• Leontiskos
    2k
    - Thanks, I plan to get to this, but I also want to <link> to my last post in our discussion of Gerson.
  • Paine
    2.2k

    I am mindful of that post.

    In a twist of fate, the argument there is supported by Leo Strauss in his Natural Right and History.

    I have problems with that book as an account of other thinkers. But I appreciate the effort made to make politics a part of the dialectic rather than all the other things that could be and has been said of it.

    [the above was edited]
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    first became aware of Gerson because Apollodorus and Wayfarer appealed to him for support of their theological views of PlatoPaine

    Thanks for that post, it helps me understand your approach. As I've explained, my background was syncretistic - I studied comparative religion and various strands of perennialism. Platonism has a place in that pantheon, specifically the Christianised Platonism of the mystics - Dean Inge and Evelyn Underhill. That is where I learned about Plotinus, although I never went into him in depth. But I would not describe my approach as 'theological', for the same reason that comparative religion is a very different discipline to 'divinity'. I used to think of the comparative religion department as the 'Department of Mysticism and Heresy'. (I might also add, I learned of both Leo Strauss and Lloyd Gerson from this forum or its predecessor.)

    Getting back to Gerson:

    If Plato’s philosophy is a version of Platonism, what Platonism is it a version of? And where can we find it? Since Platonism is not limited to Plato’s views as found in his dialogues, nor to other philosophers’ presentation of them (primarily Aristotle’s), nor to later philosophers’ contribution to what is found in Plato’s works, "Platonism", as a term, must be flexible enough to signify the above three aspects severally and collectively. To distinguish this all-inclusive meaning of Platonism from each of the individual renditions above, Gerson hypothetically construes the term Ur-Platonism as a matrix-like collection of all possible meanings of Platonism. In his words, Ur-Platonism “is the general philosophical position that arises from the conjunction of the negations of the philosophical positions explicitly rejected in the dialogues” (p. 9). These positions are anti-materialism, anti-mechanism, anti-nominalism, anti-relativism, and anti-skepticism.Review of From Plato to Platonism

    The predominant strains of naturalism are generally materialistic, mechanist, nominalist, relativist and skeptical. They are always well-represented on TPF.

    Another thing that Gerson said in his lecture on Platonism versus Naturalism struck me as profound and important:

    Aristotle, in De Anima, argued that thinking in general (which includes knowledge as one kind of thinking) cannot be a property of a body; it cannot, as he put it, 'be blended with a body'. This is because in thinking, the intelligible object or form is present in the intellect, and thinking itself is the identification of the intellect with this intelligible. Among other things, this means that you could not think if materialism is true… . Thinking is not something that is, in principle, like sensing or perceiving; this is because thinking is a universalising activity. This is what this means: when you think, you see - mentally see - a form which could not, in principle, be identical with a particular - including a particular neurological element, a circuit, or a state of a circuit, or a synapse, and so on. This is so because the object of thinking is universal, or the mind is operating universally.

    ….the fact that in thinking, your mind is identical with the form that it thinks, means (for Aristotle and for all Platonists) that since the form 'thought' is detached from matter, 'mind' is immaterial too.*

    So what? Well, the "objects" of the intellect are immaterial, and as we're able to perceive them, we too possess an immaterial aspect - what used to be called the soul. We're not simply mechanisms or organisms. Of course, all Socrates' arguments for the reality of the soul in Phaedo can be and are called into question by his interlocutors but they ring true to me.

    ---

    * I suspect that what is translated as 'thinking' in the above excerpt is not what we generally understand as 'thinking' as an internal monologue or stream of ideas.
  • Paine
    2.2k

    During our years of discourse, I have been trying to narrow definitions rather than explain differences in the most general terms. I accept your objection to the term "theological", as I used it, as a description of what the debates are about.

    I ask you to consider that some of those who you have seen as fellow travelers need to be seen in a different light. The enemy of my enemy is not my friend in the world of thinking. Is that not also the quality so elegantly expressed in Daoist literature?

    X wants to say it is all about Y. The separations needed for that become another problem. Is that an observation or a claim to a truth? In that set of arguments, the problem of logic is also a problem of boundaries.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    I don't really understand what you're asking of me. I'm not conversant with nor particularly interested in the minutae of scholarly interpretations of Plato. I suppose the key point I've been interrogating since day one on forums (and I retain a copy of my first post in my scrapbook) is the nature of the reality of mind and a questioning of the reductionist view which attempts to explain mind and life in terms of neurology and evolution. I see glimmers of what I'm looking for in all kinds of places, Plato's dialogues included. The reason I choose that particular excerpt from Lloyd Gerson is because of its succinctness.
  • Paine
    2.2k

    I understand your interests. You have repeated your thesis many times.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    I admit that I'm a one-trick pony. Might be a good time to log out for a while, I've been intending to do that.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    Something central to my understanding is something I learned from Klein - "the myth of anamnesis or recollection." A myth Klein points out that Socrates tells from hearsay. The significance of this should not be missed. It is something he has heard, a story, not something he knows from the experience of recollection. He shows how and why the story is problematic.Fooloso4

    The theory of recollection is a very small aspect of Plato's writing. And, where it is displayed in the Meno, it is a matter of interpretation as to whether Plato is supporting this idea, or is simply describing it. The theories of recollection, and participation, are the two principal supports of Pythagorean idealism. Socrates questions Pythagorean idealism endlessly, in the manner of skepticism. Plato exposes the weaknesses of Pythagorean idealism as the theories of participation, and recollection.

    To be "Platonist", in the sense of supporting Plato as a very formative philosopher, it is is not necessary to follow Pythagorean idealism, or Neoplatonism. Aristotle rejected Pythagorean idealism, and is often claimed to have effectively refuted that form of idealism, to proceed with another form of idealism which he learned from Plato.
  • Paine
    2.2k

    I appreciate the story about the pony. I am more of a donkey.

    I support taking breaks.
  • Paine
    2.2k

    I have been thinking about Burnyeat's view of utopia and wanted to make some comments outside of his project of undermining Strauss.

    I agree with Burnyeat that the Republic is aiming to change our life for the better. Seeing that goal as executing a realized plan that comes into being runs afoul with other ways of reading how the 'city in words' works in the Dialogues. Plato delights in having a metaphor or a bit of discourse appear in a parallel role within a particular dialogue or connecting them with others. The allegory of the cave has the philosopher return to it. Whatever good is done there does not stop it from being a cave.

    The later discussions of regimes in the Republic do not include the "city in words" as one of the options. They deal with the return to the cave.

    That is where the battle between giants is happening as discussed in the Sophist:

    Str: It will be easier in the case of those who propose that being consists of forms, for they are gentler people. However, it is more difficult, perhaps almost impossible, from those who drag everything by force 246D to the physical. But I think they should be dealt with as follows.

    Theae: How?

    Str: The best thing would be to make better people of them, if that were possible, but if this is not to be, let’s make up a story, assuming that they would be willing to answer questions more fully than now. For agreement with reformed individuals will be preferable to agreement with worse. However, we are not interested in the people: we are seeking the truth.

    Theae: Quite so. 246E
    ibid. 246c

    The last sentence stands in sharp contrast with the concern to make good people in the Republic. But the job of the "friends" is directly involved with the effort. It seems Plato does not want politics to be too easy to think about.

    I relate this to the Gerson thesis by noting that this tension between ways of life does not appear in Plotinus. At least to the best of my knowledge. I welcome correction.

    Where does Burnyeat's (or anybody else's) desire for a change in society have a place in Plotinus?

    Add that to my other objections to putting Plotinus on team Plato.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    The allegory of the cave has the philosopher return to it. Whatever good is done there does not stop it from being a cave.Paine

    Good point. What might the reformed cave look like? Would the philosophers do the very thing that Socrates was found guilty of?

    However, we are not interested in the people: we are seeking the truth.ibid. 246c

    The foundations of the city and the most fundamental beliefs of the people are destroyed by the truth, for the truth is that what they believe, what they trust, what they take to be the truth itself are only images of images. Twice removed from the truth. This is why Socrates takes the old charges brought by Aristophanes more seriously than the current charges against him. He is guilty as charged.

    If the philosopher is to take an interest in the people as well as the truth he cannot simply replace the images on the cave wall with the truth. He must replace the images with images of the truth. The cave remains a cave.

    If the prisoner's shackles are removed and they are forcibly dragged out of the cave (515e) and not permitted to immediately crawl back in, the city and life as they know it is destroyed. We should not be too quick to assume that most would regard this as a blessing. The cave offers safety and security. It is their home. Unlike the philosopher the people may not be more interested in the truth.
  • Paine
    2.2k
    Good point. What might the reformed cave look like? Would the philosophers do the very thing that Socrates was found guilty of?Fooloso4

    Your first question is very tough to answer. In the context of the Sophist, The Stranger seems to suggest that the 'reformation" will keep changing the terrain of the struggle as time goes by. But I don't see him proposing it will end. He displays confidence that the grounds will change. It is clear who he is rooting for.

    On the other hand, the Stranger seems to insist upon the same separation that his Eleatic teachers did. The dangers of using forms requires a kind of hygiene:

    “For instance,” said Parmenides, “if one of us is the master or slave of someone, he is not, of course, the slave 133E of master itself, what master is; nor is a master, master of slave itself, what slave is. Rather, as human beings, we are master or slave of a fellow human. Mastery itself, on the other hand, is what it is of slavery itself, while slavery itself, in like manner, is slavery of mastery itself. But the things among us do not have their power towards those, nor do those have their power towards us. Rather, as I say, these are what they are, of themselves, and in relation to themselves, while things with 134A us are, in like manner, relative to themselves. Or do you not understand what I am saying?” — ibid. 133e

    The "images of truth", as they relate to the cave allegory, receive a challenge outside of the allegory but not for the sake of cancelling it. In the spirit of refutation, most would have wiped the blood off their blade and re-sheathed it. Plato is saying Parmenides is doing something else.

    That does not make your second question any easier but there are at least more clues in the text available to bring out contrasting themes. In my recent drive-by reading of the Sophist, I noticed two elements that previously shot over my head. One of them is the separation of class in society:

    Socrates: In that case, Theodorus, are you unwittingly bringing in some god rather than a stranger, as Homer’s phrase would have it, when he says that the gods 216B in general, and the god of strangers in particular, become the companions of people who partake of true righteousness, to behold the excesses and the good order of humanity? So perhaps this companion of yours may indeed be one of those higher powers who is going to watch over and refute our sorry predicament in these arguments, as he is a god of refutation.

    Theod: That is not the manner of this stranger, Socrates, no; he is more moderate than those who take controversies seriously. Indeed, the man does not seem to me to be a god at all, though he is certainly divine. For 216C I refer to all philosophers as divine.

    Str: They certainly are, Theaetetus. However, it is of no particular concern to the method based on arguments whether purification by washing or medication benefits us much or little. For it endeavours to discern the inter-relation and non-relation of all the skills, with the aim of acquiring intelligence, 227B and to that end it respects them all equally. Indeed, because of their similarity, this method does not believe that one is more ridiculous than another, and it does not regard a person as more important if he exemplifies his skill in hunting, through general-ship, rather than louse-catching, though it will probably regard him as more pretentious.
    — ibid. 216a

    This difference gets re-affirmed at other places in the dialogue. Sometimes as an unexplained reference, sometimes as a joke, sometimes as a direct confrontation:

    Str: That they have shown no regard for common folk, and they despise us. For each of them pursues his own line of argument, without considering at all whether we are following what they say or are being left behind. 243B — ibid. 243a

    The second element that stood out for me is the way the gentle relates to the violent, both in discourse and the possibility of 'reformation' as a process of change in the world of becoming. Note how Theodorus presents the Stranger as a minor player by saying: "Socrates, no; he is more moderate than those who take controversies seriously." The Socrates who confronts anyone who challenges him is set in contrast to this player who does not accept such terms. But the contrast between the gentle and the violent is a part of so many of the Dialogues that Theodorus must be heard as expressing a particular prejudice.

    I am inclined to lean toward Klein's view of change over Strauss'. But I think Strauss is correct putting the beginning of political philosophy at the Meno rather than the Republic. Can virtue be taught? If one can ask that, the quality is manifest in some fashion. We have to start with the insistence upon it being evident.

    Socrates gets Meno to accept that condition to some degree without necessarily getting him to understand much else and thus makes Socrates more 'gentle' than often represented. But Socrates also seems hell-bent upon antagonizing Antyus, representing a portion of those who did kill him.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Having been introduced to Ur-Platonism on this forum, I started reading Gerson's scholarly papers. That is when I started objecting to his interpretations of texts, for example, here and here as well as the example given upthread. As it concerns this thread, the clear preference for Plotinus shown in those commentaries is not represented as such in the Ur-Platonist stuff. This gives a bit of three card monte flavor to the scene. Is there a bait and switch play between the two enterprises?Paine

    I would simply wonder if Gerson is doing two different things simultaneously.

    I am glad to have had to discuss Schleiermacher's resistance to Systems because I am willing to acknowledge that is the lineage I come from. The most important element is the individual participating in the dialogue being witnessed. That theme is also echoed in the Dialogues in many ways that are not shy and retiring. So, I freely admit to an aversion to Gerson's efforts to assemble a system to fight modern foes on the basis of that point of view.Paine

    In a similar way, I wonder if Plato could be doing two different things at once. Plato is obviously crucially interested in individual participation, but he seems to also be interested in repelling sophistry. The dialogues themselves don't seem to present all players as being situated within the same boundaries on the field of philosophy. While granting that Gerson's anti-sophistry—in his case anti-naturalism—is a great deal more clumsy, I would still affirm a similarity between the two.

    For Plato I don't see the two things as wholly separate. Anyone who loves something will also fight to protect it, and the philosophy that Plato loves—including the individual participation—requires certain nurturing conditions in order to thrive. It is a temptation for any thinker to blur the line between what is legitimate and what is their own doctrine, and obviously Gerson blurs this more than Plato, but I would recognize the same broad dynamic operating in Plato and I would again affirm this dynamic as laudable.

    Burnyeat was claiming he was on to Strauss' magic trick. That is a valid way to characterize persuasion and I don't fault Burnyeat for trying it. He took his chance with it. I don't know what Gerson's trick is. But he proposes to close what I think should not be.Paine

    But is a proposal to close already an error on your view? I think that both Plato and Gerson seek to bring about a recognition of what is beyond the pale and what is not vis-a-vis philosophy, and I think the only legitimate objections to either of them will be objections to where they draw a line, and not that they draw a line.
  • Paine
    2.2k
    I would simply wonder if Gerson is doing two different things simultaneously.Leontiskos

    If Gerson is absorbing all of Platonism into his understanding of Plotinus, he does not need the Ur-Platonism for his own purposes. The 'via negativa' is for persuading others that the only philosophy is his understanding of Plato and that anything that differs from it is not philosophy. That excludes a lot of philosophy.

    I know that you don't find any of my objections to be persuasive. I don't find your counter arguments for Gerson's position to be compelling or benefit me in the comparison of different views. It is no help in distinguishing the difference between Klein and Burnyeat. That is more important to me than rooting out miscreants from my City. I gave Gerson a college try over several years. I am done.

    Let us agree to disagree. Have the last word if you wish.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    If Gerson is absorbing all of Platonism into his understanding of Plotinus, he does not need the Ur-Platonism for his own purposes.Paine

    Again, maybe he has two (or more) purposes: explicating Plotinus and defending philosophy.

    It is no help in distinguishing the difference between Klein and Burnyeat.Paine

    Gerson is very clear that his thesis is not supposed to do such a thing. You seem to be faulting Gerson for failing to do something he says he is not trying to do.

    That is more important to me than rooting out miscreants from my City.Paine

    You seem to fall into a strawman on this point again and again, and your caricature here is more evidence of that. If you are unwilling to consider the value of defending philosophy then of course you will not be able to truly assess Gerson's project. And as I said, Plato himself was not above defending philosophy.

    Let us agree to disagree. Have the last word if you wish.Paine

    I will just reiterate the central unanswered questions I have already asked you. Have another word if you wish:

    But is a proposal to close already an error on your view? I think that both Plato and Gerson seek to bring about a recognition of what is beyond the pale and what is not vis-a-vis philosophy, and I think the only legitimate objections to either of them will be objections to where they draw a line, and not that they draw a line.Leontiskos

    For example your claim was highly Gersonian when you said, "That is a predominantly psychological observation. Where does the philosophy start? Or not?" (↪Paine). If philosophy is important then it is important to understand what philosophy is, and it is particularly important to be able to ferret out false claims to philosophy. This all seems true to me.

    ...

    I think this methodology is incredibly sound, and that we utilize it in all sorts of ways, namely elucidating what something is by reference to clear examples of what it is not. We elucidate justice by way of injustices; we elucidate truth by way of falsehood; we elucidate beauty by way of ugliness; we elucidate health by way of sickness. This isn't to say that we should stop there. Of course there should also be positive accounts of the essence of things like justice, truth, etc. Still, I don't really see the critique you are giving.

    Further, even if we reject Gerson's account of philosophy I believe we will still need to engage in the same project he is engaged in, and that it is an important project. The alternative seems to be either committing ourselves to the view that philosophy isn't important or else to the view that there is no such thing as philosophy (and therefore nothing which is necessarily not philosophy).

    ...

    The modern and post-modern landscape complicates things, but I don't think it invalidates Gerson's thesis. Gerson is drawing up the boundaries of the playing field of philosophy, and you keep pointing to philosophical bouts. Gerson has no problem with philosophical bouts. The question is whether they are within the boundaries.

    I am wondering if a cultural anti-authoritarianism is impeding Gerson's thesis. This anti-authoritarianism says, "Who are you to say what counts as philosophy!?" I don't see this as a substantial critique. Again, the deeper matter for me is the alternative between either committing ourselves to the view that philosophy isn't important or else to the view that there is no such thing as philosophy. It's not hard to read Gerson's thesis as a proposal rather than an imposition, or as an invitation to think through a necessary problem rather than an overbearing authoritarianism.

    ...

    I think we struggle against sophistry in much the same way that Plato struggled against sophistry.
    Leontiskos
  • Paine
    2.2k
    So what? Well, the "objects" of the intellect are immaterial, and as we're able to perceive them, we too possess an immaterial aspect - what used to be called the soul. We're not simply mechanisms or organisms. Of course, all Socrates' arguments for the reality of the soul in Phaedo can be and are called into question by his interlocutors but they ring true to me.Wayfarer

    I apologize for the dismissive manner I dealt with this upthread. What I am trying to underline in the discussion is the particular way Plotinus offers a solution to your thesis:

    For instance, he will not make self-control consist in that former observance of measure and limit, but will altogether separate himself, as far as possible, from his lower nature and will not live the life of the good man which civic virtue requires. He will leave that behind, and choose another, the life of the gods: for it is to them, not to good men, that we are to be made like. Likeness to good men is the likeness of two pictures of the same subject to each other; 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

    There are other ways of reading Plato.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    I apologize for the dismissive manner I dealt with this upthread.Paine

    No problems at all.

    I think I understand what that passage is saying - again it has parallels in Eastern philosophy, for instance in the contrast between the 'upright man' represented by Confucius and civic virtue, and the 'true man of the Way' represented by the taoist sage who 'returns to the source' and often appears as a vagabond or vagrant. It is a passage about the essential and total 'otherness' of the One, beyond all conditioned distinctions and human notions of virtue. It is a recognisable principle in various forms of the perennial philosophy.

    But that is quite different to the point I was trying to make, which is the immaterial nature of reason. This is a thread that I picked up first from reading Edward Feser, but then also other neo-thomists that I then read (even if only in snippets and excerpts, as there is a lot of literature.) This is the principle that only the rational human intellect (nous) is able to grasp universals (kinds, types or species) which are the basis of rational thought. And that the rejection of transcendentals is one of the underlying factors behind the ascendancy of materialism.

    Feser lays it out thus:

    As Aristotelians and Thomists use the term, intellect is that faculty by which we grasp abstract concepts (like the concepts man and mortal), put them together into judgments (like the judgment that all men are mortal), and reason logically from one judgment to another (as when we reason from all men are mortal and Socrates is a man to the conclusion that Socrates is mortal). It is to be distinguished from imagination, the faculty by which we form mental images (such as a visual mental image etc...); and from sensation, the faculty by which we perceive the goings on in the external material world and the internal world of the body (such as a visual experience of the computer in front of you, the auditory experience of the cars passing by on the street outside your window, the awareness you have of the position of your legs, etc.).

    That intellectual activity -- thought in the strictest sense of the term -- is irreducible to sensation and imagination is a thesis that unites Platonists, Aristotelians, and rationalists of either the ancient Parmenidean sort or the modern Cartesian sort.
    Edward Feser

    You can see the precedent for this general train of thought in e.g. The Argument from Equals in Phaedo. But it is central to the whole Platonist tradition.

    Why is it significant? Because it goes to the point of the immaterial nature of mind (thought, reason) and that it can't be reduced to sensation or imagination. I'm not wishing to argue for Cartesian dualism, but then again, neither does Aristotelian philosophy (as described in another of Feser's blog posts). But I think this is the vital point at issue in the 'debate between Platonism and naturalism' that Gerson is describing.
  • Paine
    2.2k

    What "matter" means in the different texts is not an agreed upon point of departure but what seems to require the most argument.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    Quite so. I understand that Aristotle's 'hyle' was originally 'lumber' or 'timber', signifying the kind of generic material substance from which any particular might be formed. Interesting etymological point: 'matter' is derived from the same Indo-european root as 'mother', signifying the passive/receptive, 'that which is acted upon'. Form, then, is what 'actualises' the potential of matter to exist, because insofar as matter is formless, it can't be said to exist. (There's actually an ancient provenance to that idea, wherein Zeus is the 'creative principle' and earth the 'mother' - something I learned from Mircea Eliade's writings. This is reflected in the religious imagery of 'God the father'.)

    In any case, the outlines of the general idea, and how matter came to be accorded primacy in Western culture, is what is of interest to me.
  • Paine
    2.2k

    Given the importance to how matter plays an important role in the present thinking, can you accept that Plotinus was talking about something else?
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    He was from another epoch with a vastly different ‘weltanschauung’. But there are elements of Plotinus’ philosophy that remain vital in my view

    To return to Gerson and the passage I quoted above: what do you think he means by the remark ‘you could not think if materialism was true’? Do you see how he appeals to Aristotle’s De Anima in support of that argument? Do you think it’s a valid point?
  • Paine
    2.2k
    I think I understand what that passage is saying - again it has parallels in Eastern philosophy, for instance in the contrast between the 'upright man' represented by Confucius and civic virtue, and the 'true man of the Way' represented by the taoist sage who 'returns to the source' and often appears as a vagabond or vagrant. It is a passage about the essential and total 'otherness' of the One, beyond all conditioned distinctions and human notions of virtue. It is a recognisable principle in various forms of the perennial philosophy.Wayfarer

    I understand the passage as demonstrating the vast difference between Plato and Plotinus when they speak of the philosopher's return to the cave. The role of politics, central to the argument of the Republic, has been superseded by the process of becoming a "different kind of being". Would you not accept there is a difference between the philosopher who rules a city and the Daoist sage who laughs at rulers? Plotinus is silent on that score.

    As for the "materiality' of the soul, I have been arguing for years that Plotinus' understanding is very different from Aristotle's. I point to some of those in my recent comment on De Anima.

    There are also differences between Aristotle and Plato.
    Here is a discussion of what "matter" means that introduces Sallis's reading of the Timaeus.

    Because of these different views, I don't see the value of the broad generalities offered by Gerson, Perl, Fraser, and the like.

    Edit to add: Please take the last word, if you wish. I think we are at an impasse.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    He will leave that behind, and choose another, the life of the gods ... — Ennead 1.2. 30, translated by Armstrong

    What are we to make of this? What is the life of the gods? Can we leave behind our human life and choose the life of the gods?
  • Paine
    2.2k

    I wish that there was an equivalent to Horan's translations of Plato's Dialogues available to present what Plotinus wrote. Then it would be easier to link to a source with a beginning quote and let the reader see for themselves what has been said. The source I pointed to before is weird and makes pretty plainly spoken Greek sound strange. Those words are the same that other authors use to say different things.

    This OP is an orphan, abandoned by its author. I made my pitch that Plotinus is the man behind the curtain in this particular wizard of oz. I sense I have worn out my welcome.

    I will try to answer your question in another place and time.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    I wish that there was an equivalent to Horan's translations of Plato's Dialogues available to present what Plotinus wrote.Paine

    We have our friend @Wayfarer to thank for bringing it to our attention.

    I sense I have worn out my welcome.Paine

    Speaking for myself, you are always welcome. Just leave your shoes at the door.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    being disembodied means you are dead.Paine

    However, the Gerson paper you linked to 'The Unity of Intellect in Aristotle' (and thank you for it) says right at the beginning 'This (i.e. 'agent') intellect is, in Aristotle's view, all the things he repeatedly says it is, including immortal.' (However, I will continue with that paper.)

    I understand the passage as demonstrating the vast difference between Plato and Plotinus when they speak of the philosopher's return to the cave.Paine

    Here is that passage again:

    For instance, he will not make self-control consist in that former observance of measure and limit, but will altogether separate himself, as far as possible, from his lower nature and will not live the life of the good man which civic virtue requires. He will leave that behind, and choose another, the life of the gods: for it is to them, not to good men, that we are to be made like. — Ennead 1.2. 30, translated by Armstrong

    Doesn't this plainly disparage the notion of 'civic virtue' and 'living the life of the good man' in favour of 'leaving that behind' and 'choosing another' - the 'life of the Gods' - and that we are to strive to be 'like them' and not simply 'good citizens'? The meaning seems very clear to me, without any external references. As mentioned, there are direct parallels to other schools of renunciate spirituality that characterised the ancient world, Eastern and Western.

    And are there 'vast differences' between Plotinus and Plato? I readily grant at every juncture that your knowledge of the texts greatly exceeds my own, but I had thought it well-established that Plotinus saw himself as no more than a faithful exegete of Plato.

    I don't see the value of the broad generalities offered by Gerson, Perl, Fraser, and the like.Paine

    I agree that we're talking past one another. That's why I've tried to explain my perspective on the topic. I'm not reading it as a classicist, comparing and contrasting various interpretations of ancient philosophy in which you're plainly better versed than am I (and I am learning a lot from it!) But I see Perl, Gerson, and Feser, as being concerned with retrieving what was and remains vital about classical philosophy as a living truth, not as museum pieces to be compared and contrasted. Many here among us will simply take it for granted that we're physical beings, no different in essence to other species, although considerably more dangerous due to our numbers and technology. But what if the truth were that we are 'immortal souls housed in corporeal bodies'?

    Like Macbeth, Western man made an evil decision, which has become the efficient and final cause of other evil decisions. Have we forgotten our encounter with the witches on the heath? It occurred in the late fourteenth century, and what the witches said to the protagonist of this drama was that man could realize himself more fully if he would only abandon his belief in the existence of transcendentals. The powers of darkness were working subtly, as always, and they couched this proposition in the seemingly innocent form of an attack upon universals. The defeat of logical realism in the great medieval debate was the crucial event in the history of Western culture; from this flowed those acts which issue now in modern decadence.Richard Weaver, Ideas have Consequences, Pp2-3

    I sense I have worn out my welcome.Paine

    Not at all. The fact that we keep coming back to contesting Gerson's interpretations indicates that this thread has stayed on-topic.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    Doesn't this plainly disparage the notion of 'civic virtue' and 'living the life of the good man' in favour of 'leaving that behind' and 'choosing another' - the 'life of the Gods' -Wayfarer

    But the good man may not be able to live the life of the gods, nor might he want to.

    What does that life look like? This:

    renunciate spiritualityWayfarer
    ?

    Surely there is more to the life of a god.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    And are there 'vast differences' between Plotinus and Plato? I readily grant at every juncture that your knowledge of the texts greatly exceeds my own, but I had thought it well-established that Plotinus saw himself as no more than a faithful exegete of Plato.Wayfarer

    Yes there are vast differences between Plotinus and Plato. Plotinus goes far beyond Plato in his theory of Forms, to propose a hierarchical order, emanation. and even assigning a position to "matter".
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    But the good man may not be able to live the life of the gods, nor might he want to.

    What does that life look like? This:

    renunciate spirituality
    — Wayfarer
    ?

    Surely there is more to the life of a god.
    Fooloso4

    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'.

    There are numerous references to 'the gods' and 'the divine' scattered through the ancient texts. What does that signify to you? Remnants of archaic beliefs now superseded?

    I think one of the characteristics of Eastern philosophical religions, like Advaita and Tibetan Buddhism, is that for various historical reasons they seem to have been able to maintain a closer relationship with their ancient roots. Which is why for instance a Swami of the Vedanta Order still appears in monastic robes (in his many youtube videos!) Likewise for many Tibetan Rinpoches.

    Plotinus goes far beyond PlatoMetaphysician Undercover

    Nevertheless, didn't he himself insist that he was simply explicating what was implicit in Plato?
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    Apologies to all if my above contributions have been off the mark.
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