Socratic Appetites as Plotinian Reflectors: A New Interpretation of Plotinus’s Socratic Intellectualism

  • Brian Lightbody Brock University
Keywords: Plotinus, intellectualism, Socrates

Abstract

Enneads I: 8.14 poses significant problems for scholars working in the Plotinian secondary literature. In that passage, Plotinus gives the impression that the body and not the soul is causally responsible for vice. The difficulty is that in many other sections of the same text, Plotinus makes it abundantly clear that the body, as matter, is a mere privation of being and therefore represents the lowest rung on the proverbial metaphysical ladder. A crucial aspect to Plotinus's emanationism, however, is that lower levels of a metaphysical hierarchy cannot causally influence higher ones and, thus, there is an inconsistency in the Egyptian's magnum opus, or so it would seem. Scholars have sought to work through this paradox by positing that Plotinus is a "paleolithic Platonist" or Socratic. The advantage of this approach is that one may be able to resolve the tension by invoking Socrates's eliminativist solution to the problem of weakness of will, as found in The Protagoras. In the following article, I argue that such attempts are not wrong-headed just underdetermined. They take up the standard reading of Socratic moral intellectualism, namely the "informational" interpretation and, therefore, fail to render a coherent view of Plotinus's moral philosophy. The following paper, in contrast, utilizes a new reading of intellectualism advanced by Brickhouse and Smith, which, when subtended with a "powers approach" to causality, resolves the aforementioned, problematic passage of Enneads.

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Published
2020-05-22
How to Cite
Lightbody, B. (2020). Socratic Appetites as Plotinian Reflectors: A New Interpretation of Plotinus’s Socratic Intellectualism. Journal of Ancient Philosophy, 14(1), 91-115. https://doi.org/10.11606/issn.1981-9471.v14i1p91-115
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Articles