopher returning to the cave to care for his fellow citizens.

    It replaces the uncertainty expressed in the Phaedo with a map and a theodicy.
  • Paine
    2.2k

    Strauss does make distinctions between Greek thought and 'revealed' religion that I know you would disagree with.

    Strauss acknowledges that Heidegger brought the differences between our time and that of Classical Greek thought to our attention. But he opposes Heidegger in essential ways. One thing the guy saying stuff got right is:

    Heidegger, in the twentieth-century, depreciates scientific knowledge in the name of historicity. — This guy saying stuff

    Strauss strongly opposed that kind of historicity in Natural Right and History through his attack upon Nietzsche as the master of the practice.

    I will leave it there. I need to get back to reading Plotinus.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    'The gods' are, of course, those of the Greek pantheonWayfarer

    Are they? I would think that Plotinus would agree with Socrates' criticism of the gods in Euthyphro.

    The knowledge of which he speaks is rooted in revealed truthWayfarer

    In the tradition of the Greek poets, the gods are credited as the author of the poet's works.

    But I notice references to the divine ('the devas') in many of the excepts being discussed in the thread in ancient philosophy.Wayfarer

    In the Sophist Theodorus says with regard to the Stranger:

    Indeed, the man does not seem to me to be a god at all, though he is certainly divine. For I refer to all philosophers as divine.
    (216b-c)

    In the Phaedo Socrates calls Homer divine. In the Iliad Homer call salt divine (9.214)
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    Plotinus is not talking about the relationship between knower and knownPaine

    Indeed he is not, which is why it was not relevant to the question I raised, which was about that relationship.

    'The gods' are, of course, those of the Greek pantheon
    — Wayfarer

    Are they? I would think that Plotinus would agree with Socrates' criticism of the gods in Euthyphro.
    Fooloso4

    When Plotinus says:
    He will leave that behind, and choose another, the life of the gods — Ennead 1.2. 30, translated by Armstrong

    which 'gods' are they? What does 'the life of the gods' refer to?

    For I refer to all philosophers as divine.

    Why would he consider philosophers, in particular, 'divine'?

    In the Iliad Homer call salt divine (9.214)Fooloso4

    So if everything is divine, then the word means nothing. Is that the drift of the argument? That 'the divine' has no referent?
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    So if everything is divine, then the word means nothing. Is that the drift of the argument? That 'the divine' has no referent?Wayfarer

    Some things are not everything. In that short list three things are referred to as divine.


    The behavior of the gods in the Greek pantheon seems to be problematic as a model.
  • Paine
    2.2k
    Indeed he is not, which is why it was not relevant to the question I raised, which was about that relationship.Wayfarer

    I get that you connect your view of the 'theological' with a renunciation of the 'material' It is the trick of your pony, as you admitted upthread. You would find Plotinus good company in this regard. I suggest you read him. I am weary of being the only one in this conversation that actually quotes him. I will wait until another thread emerges before doing it again. I have worn out my welcome here and now I am wearing out my goodbye. I will take my last word here in the hope it will clarify future discussion during other OPs:

    Your years long effort to see a 'theology' in Plato that others would take away from him is a fight over an undefended territory. Plato writes of his contemporaries and predecessors in a fashion where he argues for and against particular views of the divine in particular contexts and leaves it to the student to find their own way. Quite the contrast with Plotinus coming back from a visit with the One and taking questions on how others can do it.

    Therefore, to find a rebuttal of Plotinus' view of political virtues, we need to find a contrast to a vision of a soul re-gaining its virtue as it separates from its body. I am reminded of an observation I made last year

    The discussion of cowardice reminds me of the following from Cratylus:

    What remains to consider after justice? I think we have not yet discussed courage. [413e] It is plain enough that injustice (ἀδικία) is really a mere hindrance of that which passes through (τοῦ διαϊόντος, but the word ἀδρεία (courage) implies that courage got its name in battle, and if the universe is flowing, a battle in the universe can be nothing else than an opposite current or flow (ῥοή). Now if we remove the delta from the word ἀνδρεία, the word ἀνρεία signifies exactly that activity. Of course it is clear that not the current opposed to every current is courage, but only that opposed to the current which is contrary to justice; — Plato, Cratylus, 413

    Socrates is using the vocabulary of Heraclitus and connects "manliness" to the willingness to leap into battle against a 'current' that needs to be opposed.
    — me

    Till next time in another place.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    I get that you connect your view of the 'theological' with a renunciation of the 'materialPaine

    I’m interested in a specific philosophical question, which is the subject of the quote from Lloyd Gerson. The thread is about Lloyd Gerson’s interpretation of Aristotle, as was the passage I’ve been discussing. It’s a philosophical question about the role of universals in the forming of judgement and the sense in which that undercuts materialist theory of mind. I can’t see how that can be construed as ‘theology’.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    I can’t see how that can be construed as ‘theology’.Wayfarer

    I hope Paine will not mind me jumping in. When you say:

    In Aristotle and Other Platonists, Gerson proposed a positive characterization of the tradition, as comprising seven key themes: 1. The universe has a systematic unity; 2. This unity reflects an explanatory hierarchy and in particular a “top-down” approach to explanation (as opposed to the “bottom-up” approach of naturalism), especially in the two key respects that the simple is prior to the complex and the intelligible is prior to the sensible; 3. The divine constitutes an irreducible explanatory category, and is to be conceived of in personal terms (even if in some Ur-Platonist thinkers the personal aspect is highly attenuated);Join the Ur-Platonist Alliance!

    What is at the top of this top down hierarchy? Is the intelligible dependent on an intelligible being? What is the divine which constitutes an irreducible explanatory category? Earlier in the thread you said:

    'The gods' are, of course, those of the Greek pantheon, but from comparative religion, we learn that have much in common with the other Indo-European cultures, so there are parallels with the Indian pantheon. But in this case, they represent 'the divine'Wayfarer

    What does it mean to conceive of the divine in personal terms?
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    What is at the top of this top down hierarchy? Is the intelligible dependent on an intelligible being? What is the divine which constitutes an irreducible explanatory category?Fooloso4

    As you (and @Paine) will well know, in Plato, the source or upmost level of the hierarchy of being was 'the idea of the Good'. The Idea of the Good, primarily discussed in the Republic, is the highest and most important of the Forms, the ultimate principle that gives meaning and intelligibility to all other Forms and to the material world. The Good is the source of all reality and knowledge, for which the Sun is an analogy in the Allegory of the Cave. Plotinus, building on and reinterpreting Plato, posits "the One" (ta hen) as the ultimate principle, which is even beyond the Idea of the Good. The One is the absolute, transcendent source of all reality, beyond existence and discursive ideation, the ineffable and indescribable foundation from which everything emanates. In Plotinus' system, the One generates the Divine Mind (Nous), which contains the Forms, and from the Nous emanates the World Soul, which in turn gives rise to the material world.

    Earlier in the thread you said: 'The gods' are, of course, those of the Greek pantheon, but from comparative religion, we learn that have much in common with the other Indo-European cultures, so there are parallels with the Indian pantheon. But in this case, they represent 'the divine'
    — Wayfarer

    What does it mean to conceive of the divine in personal terms?
    Fooloso4

    As you will also know, many elements of Platonism were absorbed into Christian theology by the early Greek-speaking theologians such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Augustine, and (Pseudo)Dionysius. It was also transformed so as to be compatible with Biblical revelation - no easy synthesis, and often with tension between them ('what has Athens to do with Jerusalem?') In any case, this is where elements of Plotinus philosophy of the One became identified with, or subsumed by, the God of Biblical revelation. Not that Plotinus would ever countenance that.

    According to Dean Inge, the principle distinction between Plotinus and Christian mysticism is between Plotinus' 'henosis' (absorption into the One) and the Christian 'theosis' in which the soul is said to attain immortality whilst also maintaining an identity. (Even now, there are debates between Christians as to whether and in what sense God is personal - the distinction between 'theistic personalism and 'classical theism'.)

    As far as 'the Gods' were concerned, in later neoplatonism they become identified as the Henads, intermediaries between the One and the human realm. Plotinus did not use that terminology, and like Plato tended to speak of 'the gods' as being symbolic of forces and powers. But scattered throughout the Platonic dialogues are references to paying obeisances or respect to the Gods. That doesn't make Plato "a believer" - perish the thought! - but I think it's reasonable to say that references to the Gods are a kind of shorthand for the divine, however conceived.
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